Bill Virdon

William Charles Virdon (born June 9, 1931) is an American former professional baseball outfielder, manager, and coach in Major League Baseball (MLB). Virdon played in MLB for the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates from 1955 through 1965 and in 1968. He served as a coach for the Pirates and Houston Astros, and managed the Pirates, Astros, New York Yankees, and Montreal Expos.

After playing in Minor League Baseball for the Yankees organization, Virdon was traded to the Cardinals, and he made his MLB debut in 1955. That year, Virdon won the National League Rookie of the Year Award. He slumped at the beginning of the 1956 season, and was traded to the Pirates, where he spent the remainder of his playing career. A premier defensive outfielder during his playing days as a center fielder for the Cardinals and Pirates, Virdon led a strong defensive team to the 1960 World Series championship. In 1962, Virdon won a Rawlings Gold Glove Award. Following the 1965 season, he retired due to his desire to become a manager.

Virdon managed in Minor League Baseball until returning to the Pirates as a coach in 1968. He served as manager of the Pirates in 1972 and 1973, before becoming the manager of the Yankees in 1974. During the 1975 season, the Yankees fired Virdon, and he was hired by the Astros. After being fired by the Astros after the 1982 season, Virdon managed the Expos in 1983 and 1984. Virdon won The Sporting News' Manager of the Year Award in 1974, his only full season working for the Yankees, and in 1980, while managing the Astros. He returned to the Pirates as a coach following his managerial career, and remains with the Pirates as a guest instructor during spring training.

Bill Virdon
Bill virdon sigining autographs
Virdon meeting fans at McKechnie Field on March 4, 2012
Center fielder / Manager
Born: June 9, 1931 (age 88)
Hazel Park, Michigan
Batted: Left Threw: Right
MLB debut
April 12, 1955, for the St. Louis Cardinals
Last MLB appearance
July 26, 1968, for the Pittsburgh Pirates
MLB statistics
Batting average.267
Home runs91
Runs batted in502
Managerial record995–921
Winning %.519
As player

As manager

Career highlights and awards

Early life

William Charles Virdon was born in Hazel Park, Michigan, on June 9, 1931. His parents, Bertha and Charles Virdon, were originally from Missouri, but moved to Hazel Park during the Great Depression, where they were able to find jobs in automotive factories. When he was 12 years old, his family moved to West Plains, Missouri.[1]

Virdon attended West Plains High School. He competed in American football, basketball, and track and field for the school. As West Plains did not compete in baseball, Virdon traveled to Clay Center, Kansas, to play for their American Amateur Baseball Congress team as a center fielder and shortstop.[1][2] He enrolled at Drury University in Springfield, Missouri.[1]

Professional career

Playing career

Minor league career

Virdon attended an open tryout held by the New York Yankees in Branson, Missouri, and scout Tom Greenwade signed Virdon to the Yankees for a $1,800 signing bonus ($18,744 in current dollar terms). Virdon made his professional debut in 1950 with the Independence Yankees in the Class D Kansas–Oklahoma–Missouri League, and was promoted to the Kansas City Blues in the Class AAA American Association for the final 14 games of the season.[1] Virdon played for the Norfolk Tars in the Class B Piedmont League in 1951, and for the Binghamton Triplets in the Class A Eastern League in 1952. The Yankees assigned him to Kansas City in 1953, but he struggled, batting .233.[1] While he played in Kansas City, Virdon was diagnosed with astigmatism.[3] When Kansas City manager Harry Craft noticed Virdon reading while wearing glasses, Craft told him to wear them while he played.[4]

The Yankees demoted Virdon to the Birmingham Barons in the Class AA Southern Association. In 42 games for Birmingham, Virdon had a .317 batting average.[1][5] According to Hal Smith, his roommate with Birmingham, Virdon changed his approach to hitting, prioritizing line drives to all parts of the field, rather than trying to hit for power.[1]

Virdon remained stuck behind Mickey Mantle on the Yankees' depth chart for center field, while Gene Woodling and Hank Bauer played the corner outfield positions. The Yankees traded Virdon to the St. Louis Cardinals before the 1954 season with Mel Wright and Emil Tellinger for veteran outfielder and All-Star Enos Slaughter. Virdon struggled during spring training, and Cardinals manager Eddie Stanky worked with Virdon to improve his hitting.[5] The Cardinals assigned Virdon to the Rochester Red Wings of the Class AAA International League for the season. He led the league with a .333 batting average and hit 22 home runs, finishing second in voting for the International League Most Valuable Player Award to Elston Howard.[1]

Major league career

Virdon joined the Cardinals in 1955, as the Cardinals moved Stan Musial to first base to allow Virdon to play the outfield.[1] As a rookie, Virdon had a .281 average with 17 home runs and 69 runs batted in (RBIs).[6] He was named the winner of the National League (NL) Rookie of the Year Award, voted on by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, beating Jack Meyer of the Philadelphia Phillies.[1][5]

Bill Virdon 1965
Virdon with the Pirates in 1965

After the 1955 season, the Cardinals hired Frank Lane, nicknamed "The Trader", as their general manager. Virdon slumped to begin the 1956 season, and the Cardinals traded him to the Pittsburgh Pirates in May 1956 for Bobby Del Greco and Dick Littlefield.[1] Lane claimed that Virdon's late season slump in 1955 was because he tired down the stretch, and that is why he chose to trade him.[7] Lane later referred to the trade as "the worst trade [he] ever made".[8]

When he arrived at Pittsburgh, he developed an eye condition, for which he received treatment, missing one week of the season.[7] Virdon's vision improved, and he challenged Hank Aaron for the NL batting title. Virdon batted .334 for the Pirates during remainder of the season, which increased his season batting average to .319, second-best in the NL to Aaron, who batted .328.[1][9] Pirates' announcer Bob Prince gave Virdon the nickname "Quail" due to the frequency of his soft-hit infield hits.[1]

The Pirates hired Danny Murtaugh as their manager during the 1957 season; Virdon credited Murtaugh with pushing him to perform at his best. Virdon consistently batted in the .260s for the next several seasons.[1] He led all NL center fielders in assists in 1959 with 16, and in double plays turned with five.[10] In 1960, Virdon, along with right fielder Roberto Clemente, shortstop Dick Groat, second baseman Bill Mazeroski, and third baseman Don Hoak, formed a strong defensive unit for the Pirates,[11] and they reached the 1960 World Series, where they faced the New York Yankees. Virdon batted .241 during the seven game series. In the deciding Game 7, he hit a ground ball that struck Yankees shortstop Tony Kubek in the throat after taking an unpredictable bounce, enabling Virdon to reach base safely. This started a rally for the Pirates that culminated in Bill Mazeroski's home run that won the series for Pittsburgh.[1][12][13]

Virdon led the NL in triples with 10 during the 1962 season.[14] That year, he won the Rawlings Gold Glove Award.[1] He struggled in the 1964 season, batting only .243.[15] Though his batting average improved to .279 in the 1965 season, Virdon retired after the season due to his desire to become a manager.[16] Virdon retired with 1,596 MLB hits,[17] a career batting average of .267 with 91 home runs during his 1,583-game NL career.

Coaching and managing

Bill Virdon (manager) - Houston Astros - 1976
Virdon in 1976

Virdon began operating a baseball academy in 1956.[18] After the 1962 season, Virdon coached in the Arizona Instructional League. He coached in the Florida Instructional League following the 1964 season. Following his retirement as a player after the 1965 season, Virdon spent the next two seasons as a manager in the minor leagues for the New York Mets' organization.[1] In 1966, he managed the Williamsport Mets of the Eastern League,[19] and in 1967, he managed the Jacksonville Suns of the International League.[20] He led Williamsport to a 68–72 win-loss record, and Jacksonville to a 66–73 record.[21]

Virdon joined the Pirates' major league coaching staff under manager Larry Shepard in 1968. Shepard left the Pirates after the 1969 season, and Virdon interviewed to become the Pirates' next manager.[21] However, the Pirates re-hired Murtaugh, and Virdon remained on Murtaugh's coaching staff.[1] Virdon coached the Pirates as they won the 1971 World Series.[22] Due to health problems, Murtaugh retired after the 1971 season,[23] and Virdon was named as his successor.[1]

As a manager, Virdon led the Pirates to the 1972 NL East division title, but the Pirates lost the 1972 National League Championship Series (NLCS) to the Cincinnati Reds when Pittsburgh pitcher Bob Moose unleashed a wild pitch in the final inning of Game 5, allowing the winning run to score.[17] The 1973 Pirates had to play without Clemente, who died during the previous offseason. Further struggles included pitcher Steve Blass' inability to throw strikes and injuries to Dock Ellis.[23] In 1973, Virdon clashed with Ellis and Richie Hebner,[24] and the Pirates fell into third place, with a 67–69 record,[17] and the team fired Virdon, replacing him with Murtaugh.[1][25]

The Yankees announced the hiring of Dick Williams as their manager for the 1974 season, but American League president Joe Cronin nullified the transaction because Williams was still under contract with the Oakland Athletics. The Athletics demanded prospects Otto Vélez and Scott McGregor as compensation for Williams, but the Yankees decided the price was too steep.[26] Without a manager, the Yankees hired Virdon, signing him to a one-year contract.[27] Virdon led the Yankees to a competitive finish, one game behind the Baltimore Orioles in the American League East division. He won The Sporting News' Manager of the Year Award.[1] The Yankees signed him to a two-year contract after the 1974 season, with a raise from $50,000 to $65,000 per year.[28][29] However, Virdon clashed with Bobby Murcer.[1] He received a death threat due to his preference of playing Elliott Maddox over Murcer in center field.[30] The Yankees struggled in 1975. When Billy Martin was fired as manager of the Texas Rangers during the 1975 season, the Yankees fired Virdon on August 2 and hired Martin.[31]

Bill Virdon
Virdon honored at PNC Park on June 19, 2010

The Houston Astros hired Virdon as their manager on August 20, 1975, succeeding Preston Gómez. Tal Smith, who had served as executive vice president for the Yankees, had become the Astros' general manager on August 7.[31] Virdon led the Astros to third-place finishes in 1976 and 1977, but the Astros slipped to fifth place in 1978. The 1979 Astros fell one game short of winning the NL West division championship. The Astros tied the Los Angeles Dodgers for the division championship in 1980, and defeated them in the 1980 NL West tie-breaker game. The Astros played the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1980 NLCS, losing the series in five games. He again won the Manager of the Year Award in 1980.[32] Due to the 1981 Major League Baseball strike, the 1981 season was split into halves with each half's winner appearing in the 1981 NL Division Series. The Dodgers won the first half, while the Astros won the second. In the Division Series, the Dodgers defeated the Astros in five games. During the 1982 season, the Astros fell to fifth place. Virdon was fired during the season and replaced by Bob Lillis.[33][34]

The Montreal Expos hired Virdon as their manager before the 1983 season, replacing Jim Fanning, and signed a two-year contract.[35] During the 1984 season, Virdon expressed to Expos general manager John McHale that he did not want to return to the Expos in 1985.[36] With a 64–67 record in August 1984, the Expos fired Virdon, replacing him with Fanning.[37] Gary Lucas, a pitcher for the Expos, felt that they had lost many one-run games because Virdon was too conservative in his managing, not employing the hit and run play and relying on the starting pitcher for long in the game.[36]

Virdon returned to the Pirates as the hitting coach under Jim Leyland in 1986, Leyland's first season as a manager. He took the position only when he was convinced that he would not succeed Leyland should the Pirates fire him.[38] Following a contract dispute, the Pirates replaced Virdon with Milt May before the 1987 season.[39] Virdon remained with the Pirates as a minor league hitting instructor for the Pirates from 1987 through 1989. He worked as a spring training instructor for the Cardinals in 1990 and 1991, and then rejoined Leyland's coaching staff in Pittsburgh in 1992.[40]

With Major League Baseball expanding by two teams for the 1993 season, Virdon interviewed for the managerial positions of both expansion teams, the Florida Marlins and the Colorado Rockies, in 1992.[41][42] The Marlins instead hired Rene Lachemann, and the Rockies hired Don Baylor.[43][44] In 1994, Virdon interviewed with the Orioles for their vacant managerial position.[45] Virdon left the Pirates after the 1995 season.[40] He became the bench coach for the Astros under first-time manager Larry Dierker in 1997.[40] The Pirates brought Virdon back as their bench coach for the 2001 season under first-time manager Lloyd McClendon.[40][46] He retired from coaching after the 2002 season.[17]

Virdon's career managerial record, over all or parts of 13 seasons, was 995–921 (.519). He also managed in the minor leagues for the Cardinals and the Astros.[1] In June 2012, the Pirates attempted to add Virdon and Mazeroski to their coaching staff,[47] but were rebuffed by MLB for violating the rules on uniformed coaching staffs after one game.[48] Virdon continues to serve as a special outfield instructor for the Pirates during spring training.[49]

Personal life

Virdon and his wife, Shirley, married in November 1951,[50] and live in Springfield, Missouri.[49] They have three daughters.[51] Together, Bill and Shirley Virdon endowed two scholarships at Southeast Missouri State University, Shirley's alma mater, with one specifically devoted for a baseball player.[50]

A portion of the U.S. Route 63 business route in West Plains is named "Bill Virdon Boulevard". Virdon was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 1983, and named a Missouri Sports Legend by the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.[52] The Independence, Missouri, Baseball Hall of Fame inducted Virdon in 2013.[2] Following Whitey Herzog's election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2012, Herzog indicated that he would champion Virdon's cause to the Veterans Committee in future elections.[53]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w Wolf, Gregory H. "Bill Virdon". Society for American Baseball Research. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  2. ^ a b Welch, Anvil (July 14, 2013). "Virdon selected for Independence baseball shrine". Joplin Globe. Retrieved February 27, 2016.
  3. ^ Broeg, Bob (April 3, 1955). "If Astigmatism and Cracked Knee Didn't Stop Virdon, What Can?". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. p. 26. Retrieved June 22, 2016.
  4. ^ "Cards' Virdon Good Bet For Rookie Of Year". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. United Press International. June 10, 1955. Retrieved February 28, 2016.
  5. ^ a b c "Bill Virdom Top Rookie". Ellensburg Daily Record. Associated Press. December 3, 1955. Retrieved February 28, 2016.
  6. ^ "Bill Virdon Signs For 1956 Season With Cardinals". The Southeast Missourian. Associated Press. November 22, 1955. p. 8. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  7. ^ a b Walfoort, Cleon (September 20, 1956). "Bill Virdon of Pirates Now Looms as Batter Aaron Must Beat Out". The Milwaukee Journal. p. 17. Retrieved February 28, 2016.
  8. ^ Richman, Milton (September 23, 1974). "Bill Virdon is shaping up real fine". The Dispatch. Lexington, North Carolina. United Press International. p. 10. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  9. ^ "1956 National League Batting Leaders". Retrieved February 25, 2016.
  10. ^ "1959 National League Fielding Leaders". Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  11. ^ Schoenfield, David (January 28, 2016). "The best defensive teams of all time". Retrieved February 28, 2016.
  12. ^ Kevin Flowers (October 13, 2010). "1960 World Series Game 7 a 'life-changing experience' for players". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  13. ^ "1960 World Series Game 7: The greatest game ever played". Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  14. ^ "1962 National League Batting Leaders". Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  15. ^ Hernon, Jack (November 17, 1965). "Virdon Retires as Pirate Centerfielder". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. 28. Retrieved February 28, 2016.
  16. ^ Biederman, Lester J. (November 17, 1965). "Bill Virdon Retires As Player And Looks To Managing Career". The Pittsburgh Press. p. 73. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  17. ^ a b c d Shrum, Rick (October 6, 2002). "After 53 years, Virdon cuts back on baseball". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  18. ^ Snider, Steve (December 13, 1955). "Cards' Virdon Fast Operator: St. Louis Star Goes From Rookie to Teacher in One Year". The Milwaukee Journal. United Press International. p. 2. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  19. ^ "1966 Williamsport Mets". Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  20. ^ "1967 Jacksonville Suns". Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  21. ^ a b Chick, Bob (February 17, 1972). "Brown: Virdon Had To Be Our Man". The Evening Independent. p. 1-C. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  22. ^ Basnett, Chris (April 3, 2014). "Virdon throws first pitch for Cards". Springfield News-Leader. Retrieved February 27, 2016.
  23. ^ a b Mihoces, Gary (September 7, 1973). "Danny Murtaugh Returns As Manager Of Pittsburgh Pirates; Bill Virdon Is Fired". Gettysburg Times. Associated Press. p. 11. Retrieved February 28, 2016.
  24. ^ "Richie Hebner Won't Apologize to Virdon". Associated Press. August 14, 1973. p. 16. Retrieved April 10, 2016.
  25. ^ "Bucs' Virdon Is Replaced By Murtaugh". The Telegraph. United Press International. September 7, 1973. p. 11. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  26. ^ "Virdon Is Yankee Manager". Washington, Pennsylvania. Associated Press. January 4, 1974. p. B-2. Retrieved April 10, 2016.
  27. ^ Richman, Milton (January 2, 1974). "Yankees Give Up On Williams, Hire Bill Virdon As Manager". The Dispatch. United Press International. p. 7. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  28. ^ "Bill Virdon Gets The Last Laugh". Beaver County Times. United Press International. October 25, 1974. p. B-3. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  29. ^ "Bill Virdon Signs 2-Year Yankee Pact". Gettysburg Times. Associated Press. October 25, 1974. p. 14. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  30. ^ "Bill Virdon Shrugs Off Death Threat". The Pittsburgh Press. United Press International. May 30, 1974. p. 40. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  31. ^ a b "Bill Virdon Replaces Gomez". The Nevada Daily Mail. Associated Press. August 20, 1975. p. 11. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  32. ^ "Houston's Bill Virdon Named Top National League Manager". Herald-Journal. Associated Press. November 18, 1980. p. B2. Retrieved February 28, 2016.
  33. ^ "Bill Virdon gets the ax". Bangor Daily News. United Press International. August 11, 1982. p. 15. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  34. ^ "Astros Fire Bill Virdon As Manager". Gainesville Sun. Associated Press. August 11, 1982. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  35. ^ "Expos Name Bill Virdon". The New York Times. United Press International. October 13, 1982. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  36. ^ a b "Expos: Virdon out, Fanning in". Beaver County Times. Associated Press. August 31, 1984. p. B4. Retrieved February 28, 2016.
  37. ^ "Expos, Virdon agree: it's time for a new boss". The Spokesman-Review. August 31, 1984. p. 22. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  38. ^ Prisuta, Mike (December 18, 1985). "Roberts, Bonilla may be returned". Beaver County Times. p. C2. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  39. ^ "May Replaces Virdon". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. November 12, 1986. p. 4C. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  40. ^ a b c d Perrotto, John (October 30, 2000). "Virdon couldn't say no to Bucs' bench job". Allegheny Times. pp. B1, B5. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  41. ^ "Bill Virdon interviews for Marlins' job". The Tuscaloosa News. Associated Press. p. 5C. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  42. ^ "At the starting line". The News. September 27, 1992. p. 4D. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  43. ^ "Lachemann to become 1st Marlins manager". Ocala Star-Banner. Scripps News Service. October 22, 1992. p. 1C. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  44. ^ "Baylor named Rockies manager". Bangor Daily News. Associated Press. October 28, 1992. p. 9. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  45. ^ "Virdon to talk to Orioles". Beaver County Times. September 28, 1994. p. B2. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  46. ^ Meyer, Paul (October 31, 2000). "Virdon rejoins Pirates' staff: Former manager, player hired as bench coach for McClendon". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. D-1. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  47. ^ Karen Price (June 19, 2012). "Mazeroski, Virdon serve as Pirates' coaches". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  48. ^ Kaduk, Kevin (June 21, 2012). "MLB bounces Bill Mazeroski and Bill Virdon from Pirates dugout after one game". Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  49. ^ a b Balog, Tom (February 27, 2013). "Virdon left his mark on Casey Stengel". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  50. ^ a b "Former major leaguer endows scholarships". The Southeast Missourian. February 17, 2007. p. 3B. Retrieved February 28, 2016.
  51. ^ Feeney, Charley (March 3, 1972). "A Day in the Baseball Life of Bill Virdon". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. 21. Retrieved February 28, 2016.
  52. ^ "Hall Names Virdon Missouri Sports Legend". KOZL-TV. May 17, 2012. Retrieved February 27, 2016.
  53. ^ Booher, Kary. "Herzog: Plans to press Springfield's Virdon for Cooperstown". Springfield News-Leader. Retrieved February 26, 2016.

External links

1955 St. Louis Cardinals season

The 1955 St. Louis Cardinals season was the team's 74th season in St. Louis, Missouri and the 64th season in the National League. The Cardinals went 68–86 during the season and finished seventh in the National League, 30½ games behind the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Outfielder Bill Virdon won the Rookie of the Year Award this year, batting .281, with 17 home runs and 68 RBIs. This was the second consecutive year a Cardinal won the Rookie of the Year Award, with Wally Moon winning the previous season. The Cardinals would have this occur again in 1985 and 1986, with Vince Coleman and Todd Worrell, respectively.

1956 Pittsburgh Pirates season

The 1956 Pittsburgh Pirates season was the 75th season of the Pittsburgh Pirates franchise, the 70th in the National League. The Pirates finished seventh in the league standings with a record of 66–88.

1956 St. Louis Cardinals season

The 1956 St. Louis Cardinals season was the team's 75th season in St. Louis, Missouri and its 65th season in the National League. The Cardinals went 76–78 during the season and finished 4th in the National League.

1968 Pittsburgh Pirates season

The 1968 Pittsburgh Pirates season was the 87th season of the Pittsburgh Pirates franchise; the 82nd in the National League. The Pirates finished sixth in the league standings with a record of 80–82.

1974 New York Yankees season

The 1974 New York Yankees season was the 72nd season for the team in New York and its 74th overall dating from its origins in Baltimore. The team finished with a record of 89–73, finishing 2 games behind the Baltimore Orioles. New York was managed by Bill Virdon. The Yankees played at Shea Stadium due to the ongoing renovation of Yankee Stadium.

1975 New York Yankees season

The 1975 New York Yankees season was the 73rd season for the Yankees in New York, and the franchise's 75th season overall. The team finished with a record of 83–77, finishing 12 games behind the Boston Red Sox. The Yankees played at Shea Stadium due to the ongoing renovation of Yankee Stadium, which would re-open in 1976.

Bill Virdon opened the season as Yankees manager, but he was replaced on August 1 by Billy Martin. This would be the first of five stints as Yankees manager for Martin.

1982 Houston Astros season

The Houston Astros' 1982 season was a season in American baseball. It involved the Houston Astros attempting to win the National League West.

1984 Montreal Expos season

The 1984 Montreal Expos season was the 16th season in franchise history. They recorded 78 wins during the 1984 season and finished in fifth place in the National League East. A managerial change occurred as Bill Virdon was replaced by Jim Fanning. The highlight of the Expos season was the acquisition of Pete Rose. After being benched in the 1983 World Series, Rose left the Phillies and signed a one-year contract with the Montreal Expos. He garnered his 4,000th hit with the team on April 13, 1984 against the Phillies, being only the second player to do so.

Bobby Del Greco

Robert George Del Greco (born April 7, 1933) is an American former professional baseball outfielder, who played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for six teams, during the 1950s and 1960s, including the Pittsburgh Pirates (1952 and 1956), St. Louis Cardinals (1956), Chicago Cubs (1957), New York Yankees (1957–58), Philadelphia Phillies (1960–61 and 1965), and Kansas City Athletics (1961–63). He threw and batted right-handed; Del Greco stood 5 feet 10 inches (1.78 m) tall and weighed 185 pounds (84 kg), during his playing days.

Del Greco grew up in Pittsburgh's Hill District and was signed by the hometown Pirates. They traded him to the Cardinals on May 17, 1956, in a deal that brought center fielder Bill Virdon to Pittsburgh.After spending most of 1957 with the seventh-place Cubs and in Triple-A, Del Greco was acquired by the pennant-winning Yankees, on September 10. He was a light-hitting, speedy, and defensively-sound player. The Yankees used him to fill in for Mickey Mantle in the late innings, but Del Greco did not appear in the 1957 World Series, won by the Milwaukee Braves in seven games. He was the regular center fielder for the A’s from July 1961 through 1963, hitting a composite .233 in 327 games played. After a minor-league stint in 1964, Del Greco played his last MLB game for the Phillies, in May 1965 and retired from baseball after the 1966 campaign.

In nine big league seasons Del Greco played in 731 games, with 1,982 at bats, 271 runs, 454 hits, 95 doubles, 11 triples, 42 home runs, 169 RBI, 16 stolen bases, 271 walks, a .229 batting average, a .330 on-base percentage, a .352 slugging percentage, 697 total bases, and 29 sacrifice hits. He wore 10 different numbers in his nine-year MLB career.

Harvey Haddix's near-perfect game

On May 26, 1959, at Milwaukee County Stadium, Harvey Haddix of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitched a perfect game for 12 innings against the Milwaukee Braves, but lost the game in the 13th. His perfect game bid was broken up in the bottom of the 13th by a throwing error; he would lose the no-hitter, and the game with it, on a Joe Adcock hit (a baserunning mistake caused it to be changed from a 3-run home run to a 1-run double) later in the inning.

Braves starter Lew Burdette, despite giving up eight hits through nine innings, was pitching a shutout of his own. Three times, the Pirates came close to scoring the winning run for Haddix. In the third inning, a baserunning blunder by Don Hoak negated three consecutive singles; in the ninth, Bill Virdon, after reaching base on a hit with one out, advanced to third on Rocky Nelson's single; however, Bob Skinner grounded back to Burdette the threat. In the 10th inning, with the Pirates still not having scored, pinch-hitter Dick Stuart flied out to center fielder Andy Pafko on a ball that came within a few feet of a two-run home run. The Pirates also recorded hits in the 11th, 12th and 13th innings, but left a runner on base in the latter two innings.

Félix Mantilla, who entered the game in the 11th after Del Rice had pinch-hit for Johnny O'Brien, was the Braves' first hitter in the 13th inning. He hit a ground ball to third baseman Hoak, who fielded the ball cleanly but threw wide to first, pulling Nelson off the base. Mantilla was then sacrificed to second by Eddie Mathews. Haddix, his perfect game bid gone but his no-hit bid still intact, then intentionally walked Hank Aaron to set up a double play situation for Adcock, who had already grounded out twice earlier in the game, striking out the other two times. Adcock hit a fly ball to deep right-center field, just beyond the reach of right fielder Joe Christopher, who was making his Major League debut (he replaced Román Mejías in right field after Stuart had pinch-hit for Mejías), for an apparent home run, the ball landing between the outfield fence and another fence behind it, in front of a line of pine trees. Mantilla rounded third and touched home plate for the winning run; however, in the confusion, Aaron saw the ball hit the second fence but did not realize it had carried over the first and, thinking that the game had ended when Mantilla scored the winning run, rounded second and headed for the dugout. Adcock rounded the bases, running out his home run. First base umpire Frank Dascoli ruled that the final score was 2-0; he was overruled by National League president Warren Giles, who changed Adcock's home run to a double and declared that only Mantilla's run counted for a final score of 1-0. In addition to Stuart being used as a pinch-hitter, two other Pirate regulars did not play in this game: Dick Groat, who would win the 1960 National League Most Valuable Player Award, was mired in a slump and had been benched, and Roberto Clemente was sidelined with a sore shoulder.

In 1989, during a banquet attended by players from both teams commemorating the game's 30th anniversary, Milwaukee pitcher Bob Buhl told Haddix that the Braves' bullpen had stolen Smoky Burgess' signs, the Pittsburgh catcher exposing them due to a high crouch. From their bullpen, the Braves pitchers repeatedly repositioned a towel to signal for a fastball or a breaking ball, the only two pitches Haddix used in the game. If a fastball was coming, the towel was made visible to the batter; if a breaking pitch was coming, the towel was out of sight. Despite this assistance, the usually solid Milwaukee offense managed only the one hit. All but one Milwaukee hitter, Aaron, took the signals. Haddix's 12 2/3-inning complete game, in which he struck out eight batters against the team that had just won the previous two National League pennants (including winning the 1957 World Series), and featured one of the top offensive lineups in the Major Leagues, is considered by many to be the best pitching performance in Major League history. Pirate second baseman Bill Mazeroski would say, "Usually you have one or two great or spectacular defensive plays in these no-hitters. Not that night. It was the easiest game I ever played in." In 1991, Major League Baseball changed the definition of a no-hitter to "a game in which a pitcher or pitchers complete a game of nine innings or more without allowing a hit." Under this new definition, Haddix's masterpiece was one of 12 extra-inning no-hitters to be struck from the record books. Haddix's response was, "It's O.K. I know what I did." Haddix's near-perfect game is immortalized by the Baseball Project, whose song, Harvey Haddix, appears on their debut album, 2008's Volume 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails.

Jack Meyer

John Robert Meyer (March 23, 1932 – March 6, 1967) was an American professional baseball player, a right-handed pitcher who appeared in all or parts of seven Major League seasons (1955–61) with the Philadelphia Phillies. Born in Philadelphia, he came from a '"well-to-do New Jersey family," was educated at the exclusive William Penn Charter School, and attended the University of Delaware and Wake Forest University. He was listed at 6 feet 1 inch (1.85 m) tall and weighing 175 pounds (79 kg).

Meyer signed with the Phillies in 1951 and steadily rose through their farm system, winning 15 games for the 1954 Syracuse Chiefs of the Triple-A International League. His most successful Major League season was his 1955 rookie campaign, when he led the National League in games finished (36) and saves (16) and fanned 97 batters in 110​1⁄3 innings pitched. He also made five starts, and finished second (to Bill Virdon) in NL Rookie-of-the-Year balloting. His effectiveness then began to fade, however, and he spent part of 1957 back in Triple-A.

Meyer rebounded to post respectable seasons in both 1958 and 1959, largely in middle relief, but his career was negatively affected by his growing reputation as a drinker and late-night carouser. He was a member—with fellow pitchers Turk Farrell and Jim Owens—of the so-called "Dalton Gang", who received notoriety around baseball for multiple, and well-publicized, off-field incidents.Meyer, who was given the nickname of "The Bird", went on the disabled list with a herniated disk and was fined $1,200 (nine percent of his salary) after a bout of post-game drinking in Pittsburgh in May 1960 led to confrontations with two sportswriters and Phillies' broadcaster Byrum Saam, then a fight with Farrell and several teammates, which left Meyer injured. He missed the remainder of the 1960 season and only pitched in one more game, in 1961, before leaving baseball.

For his MLB career, he compiled a 24–34 record in 202 appearances, most of them as a relief pitcher, with a 3.92 earned run average and 375 strikeouts.

Meyer suffered a heart attack while watching a basketball game on television and died on March 6, 1967, at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. Meyer, who was 34 years old, had a history of heart problems. He left a wife and three children.

His nephew, Brian Meyer, pitched briefly for the Houston Astros from 1988 to 1990.

Joe Christopher

Joseph O'Neal Christopher (born December 13, 1935 in Frederiksted, U.S. Virgin Islands) is a former outfielder who played in Major League Baseball from 1959 through 1966. Listed at 5' 10", 175 lbs., he batted and threw right-handed.

Christopher reached the majors in 1959 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, spending three years with them before moving to the New York Mets (1962–65) and Boston Red Sox (1966).

While in Pittsburgh, Christopher was used as a backup in all three outfield positions for Bob Skinner (LF), Bill Virdon (CF) and Roberto Clemente (RF). He was first called up when Clemente was injured, making his debut in nothing less than Harvey Haddix's near-perfect game on May 26, 1959. As a member of the 1960 World Series Champion Pirates, he was a utility player, pinch-running in three games and scoring two runs (games 2 and 5).

Christopher became the Mets’ fifth pick in the 1961 MLB Expansion Draft. In 1964 he enjoyed easily his finest season as a major-leaguer, hitting .300 with 16 home runs, 76 RBI, 78 runs, 163 hits, 26 doubles, and eight triples in 154 games, all career-highs. He had a career-best day on August 19, collecting two triples, a double, and a home run in an 8–6 victory over his former Pirates teammates. Then, on September 25 he broke up the no-hit bid of Cincinnati Reds pitcher Jim Maloney at Shea Stadium. His second-inning single was the only hit against Maloney, who had to settle for a 3–0 shutout.

Christopher played briefly in 1966 for the Red Sox and was dealt with pitcher Earl Wilson to the Detroit Tigers, who sent Julio Navarro as part of the package. Although Christopher’s major league career had come to an end on June 9, 1966 (he never played for Detroit), he stayed active in the minors through 1968. He also played winter baseball in Dominican Republic, Mexico and Puerto Rico.

In an eight-season career, Christopher was a .260 hitter with 29 home runs and 173 RBI in 638 games, including one five-hit game and eight four-hit games.

Joe DeMaestri

Joseph Paul DeMaestri (December 9, 1928 – August 26, 2016), nicknamed "Froggy", was an American shortstop in Major League Baseball who played for the Chicago White Sox (1951), St. Louis Browns (1952), Philadelphia / Kansas City Athletics (1953–59) and New York Yankees (1960–61). He batted and threw right-handed, stood 6 feet (1.83 m) tall and weighed 170 pounds (77 kg).

In an 11-season career, DeMaestri was a .236 hitter with 49 home runs and 281 RBI in 1,121 games played. He made the American League All-Star team in 1957.

On July 8, 1955, at Briggs Stadium, DeMaestri collected six hits in six at bats in an 11-inning game against the Detroit Tigers. All his hits were singles and he scored two runs, but Detroit won the contest, 11–8.Before the 1960 season, Demaestri was traded to the New York Yankees. In the eighth inning of Game 7 of the that year's World Series, DeMaestri took over for regular Yankee shortstop Tony Kubek when Kubek was struck in the throat by a bad-hop ground ball hit by Bill Virdon of the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, DeMaestri was off the field when, one inning later, Bill Mazeroski hit his famous walk-off homer against Yankee pitcher Ralph Terry. Dale Long had pinch hit for DeMaestri in the top of the ninth.

List of Houston Astros managers

The Houston Astros are a professional baseball franchise based in Houston, Texas. They are a member of the American League (AL) West in Major League Baseball (MLB). The team joined MLB in 1962 as an expansion team named the Houston Colt .45s and changed their name to the Houston Astros in 1965. The team won their first NL Championship in 2005. Having first played in Colt Stadium (1962–1964), and later in The Astrodome, now known as the Reliant Astrodome (1965–1999), the Astros have played their home games at Minute Maid Park, which was first named The Ballpark at Union Station, since 2000. The franchise is owned by Jim Crane, and Jeff Luhnow is their general manager.There have been 23 managers for the Astros franchise. The team's first manager was Harry Craft, who managed for three seasons. Bill Virdon is the franchise's all-time leader for the most regular-season games managed (1066), and the most regular-season game wins (544); Phil Garner holds the record for most playoff games managed with the Astros with 26 while A. J. Hinch holds the record for most all-time playoff wins (14). Salty Parker is the Astros' all-time leader for the highest regular-season winning percentage, as he has only managed one game, which he won. Of the managers who have managed a minimum of 162 games (one season), Larry Dierker has the highest regular-season winning percentage with .556. Garner is the franchise's all-time leader for the highest playoff winning percentage with .500. Leo Durocher is the only Astros manager to have been elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Garner and Hinch are the only managers to have won an league pennant with the Astros, winning one in the National League in 2005 and one in the American League in 2017. Larry Dierker is the only Astros manager to have had his uniform number retired by the Astros, with his uniform number 49 retired by the Astros in 2002. Dierker is also the sixth manager in MLB history to win a division championship in his first season for the Astros in 1997. Lanier and Dierker are the only managers to have won a Manager of the Year Award with the Astros, winning it in 1986 and 1998 respectively. Grady Hatton, Lanier, Dierker, and Cooper have spent their entire managing careers with the Astros.

List of Pittsburgh Pirates home run leaders

List of the Pittsburgh Pirates franchise home run leaders with 40 or more home runs.(Correct as of March 20, 2019)

Mel Wright

Melvin James Wright, Jr. (May 11, 1928 – May 16, 1983) was an American Major League Baseball pitcher, pitching coach and scout. A native of Manila, Arkansas, who attended Ouachita Baptist University, Wright threw and batted right-handed and was measured during his playing days at 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) tall and 210 lb (95 kg).

Wright was a longtime associate of former MLB center fielder and manager Bill Virdon. Originally signed by the New York Yankees in 1950, Wright was traded with Virdon to the St. Louis Cardinals on April 11, 1954, in a multiplayer transaction that sent eventual Baseball Hall of Fame outfielder Enos Slaughter to the Yanks. But while Virdon enjoyed a decade-plus-long Major League playing tenure, Wright spent most of his pitching career at the Triple-A minor league level. In 543 minor league games, he won 85 games, losing 61 with an earned run average of 3.01.

Wright appeared in 58 games with the Cardinals (1954–55) and Chicago Cubs (1960–61), winning two of six decisions, surrendering 119 hits in 84 innings pitched, and compiling a poor earned run average of 7.61.

Wright began his coaching career in 1962 with the Salt Lake City Bees of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, then was a member of the Cubs' experimental College of Coaches in 1963–64 before becoming a Chicago scout, minor league pitching instructor, then Major League pitching coach for one season (1971) on the staff of Leo Durocher. In 1973, Virdon, then in his second and final season as manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, named Wright as his Major League pitching coach. Virdon then appointed Wright to posts with the Yankees (1974–75, as bullpen coach), Houston Astros (1976–82) and Montreal Expos (1983).

However, Wright was suffering from cancer when Virdon asked him to join the Montreal coaching staff. He was hospitalized one week into the 1983 season and died of heart failure on May 16, in Houston, Texas, at age 55.

Richard A. Meyer

Richard A. Meyer was an American businessman, an executive with the Anheuser-Busch Companies (1937–74) and the St. Louis Cardinals of Major League Baseball (1953–74). He was president of Anheuser-Busch from 1971–74 and a longtime senior manager for and aide to brewery owner August A. Busch, Jr.

In 1953, when Busch purchased the Cardinals from Fred Saigh, he named brewery executive Meyer the general manager of the franchise because Meyer had been a baseball player as a youth. Although a Major League general manager during the 1950s typically combined career-long experience in baseball operations (including talent evaluation and player acquisition and development) as well as business acumen, Meyer held the position for two full seasons, during which time the Cardinals introduced three standout rookies: outfielders Wally Moon and Bill Virdon and third baseman Ken Boyer. They broke the franchise's "color line" when their first African-American baseball player, first baseman Tom Alston, made his National League debut on April 13, 1954. But the Redbirds struggled on the field: they went 140–168, finished sixth (1954) and seventh (1955) in the National League, and changed managers, from Eddie Stanky to Harry Walker, on May 27, 1955.

Busch and Meyer then hired veteran baseball executive Frank Lane, formerly with the Chicago White Sox, to assume the team's general manager duties on October 6, 1955. Meyer returned to the brewery but remained executive vice president of the Cardinals, serving the team for another 18 years.

Meyer, then 57, resigned from the brewery and the Cardinals in February 1974 after 38 years with Anheuser-Busch after a disagreement with Busch over personnel reduction.

Tony Pacheco

Antonio Aristides Pacheco (August 9, 1927 – March 23, 1987) was a Cuban-born coach and scout in Major League Baseball. A longtime minor league infielder and manager, Pacheco coached in MLB for six seasons (1974; 1976–79; 1982) for the Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros.Born in Punta Brava (now Havana), Pacheco got his start in American professional baseball in 1949 with the Class D Newport Canners of the Appalachian League, but by 1951 he was a regular second baseman for the Havana Cubanos of the Class B Florida International League, one of the most successful minor league clubs of its day (and provider of a stream of Cuban talent to its parent team, the Washington Senators). Pacheco's playing career would take him back to the United States' mainland after 1953, but he would return to Cuba's capital twice to play (1954), then manage (1958) for the Triple-A Havana Sugar Kings of the International League. As a player, Pacheco batted .236 with 14 home runs in 2,825 at bats over eight seasons. He threw and batted right-handed, stood 6 ft (1.8 m) tall and weighed 185 lb (84 kg).Pacheco managed in the Cincinnati Reds' farm system in 1958–59 (the Sugar Kings were a Reds' affiliate at that time), scouted for the Reds, then in 1961 became a scout for the expansion Houston Colt .45s (renamed the Astros after 1964). In 1966–73, he resumed his minor league managing career, reaching Triple-A Oklahoma City of the American Association in 1972. He also managed in winter baseball and served as a part-time Houston scout; in October 1967, Pacheco and scouting director Pat Gillick signed César Cedeño to his first professional contract.In 1973, former Cincinnati farm system director Phil Seghi, now general manager of the Indians, hired Pacheco as manager of the Tribe's Double-A San Antonio Missions farm club, then brought him to Cleveland as a coach on Ken Aspromonte's staff in 1974. Pacheco was not retained when Frank Robinson replaced Aspromonte for 1975 but instead managed the Rookie-level Gulf Coast Indians that season.

But in 1976, Pacheco was appointed a coach with the Astros by their new manager, Bill Virdon, and he would serve through 1979 as the team's first-base coach. He also coached for Houston in 1982 and scouted for them during the early 1980s.

Pacheco died at age 59 in Miami Beach, Florida.

Wilbur Howard

Wilbur Leon Howard (born January 8, 1949) is an American former Major League Baseball outfielder. During a 6-year baseball career, he played for the Milwaukee Brewers (1973) and the Houston Astros (1974–1978).

Howard was selected in the 19th round of the 1969 Major League Baseball Draft by the Seattle Pilots (now known as the Milwaukee Brewers), who would move to Milwaukee and become the Brewers after the season. Howard played in the Brewers organization for the next four seasons, getting a September call-up in 1973, when he batted .205 in 39 at bats. The following spring, he was traded to the Houston Astros in exchange for the star-crossed Larry Yount and another minor leaguer.

Howard started the 1974 season in the minor leagues, but was called up in mid-June, spending the rest of the season as the Astros' fourth outfielder. In 1975, he remained in that role, although the Astros rotated their other outfielders (Greg Gross, César Cedeño, and José Cruz) out of the lineup often enough that Howard played in 121 games, batting .283 with 32 stolen bases, which was eighth in the league and second on the team to Cedeño's 50.

In 1976, however, manager Bill Virdon moved Howard back into a more traditional fourth outfielder role, and he continued to serve in that capacity for three seasons. After spending 1979 in the minor leagues with the Charleston Charlies, Howard called it quits.


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