Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Boomer Sports: Billy Virdon

It was a brisk day so I put on my wool vintage 1960s-style Pittsburgh Pirates cap, and as I glanced in the mirror on my way out I saw the cap, the round glasses, and I thought, Billy Virdon. And I remembered the day at Forbes Field when kids were allowed down on the field to meet players before the game. I only remember encounters with two: I was in complete awe of Roberto Clemente, and managed to shake hands with him, but he didn't make eye contact with anyone, and didn't seem to want to be there. So I was surprised when I found myself in front of Bill Virdon, and as he shook my hand he looked me in the eye, and said, "hello, son." Son! I still get choked up thinking about it.
Bill Virdon was our center fielder--he could run down just about anything in that enormous park, and as I recall he surprised a few Yankees by doing so in the 1960 World Series. He went on to be a manager for the Pirates and the Yankees, as well as for other teams, and got several into the postseason. He stayed with baseball as a coach, and I was happy to learn that he's still working with the Pirates, as a special outfield instructor. He's probably with them in training camp right now.

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