Bill Virdon Visits West Plains
Tue, 05/25/2021 - 4:21pm admin
Lou Wehmer, guest correspondent
West Plains' own Bill Virdon will turn ninety in less than a month. He visited his hometown this past Friday and was greeted warmly by his friends and fans at the Ozark Heritage Welcome Center at the north end of West Plains.
Following an introduction of Bill and his wife Shirley, author David Jerome gave a synopsis of Bill's life and career. David and Bill are working on his biography entitled "I Guess I Did That." The title is based on Bill's notorious humility about his many accomplishments in baseball.
Virdon exchanged some light banter with a couple of fellows who knew him in his youth in West Plains, Laurel Thompson, and Dr. Marvin Fowler. Dr. Fowler delivered one of Bill and Shirley's children. Laurel reminded him that the West Plains High School did not have a baseball team when he lived here. He played on a "town team." Virdon did play on the Zizzer basketball team and was starting quarterback on the football team during the 1947-48 year.
Though his parents were from Missouri, William Charles Virdon was born June 8, 1931, in Hazel Park, Michigan, where his parents worked in the automotive manufacturing industry. At the age of twelve, Bill and his family moved to West Plains, where he attended school as a Zizzer and graduated high school in 1949.
Virdon was signed by the New York Yankees when only eighteen, playing in the minor leagues, and began his major league career with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1955 and 1956. In 1955 he was awarded the National League Rookie of the Year Award. In 1956 he was traded to the Pittsburg Pirates, where he spent the remainder of his playing career ending in 1965.
Virdon's story did not end when he quit playing. He coached baseball teams beginning in the minor leagues and became manager of the Pittsburg Pirates in 1972 through 1973 when he became the New York Yankees manager. Next, he managed the Houston Astros and later the Montreal Expos into the mid-1980s. Bill Virdon retired from Major League Baseball in 2002.
Bill and Shirley are celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary this year. They were married in West Plains in October 1951. Several parents brought their kids to the event to educate them on a hometown hero.