Tuesday, May 14, 2019

He Played There Too

A month or so ago I posted an 8x10 of Virdon in a Mets uniform and the consensus was nobody else knew he spent time there as a coach.  Well I think everyone knows he was a yankees coach for a time but probably most didn't know he came up through the yankees system.

Virdon went to college in Springfield, MO which is only about a half hour from Branson, MO where the yankees held open tryouts back in the 50s.  (though in 1950 it probably took longer than half an hour.  I'm sure there was no 4 lane highway running between the two back then)  He signed with the yankees for 1,800 to play in the Kansas/Oklahoma/Missouri league.

I'm not 100% sure when this photo was taken but he started wearing his glasses to play in 1953 so it has to be from either 53 or spring training 54.  He batted .233 for a season without them in AAA and the next year he batted .333 with them.

He tells a funny story about his last spring training with the yankees.

I was working in the outfield, catching fly balls, making throws,  showing off, trying to impress somebody," Virdon said. "We had a relay guy, I'd come in throwing. Somewhere, Mr. Stengel got between me and the relay guy. I hit him right in the back and knocked him on his ass. When I saw what I'd done, I turned to get in among the other outfielders. They are all laying on the ground pointing at me, like 'He did it, he did it.'

He got traded to the Cardinals two weeks later for Enos Slaughter.  Though it probably had more to do with being blocked by Micky Mantle than hitting Casey Stengel with a ball.

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