Three former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus a trade of note.
Marc Wilkins, pitcher for the Pirates from 1996 until 2001. He was drafted by the Pirates in the 47th round of the 1992 draft and had a decent Major League career, despite draft position and his rough pro debut. He posted a 7.29 ERA in 28 games as a 21-year-old in short-season A-ball during his first year. He had a 4.49 ERA over his minor league career, so he didn’t exactly dominate in the minors, but it somehow translated to better Major League numbers. Wilkins pitched 245 games in his big league career, all but two as a reliever. One of his two big league starts was a five-inning shutout appearance against the Los Angeles Dodgers in his rookie season, so it’s a little surprising that he didn’t get more chances. Over his six seasons in the majors, all spent with the Pirates, he posted a 19-14, 4.28 record with three saves in 294 innings. His best season came in 1997 when he went 9-5, 3.69 in a career high 70 games. Following the 2000 season, Wilkins was lost on waivers to the Oakland A’s. They released him two months later and he re-signed with the Pirates. The Pirates let him go via free agency shortly after the 2001 season ended. He bounced around three different organizations during the 2002-03 seasons in the minors before retiring.
Frank Papish, pitcher for the 1950 Pirates. The Pirates bought him from the Cleveland Indians in December of 1949 after he went 1-0, 3.19 in 25 games, three as a starter. Papish had previously spent four full seasons with the Chicago White Sox (1945-48), posting a 3.52 ERA in 516.2 innings. After joining the Pirates, he spent most of the 1950 season in Triple-A, going 11-3, 2.81 in 15 starts and four relief appearances. Papish missed time early in the year due to a back injury, that needed a hospital visit due to illness while trying to recover. He was called up on June 18th for a doubleheader, and as the starter in game one, he faced five batters and failed to retire any of them, giving up three earned runs. He made three more relief appearances following that start and allowed a run in each game. He returned to the minors to finish the season and played there again for the Pirates in 1951 as well, before moving on to the Washington Senators organization. Papish won 142 minor league games and another 26 in the majors over parts of six seasons. It took him nine years to finally make the majors after debuting in pro ball at 18 years old, and his big break likely only came due to the talent level being watered down during WWII. However, he turned that into a solid little career in the majors. When the Pirates purchased him from Cleveland, he was actually working for the Indians as a season ticket rep, back when many players had winter jobs.
Ron Davis, outfielder for the 1969 Pirates. Davis played 62 games during his one season for the Pirates, but he accumulated just 64 total at-bats. He played at least ten games at all three outfield positions, though he only started ten games all season.. In the team’s last 48 games of the season, he made zero starts and had just five plate appearances over that stretch. Prior to joining the Pirates, he was part of a 4-for-1 trade from the St Louis Cardinals to the San Diego Padres with Dave Giusti being the sole player going to the Cardinals in the deal. Davis remained with the Pirates through the 1971 season, spending his final two seasons with Triple-A Charleston, which marked the end of his pro career. He debuted in pro ball in 1961 at 19 years old. By the end of the 1962 season, he was in the majors with the Houston Colt .45s. He got a six-game trial at 20 years old, but didn’t see the majors again until four years later. Davis spent two full years with the Astros, then split the 1968 season between Houston and St Louis. He was a .233 hitter with ten homers in 295 big league games.
On this date in 1969, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded catcher Carl Taylor and minor league outfielder Frank Vanzin to the St Louis Cardinals in exchange for catcher Dave Ricketts and pitcher Dave Giusti. The trade, thanks to Giusti, worked out very well for the Pirates. Taylor hit .348 for the Pirates in 104 games in 1969 as a 25-year-old in his first full season, but he lasted just one year with the Cardinals and his average dropped 99 points. He played just 159 more Major League games, including seven late-season games for the Pirates in 1971 after they bought him from the Kansas City Royals, who would in turn buy him back prior to the 1972 season. Vanzin never played in the majors and was out of baseball following the 1970 season. Ricketts played just 12 games following the trade, all off the bench, and that was the end of his pro career. However, Giusti made the deal one-sided for the Pirates.
Giusti was used very often as a starting pitcher prior to joining the Pirates, but following the trade he made just three starts in seven seasons in Pittsburgh. He was used mainly as the closer and would save 133 games in a Pirates uniform, the fourth highest total in team history. He helped the Pirates to five NL East pennants, and during the 1971 World Series he made three appearances for a total of 5.1 scoreless innings, leading the Pirates to their fifth WS title. While with the Pirates, he pitched 618 innings over 410 games, with 47 wins and a 2.94 ERA to go along with his 133 saves. He led the National League in saves in 1971 with 30, then the following year he posted a career low 1.93 ERA.