The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Sports

May 4, 2013

Baseball will be topic when Virdon speaks at AAABA banquet

JOHNSTOWN — Bill Virdon can tap into a wide range of baseball topics when he is the featured speaker at the 20th annual AAABA Hall of Fame banquet.

Virdon was part of two different eras of Pittsburgh Pirates championship teams.

“It will be baseball,” Virdon, 81, said of his talking points for the August 3 event at the Pasquerilla Conference Center. “It will be experiences that I’ve been through that I will relate to people that are there.

“I will talk about the 1960 World Series. I will talk about the fact that I spent time in three organizations, the Yankees, Cardinals and Pirates as a player, and I spent different times as a manager. I have some experiences that I think probably will be entertaining.”

Virdon was the starting center fielder when the Bucs upset the New York Yankees in the 1960 World Series.

His bad-hop hit off the throat of Yankees shortstop Tony Kubek produced one of the momentum-swaying rallies in the classic Game 7 eventually won on Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off homer at Forbes Field.

“The pressure didn’t bother us,” Virdon said of the 1960 Pirates. “We had to play the game, and we did. Fortunately we got it done. We got a couple breaks as it went through. The bad hop was probably the biggest break in the game.

“The inning started out, Gino Simoli got a base hit, pinch hit. I was the second hitter,” Virdon said of the eighth inning, when Pittsburgh rallied from a 7-4 deficit to lead 9-7. “I hit it well, but hit it right at Kubek. I said, ‘Oh, no. Automatic double play.’ It would have been, but it took a bad hop. We had two on and nobody out. We scored five runs before it was over.”

The Yanks tied the game in the top of the ninth, but Maz made history by clearing the left-field wall at Forbes Field in a 10-9 win.

“That team won. It’s one of those things, you put it together,” Virdon said. “(Manager Danny) Murtaugh did whatever needed to be done. He was very, very good with people. We happened to be the right group when it all came about.”

In 1971, Virdon was the slim, bespectacled batting coach under Murtaugh on a Pirates team that won the World Series with the legendary Roberto Clemente leading the way. Other memorable Pirates such as Willie Stargell, Steve Blass, Manny Sanguillen, Bob Robertson and Richie Hebner were part of that team.

“I’m glad that they were there and not somewhere else,” Virdon said. “They gave us a chance to win.”

His time as a player and a coach prepared Virdon.

“Murtaugh was a mentor,” he said. “He didn’t make a big  issue out of teaching me how to manage, but him being there and me playing for him, I was observant and applied it. He was probably the best thing that happened to me in baseball as far as staying in the game.”

A year later, Virdon replaced Murtaugh as Pirates manager, and Pittsburgh won 96 games and the National League East before falling to the Cincinnati Reds in the NLCS.

The Pirates, still reeling after Clemente’s tragic death in a New Year’s Eve plane crash in 1972, had a 67-69 record and trailed the St. Louis Cardinals by three games when the Pirates replaced Virdon with his mentor, Murtaugh, in September 1973.

Even after he left the Pirates, Virdon made his mark as Sporting News’ Major League Manager of the Year with the Yankees in 1974 and NL Manager of the Year with the Astros in 1980.

Still, Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania remain a special part of Virdon’s life. He resides in Springfield, Mo., and will travel across the country to attend the AAABA Hall of Fame banquet.

“That’s where I spent most of my time and I will never forget it,” he said.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Sports
  • Pirates 0417 Pirates power past Brewers

    Andrew McCutchen hit his first homer of the season and drove in three runs, Pedro Alvarez had a three-run shot and pinch-hitter Josh Harrison broke a tie with a long ball in the seventh inning as the Pittsburgh Pirates handed the Milwaukee Brewers their first road loss, 11-2 on Thursday night.
    Harrison’s two-run drive down the left field line off Rob Wooten (0-1) was the second of his career as a pinch hitter.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Penguins 0417 Jackets preparing for Game 2

    The Columbus Blue Jackets don’t feel they’re doomed after blowing a two-goal lead in a Game 1 loss of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
    “It’s not about missed chances, or feeling sorry about it,” goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky said at Thursday’s optional workout, 13 hours after falling 4-3 in Pittsburgh.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Local Sports Briefs

    April 17, 2014

  • racin 0416 Jennerstown Speedway gearing for May open

    Jennerstown Speedway released a very ambitious schedule on its website and continues to prepare for its 2014 reopening.
    The track is set to hold a practice day for drivers as well as an open house and media day on April 26.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • ‘Hawks already building toward next season

    Jason Spence used up his cell phone’s battery on a trip from Johnstown to his parents’ home in Nova Scotia, Canada.
    Once the Johnstown Tomahawks coach got to his destination, Spence had to get creative to secure cell service across the border.

    April 16, 2014

  • Pirates 0416 Dominant Cueto drops Pirates in matinee

    That playoff loss in Pittsburgh last year? Johnny Cueto never thought about it much. So getting a chance to shut out the Pirates in a rematch wasn’t any more special.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Penguins 0416 Penguins rally to wear out Jackets

    Brandon Sutter scored on a wrist shot from the left circle 8:18 into the third period, helping the Pittsburgh Penguins rally for a 4-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals on Wednesday night.
    Beau Bennett and Matt Niskanen scored power-play goals 45 seconds apart in the second period, erasing Pittsburgh’s two-goal deficit.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Shelley and McElligot Series serves as reunion for former Chiefs personnel

    Not so long ago, Bob McElligott, like most Western Pennsylvania hockey fans, would savor a long Pittsburgh Penguins playoff run.
    The Somerset native followed the Pens’ Stanley Cup-winning teams in 1991 and 1992.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Malkin nearing return

    The Columbus Blue Jackets are the closest NHL team to the Pittsburgh Penguins, at least geographically. The two franchises are separated by 185 miles of highway.

    April 15, 2014

  • Reds swing way past Pirates

    Mike Leake doubled and hit a two-run homer Tuesday night, ending Gerrit Cole's winning streak and leading the Cincinnati Reds to a 7-5 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates that completed two days full of homers and delays.
    First, the NL Central rivals completed a game that was suspended in the sixth inning because of rain the previous night.

    April 15, 2014

AP Sports Video
Poll

Should the NFL get rid of the extra-point attempt after a touchdown?

Yes
No
     View Results
Order Photos


Photo Slideshow