Interview with Bill Virdon
For my Eye Witness To History project, I interviewed Bill Virdon, a baseball player turned manager who lives in Springfield, Missouri, and who had spent most of his life in the West Plains area. He spoke with me about many things from the health of current baseball players to whether or not Pete Rose should be allowed to get into the Baseball Hall of Fame [Rose was banned from baseball in the early 80s for alleged gambling connections and other unsavory things associated with his career]. Because he is now the manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Virdon was at the Pirates Baseball Fantasy Camp in Florida, where the players and coaches were getting ready for Spring Training. Here's how the interview went:
Q: You've been involved in pro baseball since the early 1950's. Do you feel that players today are overall better than players, say, 40 years ago?
A: Yes. I've been in pro baseball since 1950 officially, and in seeing the players from both player and manager point of views, I do believe that players are overall better than when I played. They seem to be faster and stronger now.
Q: Okay, I'm going to give you a couple of names and just tell me what you think of them. Bud Selig [the current Commissioner of Baseball].
A: Bud is a busy guy. He's made a few good decisions. So, he's got a lot of work on his hands, but I don't envy his job.
Q: How about Stan Musial?
A: Stan Musial was great. One of the nicest people I've ever met. Great to be around on and off the field.
Q: What do you think of Pete Rose and his Bid to go to the Hall of Fame?
A: Pete Rose should not go to the Hall of Fame. He was a great player, and I don't want you to get the idea that it's all because I don't like him. When I was the Expos manager, Pete was on the team one year. And we had a sign above the locker room door that said something like 'Don't gamble your life', and Pete paid no mind to it. He ruined his life with drugs and it's players like that who give baseball players a worse reputation.
Q: What was greatest achievement in your career?
A: My greatest achievement was when I won the 1960 World Series with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
My interview with Bill Virdon was great, and he was very nice the whole time we talked. It was great to think that this man had his mom help him with baseball as a kid. And a few years later he went on to win Rookie of the Year in 1955 and the Gold Glove in 1962. I had a great time talking to my "Eye Witness to History."