PITTSBURGH (AP) — Bill Virdon, the steady centerfielder who won the 1955 National League Rookie of the Year for St. Louis and guided the Houston Astros to three straight postseason appearances as a manager, has died. He was 90.
Virdon died at the Lester E. Cox Medical Center in Springfield, Missouri according to Virdon’s wife Shirley. No cause of death was given.
Virdon was a career .267 hitter in 12 seasons with St. Louis and Pittsburgh, winning a World Series in 1960 with the Pirates and a Gold Glove in 1962. He retired for good in 1968 and went into coaching, going 995-921 during a 13-year managerial career that featured stints with Pittsburgh, the New York Yankees, Houston and Montreal.
His greatest success came during an eight-year run with the Astros from 1975-82, when he led the franchise to its first two postseason appearances, both ending with five-game losses. Houston lost to Philadelphia in the 1980 NL Championship Series and to the Los Angeles Dodgers in an NL Division Series prompted by the 1981 players’ strike.
Virdon remains Houston’s career wins leader as a manager (544). He was voted NL Manager of the Year in 1980 after guiding the Astros to the NL West title, one they secured after defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers in a one-game playoff.
“His impact on the Astros organization will never be forgotten,” the Astros said in a statement. “He was respected throughout baseball for his intensity and knowledge of the game.”
Virdon was signed by the Yankees in 1950 and traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in April 1954 in a deal that sent star outfielder Enos Slaughter to New York.
The left-handed-hitting Virdon reached the majors in 1955. Taking over for Hall of Famer Stan Musial in center, Virdon hit .281 with 17 home runs and 68 RBIs while serving as one of…