Astros mourn Virdon, their longtime manager

November 23rd, 2021

HOUSTON -- , the Astros’ franchise leader in managerial wins and the first skipper to guide the team to a postseason berth, died on Tuesday, the Astros announced. He was 90 years old.

Virdon was hired to manage the Astros on Aug. 20, 1975, and he remained in that position until August 1982. Virdon’s Astros teams went 544-522 and made two postseason appearances, in 1980 and ’81.

Virdon returned to Houston in 1997 to serve as bench coach for one season, providing Larry Dierker with veteran experience on his coaching staff as he navigated through his first year as the Astros’ manager.

"Bill Virdon was an extremely vital part of the Astros success, leading the franchise to its first two postseason appearances,” the Astros said in a statement released Tuesday. “He was respected throughout baseball for his intensity and knowledge of the game and enjoyed a long, successful career both as a player and manager.

“His impact on the Astros organization will never be forgotten. We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Shirley, and to his family and friends."

In 1980, Virdon led the Astros to their first postseason appearance in dramatic fashion, defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers in a one-game tiebreaker playoff to secure the National League West title. In the National League Championship Series, the Astros fell to the Phillies in five games in what is considered by many as one of the most exciting playoff series in Major League history.

For his efforts, Virdon was named NL Manager of the Year in 1980.

"I loved Bill. He gave me my first chance to play every day in the Major Leagues and was always honest and truthful with me,” said club executive Enos Cabell, who played for Virdon from 1975-80. I played for four Hall of Fame managers, and Bill was my favorite. He was one of the best baseball minds of anyone that I played for. It is very sad to hear that he has passed."

In addition to his time in Houston, Virdon had managerial stops with the Pirates, Yankees and Expos. In 1974, he was named Sporting News Manager of the Year while with the Yankees. His overall career record as a manager was 995-921 over 13 seasons.

Prior to managing, Virdon, a Missouri native, had a Major League playing career that spanned from 1955-65, plus six games in 1968. An outfielder, he spent the majority of his career with the Pirates (1956-65, ’68) and was a member of their 1960 World Series championship club. Virdon was the NL Rookie of the Year with the Cardinals in 1955 and won an NL Gold Glove with the Pirates in 1962.