Former MLB player, manager Bill Verdon dies at 90
Pittsburgh – Bill Verdon, the established quarterback who won the 1955 National League Rookie title for St. Louis and led the Houston Astros to three consecutive games after the season ended as manager, has died. He was 90 years old.
Verdon died at Leicester E. Cox Medical Center in Springfield, Missouri, according to Verdon’s wife Shirley. No cause of death was given.
Verdon was a career .267 hitter in 12 seasons with St. Louis and Pittsburgh, winning the World Championship in 1960 with Pirates and the Gold Glove in 1962. He retired permanently in 1968 and entered coaching, going 995-921 during his 13-year career Administrative that has been marked by assignments with Pittsburgh, New York Yankees, Houston and Montreal.
His biggest success came during his eight years with the Astros from 1975 to 1982, when he led the franchise to its first two post-season appearances, both ending in losing five games. Houston lost to Philadelphia in the 1980 NL Championship and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Division Series prompted by a 1981 player strike.
Verdon remains Houston’s career winning leader as manager (544). He was voted NL Manager of the Year in 1980 after directing the Astros to the NL West title, a title they earned after defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers in a one-game playoff.
“His impact on the Astros will never be forgotten,” the Astros said in a statement. “He was respected throughout baseball for his intensity and knowledge of the game.”
Verdon was signed by the Yankees in 1950 and traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in April 1954 in a deal that sent star defenseman Enos Slaughter to New York.
Left-handed Virdon reached the majors in 1955. Capturing Hall of Famer Stan Musial in center, Virdon hit .281 with 17 home points and 68 RBI while serving as one of the few bright spots for the team that then finished to continue in the NL .
The Cardinals dealt with Verdon to Pittsburgh in May 1955, and he thrived. By the time he arrived in 1960, the Buccaneers’ fortunes had partly shifted to an outside plaza that included Verdon in the center of the field and Roberto Clemente Hall of Fame at the right.
Pittsburgh reached the 1960 World Championships and Verdon played a key role in the Pirates’ stunning upset for the Yankees. Verdon hit .241 in the seven-game streak, including a pair of hits in Game 7. His sharp seventh inning single helped the Buccaneers dash after they trailed by 7-4.
“Bill Verdon was a man who was very proud to be a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates family,” Pirates president Bob Notting said in a statement. “Every fan who followed our 1960 team will always remember the instrumental role they played in bringing their third World Championship to Pittsburgh.”
Virdon finished with 1,596 results, including 91 home runs and 502 RBIs in 12 seasons. He won his second World Championship with Pittsburgh in 1971 while working as a coach under Danny Murtaugh. He replaced Murtaugh as manager in 1972, and began a somewhat nomadic life. He led the Buccaneers to the playoffs in 1972 but was sent off before the end of the 1973 season.
He surprisingly found himself as a manager for the Yankees in 1974 after American League President Joe Cronin rejected New York’s bid to sign Dick Williams from Oakland Athletics. Verdon led the Yankees to second behind Baltimore in 1974, but found himself out of work by mid-1975 when New York hired Billy Martin.
Houston immediately signed Virdon and ended up spending eight years with the Astros. Driven by a pitching team that included Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan and stars Joe Niekro and JR Richard, Virdon has molded the Astros into contenders. They reached the playoffs for the first time in 1980 after leading 93-80, the last victory being 7-1 over the Dodgers in the tiebreak.
Houston reached postseason again during the 1981 strike cut short season and his tenure with the Astros expired a year later. Verdon spent another two years running the Montreal Exposition in 1983-1984. While interviewing for various management positions after being sacked by Expos, he primarily worked as a coach for several organizations over the next two decades before giving up coaching for good in 2002.
Verdon remained an active part of the Pittsburgh Alumni Program after his retirement, often attending spring training as a special coach.
Andrew McCutcheon, the former pirate star, posted on Twitter: “I hate hearing Bill ‘Quayle’ Verdon go.” He’s been hitting me with balls for as long as his body allows him. Time will pass and Id (sic) catches him sitting on a bucket. Id (sic) teases him and asks him to get up. His response, “Old age can kiss (my ass)”.
Verdon was born on June 9, 1931 in Hazel Park, Michigan. He is survived by his wife, Shirley, three daughters, seven grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren.
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