Monday, June 29, 2020

#571 Ossie Virgil - Pittsburgh Pirates

Osvaldo Jose Virgil
Pittsburgh Pirates

Bats:  Right  Throws:  Right  Height:  6'1"  Weight:  174
Born:  May 17, 1932, Monte Cristi, Dominican Republic
Signed:  Signed by the New York Giants as an amateur free agent before 1953 season
Major League Teams:  New York Giants 1956-1957; Detroit Tigers 1958, 1960-1961; Kansas City Athletics 1962; Baltimore Orioles 1962; Pittsburgh Pirates 1965; San Francisco Giants 1966, 1969

Ozzie Virgil was the first Dominican-born player to appear in the major leagues when he made his debut with the Giants in 1956, starting at third base in a game against the Phillies.  In 1958, he became the first African American to play in a game for the Tigers, again starting at third base and going 5 for 5 in his Tigers debut.  A journeyman utility player, Virgil played for five different major league teams in a career that spanned nine seasons, but 13 years.  He played every position except pitcher and center field, tallying the most games at third base (189) and behind the plate (35).  Virgil was a career .231 batter with 14 home runs and 73 RBIs.

Following his playing days, Virgil coached for the Giants (1969-1972, 1974-1975), Expos (1976-1981), Padres (1982-1985) and Mariners (1986-1988).  He was the third base coach for Hall of Fame manager Dick Williams' Expos, Padres and Mariners clubs.  His son, also Ozzie Virgil, was a two-time All-Star catcher, playing 11 years with the Phillies, Braves and Blue Jays.

Building the Set
1991 Pacific Senior League #159

February 29, 2020 from King of Prussia, PA - Card #82
Doug and I attended the Philadelphia Sportscard & Memorabilia Show held on the bottom floor of the Valley Forge Casino on the final day of February.  This was our first baseball card show of 2020 and the fourth show we've attended in Valley Forge since March 2019.  I did a post over at The Phillies Room with a few pictures of Doug taken with some of the show's autograph guests.  We ended up adding 23 cards to our set.

In the general vicinity of the autograph seekers' holding pen was a table hosted by Bel Air Sports Cards out of Bel Air, Maryland.  The dealer had neatly organized stacks of star cards from the 1960s on display and I started browsing through the 1965 Topps stack.  I found four cards I liked, got Doug's approval, and handed the cards to the dealer to tally up my total.  The prices on the four cards totaled $50 and I was prepared to pay that amount as the sign advertising the cards indicated they had already been marked down.  The dealer said, "How about $45 for the lot," and I accepted.  This Virgil card was originally marked at $5.

The Card
Virgil is wearing a Tigers uniform in this photo, and he had last played for the Tigers in 1961.  Topps seemed confused as to the spelling of Virgil's nickname, going with "Ossie" in 1957, 1958, 1961 and 1965, and "Ozzie" in 1959, 1962 and 1967.  The copy writer for the back of the card didn't have a lot to work with, so he celebrated Virgil's minor league seasons in 1955 with the Dallas Eagles and in 1960 with the Denver Bears.  Virgil did in fact hit .381 with the Bears, but he only appeared in 59 games for the team.

Pirates Team Set

1965 Season
Virgil had played the entire 1964 season in the Braves' minor league system, serving as the everyday third baseman for the Toronto Maple Leafs team managed by Sparky Anderson.  Released by the Braves on October 13, 1964, he signed with the Senators that same day.  The Pirates then drafted Virgil in the 1964 minor league draft on November 30th when he was left unprotected by the Senators.

At 33 years old, Virgil appeared in 39 games for the Pirates, hitting .265 (13 for 49) with a home run and five RBIs.  He appeared sparingly on the field, catching 15, playing third base for 7 games and second based for 5 games.  On December 1st, the Pirates traded Virgil with Joe Gibbon (#54) to the Giants for Matty Alou (#318).

1957 Topps #365
1959 Topps #203
1967 Topps #132
1977 O-Pee-Chee #198
1985 Topps #143
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1957 Topps #365
Topps Flagship Set Appearances (8):  1957-1959, 1961-1962, 1965, 1967, 1985
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  1991 Pacific Senior League #159

36 - Virgil non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 3/24/20.

Baseball Reference
Beckett Database
The Trading Card Database

In some cases, the first and last cards listed above are subjective and chosen by me if multiple cards were released within the same year.  Most recent mainstream card may also be subjective and does not include extremely low serial numbered cards, buybacks or cut autograph cards.

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