The Center of Pirate Success

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Bill Virdon

Bill Virdon was a classy outfielder who patrolled center field for the Pittsburgh Pirates for nearly a decade. His game smarts showed as a player and later as a big league manager, the longer of his baseball careers.

Bill Virdon played center field for the Pittsburgh Pirates for more than a decade. He was a Gold Glove winner in 1962.

Bill Virdon played center field for the Pittsburgh Pirates for more than a decade. He was a Gold Glove winner in 1962.

Virdon played a necessary role in the Pirates’ World Series championship season of 1960. Yet he was originally signed by the New York Yankees in 1950. He never played in Yankee pinstripes (though he later managed in that uniform). In 1954, the Yankees dealt Virdon and two other players to the St. Louis Cardinals for Enos Slaughter. He was Rookie of the Year for the Cardinals in 1955, hitting .281 with 17 home runs and 68 RBIs.

In 1957, Virdon led the majors by appearing in 157 games, accomplished by the fact that he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates one month into the season for Bobby Del Greco and Dick Littlefield. Virdon finished the season batting .319, what would be the highest batting average of his career. During the Pirates’ pennant-winning season of 1960, Virdon batted .264 with eight home runs and 40 runs batted in.

Over the next decade, he would hit a combined .259 for the Pirates. He led the National League with 10 triples in 1962.

Bill Virdon was the National League Rookie of the Year in 1955, batting .281 with 17 home runs and 68 RBIs.

Bill Virdon was the National League Rookie of the Year in 1955, batting .281 with 17 home runs and 68 RBIs.

Virdon was a premier defensive outfielder, winning the Gold Glove in 1962. His work in center field was often overshadowed by the spectacular fielding and throwing of his teammate in right field, Roberto Clemente.

He retired after being released by the Pirates in 1965 (though he tried a six-game comeback in 1968). Virdon finished his career with 1,596 hits.

 

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