Sunday, May 10, 2015

May 10, 1955: Virdon Walks It Off With a Big Blast In The 10th

     On May 10, 1955, rookie center fielder Bill Virdon hit a tenth inning walk off blast that propelled the Cardinals to a 5-3 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies in St. Louis. It was Virdon's second walk off home run of the campaign. Virdon shared the spotlight with another rookie by the name of Luis Arroyo who pitched all 10 innings for the Cardinals, scattering five hits, while striking out nine.

     Four home runs sailed over the wall that day in St. Louis, with three of them coming off the bats of Cardinals players. Del Ennis got the home run barrage started with a solo shot in the fourth that tied the game 1-1. Stan Musial's put the Cards back on top with a solo shot in the sixth to make it 2-1. It was the 297th of Musial's career. Catcher Bill Sarni got in on the action, after the Phillies tied it up on a Willie Jones single in the top of the seventh by launching a solo shot of his own. Jones came up big again in the ninth for the Fightin Phils with another game tying single that sent it into extras and set the table for Virdon's walk off heroics.

     The 24-year-old had come to the Cardinals in a package deal that sent Enos Slaughter to the Yankees. It looked like the Cardinals got great value in Virdon, after he took home rookie of the year honors at the and of the '55 seasons. However, his time in Cardinal Nation was short. Despite the strong campaign the club finished 68-86, which was the worst record since 1924. That led Gussie Busch to hiring Frank "Trader" Lane as General Manager going onto 1956.

     Lane's nickname had been earned with the Chicago White Sox, as he made 241 trades, which involved more than 300 players over seven years with the club. The deals he made in Chicago helped the club become a contender, and Gussie took notice. Lane began to put his imprint on the team with early seasons trades that included a deal that sent Solly Hemus to Philadelphia. The next man that Lane dealt was Virdon, who was sent to the Pittsburgh in exchange for Dick Littlefield and Bobby Del Greco.

     The trade proved to be a terrible deal for the Cardinals, as Virdon spent the next decade roaming the outfield for the Pirates. His career .267 average may make a casual fan shrug. However, he was known as one of the finest center fielders of his time. He was a part of the 1960 World Championship Pirates and would become revered in the Steel City.

     Like Virdon,  Luis Arroyo was dealt in 1956 by Lane. That deal was also a bust. With that said, Arroyo had very limited success in the majors. However, he rose to the occasion in 1961 by saving 29 games for the Yankees and posting an eye popping 15-5 record out of the pen. Lane's trades did seem to improve the club, but not enough to keep him around. He ended up dealing Red Schoendienst in June of 1956 and even talked about dealing Stan The Man, which turned the tide against him. He had caused great dissension within the organization and at the end of 1957 Frank Lane packed his own bags and headed for Cleveland.  His time in Cardinal Nation was very short, but it was very noteworthy as well. It is hard to say how Virdon would have fared in the Gateway City, however, without him being traded away in 1956 there is a distinct possibility that Curt Flood may not have gotten an opportunity in center field just a few years later.

That's the way baseball go.

Check out the box score here:;postID=921300874651085385

You can learn more about Virdon and Arroyo by reading their SABR biographies in the links provided below.



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