The Pittsburgh Pirates confirmed in a statement on Tuesday that legendary outfielder Bill Virdon had passed away at 90 years old.
“Bill Virdon was a man who took such great pride in being a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates family,” Pirates chairman Bob Nutting said in a statement. “Every fan who followed our 1960 team will always remember the instrumental role that he played to bring a third World Series championship to the city of Pittsburgh.
“We are also eternally grateful for everything that Bill did representing the Pirates following his playing days not only as a successful manager, but also in helping a countless number of our young players that he so proudly instructed and mentored as a coach and one of our long-time Spring Training guest instructors,” added Nutting. “We send our thoughts and prayers to Bill’s wife of 70 years, Shirley, his children Debbie Virdon Lutes, Linda Virdon Holmes and Lisa Virdon Brown, along with his seven grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.”
Originally from Missouri, Virdon began his professional baseball career by signing with the New York Yankees in 1950, but was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals before ever playing in the big leagues. He was named the National League Rookie of the Year in 1955 with the Cardinals, with an impressive stat line that read .281/.322/.433 with 17 home runs in 144 games.
The Cardinals eventually traded Virdon to the Pirates, where he would spend the next 10 years of his career, helping them win the World Series in 1960. He also became a Gold Glove winner in Pittsburgh, before eventually being given an opportunity as manager in 1972. He led them to the National League Championship Series in his first season in charge. Virdon remains sixth all-time in games played for the Pirates in the position of center fielder, featuring 1,376 times for the club.
Virdon was picked by his former boss Danny Murtaugh to replace him as manager of the Pirates after he was forced to step aside due to health concerns. Murtaugh had led the Pirates to two World Series triumphs and believed that Virdon was the best man to take over from him.
Virdon also spent time as a manager with the New York Yankees, Houston Astros and Montreal Expos. With the Yankees, he was named the American League Manager of the Year in 1974. He also took home a National League Manager of the Year award with the Astros in 1980. He remains the winningest manager in Astros franchise history.
“Bill Virdon was an extremely vital part of the Astros success, leading the franchise to its first two postseason appearances,” the Astros said in a statement. “He was respected throughout baseball for his intensity and knowledge of the game and enjoyed a long, successful career both as a player and manager.”
Virdon retired as a manager following his stint with the Expos in 1984 and finished with an overall managerial record of 995-921. However, even after he retired he would continue to contribute to the Pirates organization during spring training serving as a guest instructor.