Thursday, April 16, 2015

1978 Topps Baseball #279 - Bill Virdon


  • Bill Virdon was a solid center fielder during his 12 year major league career. 
  • Virdon was originally signed by the New York Yankees in 1950. Bill played in the New York minor league system from 1950-1953 and then was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in a multi-player deal that included Enos Slaughter. 
  • Virdon played in the minors in 1954 and then was brought up to the Cardinals in 1955. Bill was the NL Rookie of the Year as he batted .281 with 17 HR and 68 RBI in 144 games.
  • Bill got off to a slow start in 1956 and new GM Frank Lane traded Virdon to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Bobby Del Greco and pitcher Dick Littlefield on May 17. After hitting only .211 for the Cardinals, Bill batted .334 during the rest of the season for the Pirates.
  • The Pirates were a losing ball club when Virdon first joined them, but they steadily improved until they won the World Championship in 1960. Bill hit the ground ball that hit shortstop Tony Kubek in the throat in game 7. The bad hop breathed life into the Pirates and they were able to mount the comeback that culminated in Bill Mazeroski's famous winning home run.
  • Virdon was an excellent defender in center field and he won a Gold Glove in 1962.
  • Bill could feel himself slipping by 1965 and told the Pirates he planned to retire after the season. Virdon was only 34 when he retired, but he didn't want to be a "hanger-on."
  • After his retirement Virdon went into managing. He managed in the New York Mets system in 1966 and in 1967.
  • Virdon was hired as a coach by the Pirates in 1968. Bill was activated for a month when several Pirates had to fulfill military commitments. As this card says, Bill's last hit in the major leagues was a home run.
  • Bill coached with the Pirates through the 1971 season. When manager Danny Murtaugh retired, Virdon was given the manager's job. In 1972 the Pirates won the NL East and almost made it to the World Series. A Bob Moose wild pitch in the 9th inning of game 5 allowed the Cincinnati Reds to win the game and advance to the World Series.
  • The Pirates struggled in 1973, mainly due to the letdown after the death of Roberto Clemente. The Pirates were 3 1/2 games out of first place, but below .500, when Virdon was fired in September.
  • Virdon was hired to manage the New York Yankees in 1974 after the team was unable to get Dick Williams to manage the club. Virdon kept the surprising Yankees in contention for most of the season and won his first Manager of the Year award.
  • The Yankees were 53-51 in 1975 when Virdon was relieved of his duties. 
  • Bill was hired to manage the Houston Astros in late 1975. Virdon managed the team through the 1982 season. The Astros steadily improved under Virdon's leadership. 
  • The Astros won the NL West in 1980 and were knocked out of the playoffs by the eventual World Champion Philadelphia Phillies in a thrilling NL Championship Series. Virdon won his second Manager of the Year award in 1980. Bill was fired during the 1982 season when the team underperformed.
  • Bill managed the Montreal Expos in 1983 and in 1984. Virdon was fired in late August of 1984 and was replaced by Jim Fanning. Virdon had come to the Expos management and said that he wasn't interested in managing after the 1984 season. The Expos decided to make the change before the season was over. Oddly enough Bill had replaced Fanning after the 1982 season.
  • Virdon coached for the Pirates (and occasionally the Astros and Cardinals) from 1985-2001. He wasn't afraid to let even the biggest stars know when they weren't doing what they were supposed to. Bill got into got after Barry Bonds during spring training in 1991.
  • Since 2001 Virdon has been a spring training instructor for the Pirates.
  • Managerial Record:
    • Pittsburgh Pirates (1972-1973): 
      • Regular season - 163-128, .619, 1 NL East title
      • NL Championship: 2-3, .400
    • New York Yankees (1974-1975): 142-124, .534
    • Houston Astros (1975-1982): 
      • Regular season - 544-522, .510, 1 NL West title
      • NL Championship: 2-3, .400
    • Montreal Expos (1983-1984): 146-147, .498
    • TOTAL: 995-921, .519, 13 years