Pirates Announce the Passing of Bill Virdon

The Pittsburgh Pirates announced the passing of the great Bill Virdon on Tuesday at 90 years old.

Here’s a statement from the Pirates

Here’s our bio for Virdon, which was just recently expanded:

Bill Virdon, outfielder for the 1956-65 and 1968 Pirates. He spent four seasons in the minors for the New York Yankees before being traded to the St Louis Cardinals. Virdon debuted in 1950 at 19 years old and he hit .267 with 45 extra-base hits in 119 games for Class-D Independence. He also played 14 games and hit .341 for Kansas City of the American Association, just one step below the majors. He wasn’t on the fast track though. Virdon played for Class-B Piedmont in 1951, three levels lower than the American Association. He hit .286 with 30 extra-base hits in 118 games. He moved up one level in 1952, playing for Binghamton of the Eastern League, where he hit .261 with 24 extra-base hits in 122 games. The 1953 season saw him play for Double-A Birmingham and back with Kansas City. He combined to hit .261 with 35 extra-base hits and 51 walks in 137 games that season. He was traded to the Cardinals prior to the 1954 season and played the year at Rochester of the International League, where hit batted .333 with 28 doubles, 11 triples and 22 homers in 139 games. Virdon made the Cardinals Opening Day roster in 1955 and had a solid year, batting .281 with 17 homers and 68 RBIs in 144 games. After winning the Rookie of the Year award in 1955, the Cardinals traded Virdon to the Pirates just 24 games into the 1956 season. He was hitting .211 at the time with two homers. The Pirates gave up two players, Bobby Del Greco and Dick Littlefield, but it turned out to be a great deal. Virdon would bat .334 over the final 133 games of the season with the Pirates. For ten straight seasons, he served as the everyday center fielder for the Pirates, playing strong defense, combined with a decent bat.

Virdon hit .251 in 1957, with 28 doubles, 11 triples and eight homers in 144 games. He played 144 games in 1958 as well, when he batted .267 with 44 extra-base hits and 75 runs scored. The 144-game mark was popular for Virdon, who finished with the same number of games for three straight seasons. He had a .254 average and a .684 OPS in 1959. Virdon hit .264 with 60 runs scored in 120 games during the 1960 season, then batted .241 with five RBIs during the World Series. He batted .260 with 58 RBIs and 81 runs scored in 1961. In 1962 he led the NL with ten triples and won his only Gold Glove award. He also set a career high with 82 runs scored that season. Virdon hit .269 with 36 extra-base hits and 58 runs scored in 1963, then had his toughest season at the plate in 1964 when he finished with a .585 OPS in 145 games. He bounced back a bit in 1965, hitting .279 with a .692 OPS in 135 games. The Pirates ended up releasing him after the season and he retired, though he played six more big league games in 1968 for the Pirates after they ran low on players in July.

Virdon spent a total of 12 seasons in the majors, playing 1,583 games. He was a career .267 hitter with 735 runs scored, 1,596 hits and 502 RBIs. He is 11th all-time on the Pirates games played list with 1,415, four games ahead of Hall of Fame shortstop Arky Vaughan, and one spot behind Hall of Fame outfielder Fred Clarke. He led National League center fielders in fielding three different times with the Pirates. He took up coach after his playing days, though his last six games in 1968 came after he began his coaching career. Virdon had a 163-128 record as the Pirates manager during the 1972-73 seasons. He managed 1,918 Major League games, going to the playoffs three times and winning 995 games. He also served as a bench coach with the Pirates in the 1980s and has served to this day as a special instructor during Spring Training.