This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: December 17th, Marvell Wynne and Charlie Sands

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, including a member of the 1971 World Series champs.

Marvell Wynne, outfielder for the 1983-1985 Pirates. He signed with the Kansas City Royals as an amateur free agent in 1978, then moved to the New York Mets in a 1981 trade. He was acquired by the Pirates from the Mets in a four-player deal on June 14, 1983 with Junior Ortiz going to New York in the deal. Wynne made his Major League debut the day after the trade, playing center field for the first of 101 times that season. He batted .243 with 66 runs scored and 12 steals in his rookie season. He was the everyday center fielder for the Pirates in 1984, playing 154 games and getting 702 plate appearances. He hit .266 with 11 triples, 77 runs scored and 24 steals. In 1985 the Pirates won a Major League low 57 games and Wynne struggled, hitting .205 with a .505 OPS in 103 games. He would be traded to the San Diego Padres for lefty reliever Bob Patterson prior to Opening Day in 1986. He played eight seasons in the majors, scoring 300 runs with 80 steals and a .247 average in 940 games. According to WAR, his best season happened in 1988 with the Padres when he had a career best .752 OPS in 128 games. It was immediately followed by his worst season in 1989, which was split between the Padres and Chicago Cubs. Wynne went from 1.5 WAR in 1988, down to -2.3 the next season. In 125 games, he had a .628 OPS and he was well below average defensively, while playing between 30-47 games at each outfield spot that year. After finishing the 1990 season with the Cubs, Wynne spent one year in Japan and one year in Mexico before retiring.

Steve Parris, pitcher for the 1995-96 Pirates. He was a fifth round draft pick of the Philadelphia Phillies in 1989, and played for three organizations before joining the Pirates in June of 1994 as a minor league free agent signing. The Phillies lost him on waivers to the Los Angeles Dodgers in April of 1993, then exactly a week later, the Dodgers lost him on waivers to the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners released him three months later, a full 11 months before he joined the Pirates. Parris started the 1995 season in the minors and went 9-1, 2.51 in 14 starts at Double-A before the Pirates called him up for his big league debut in late June. He went 6-6, 5.38 in 15 starts during his rookie season in Pittsburgh. On August 15 he threw a 6-0 shutout over the San Diego Padres. In 1996, Parris missed a portion of the season due to a shoulder injury. He pitched just six minor league games and eight games (four starts) for the Pirates, posting a 7.18 ERA in 26.1 innings. He was released a month prior to the 1997 season, then signed with the Cincinnati Reds in early May. After spending the entire 1997 season in the minors, he came up with the Reds in 1998 and had a 3.73 ERA in 99 innings over 16 starts and two relief outings. Parris went 11-4, 3.50 in 128.2 innings for the 1999 Reds, then followed it up with a 12-17, 4.81 season in 2000, when he threw a career high 192.2 innings. He went 9-11, 5.17 in 33 starts and 181 innings for the 2001-02 Toronto Blue Jays, then finished his big league career with seven starts and three relief appearances for the 2003 Tampa Bay Devil Rays. In his career, Parris went 44-49, 4.75 in 753.1 innings.

Charlie Sands, catcher for the 1971-72 Pirates. The Pirates acquired him following the 1970 season in a six-player trade with the New York Yankees involving all minor league players, with three players going each way in the deal. Sands was the only player with major league experience involved in the trade and he was the only one that played in the majors following the trade. He was with the Pirates for all of the 1971 season but started just two games, both of them being the second game of a doubleheader. He made 25 appearances as a pinch-hitter, going 5-for-18 with six walks. Sands received one at-bat during the World Series. He spent nearly the entire 1972 season in the minors, except for one pinch-hitting appearance for the Pirates in mid-September. He made the Opening Day roster, but he was sent down after the fourth game so the Pirates could activate pitcher Bruce Kison. Sands returned on September 8th after the Triple-A season ended, but he played just one of the final 23 games. Just prior to the start of the 1973 season the Pirates traded Sands to the Detroit Tigers for veteran pitcher Chris Zachary. The Tigers sent him to the California Angels 17 days later in a trade. Sands went on to play 60 games for Angels over two seasons. He hit just .216, but he had a .370 OBP due to a high walk rate. He signed with the Oakland A’s as a free agent in 1975 and played his final three big league games that season. He played pro ball through the end of the 1976 season. Sands began his career in 1965 at 17 years old, after being drafted by the Baltimore Orioles out of high school in the first amateur draft. The Yankees picked him up after the 1966 season in the Rule 5 draft. On June 21, 1967, he struck out as a pinch-hitter in his Major League debut. It turned out to be his only game until he played for the Pirates four years later.

Jim Mattox, catcher for the 1922-23 Pirates. He played his first season of pro ball in 1921 as a 24-year-old and hit .344 for Rochester of the International League. He joined the Pirates at the beginning of the 1922 season as the third-string catcher and he hit .294 in 29 games. He started just nine games, while playing another 12 at the position off the bench. The Pirates had an agreement with Rochester during Spring Training in 1922. Mattox trained with the team and if he did well, the Pirates would purchase his contract outright. He almost didn’t make the team because of an arm injury that limited his playing time. In 1923 he received even less playing time in the same third-string role, starting three games and getting into another 19 off the bench. He hit .188 in 32 at-bats, in what would be his last season in pro ball. On December 18, 1923, his time with the Pirates came to an end when his contract was sold to Wichita Falls of the Texas League. He decided to retire four months later. In 1924, Mattox was managing in the minors for Greenwood of the South Carolina League when he recommended a player named Joby “Homer” Hawn to the Pirates, who signed, but never played for the Pirates. His brother Cloy Mattox played four season in the minors and got into three Major League games with the 1929 Philadelphia Athletics.

Cy Falkenberg, pitcher for the 1903 Pirates. He played college ball until 1902, then signed a minor league contract that year, going 18-11 for Worcester of the Eastern League. The Pirates signed him for the 1903 season after they played an exhibition game against Worcester on September¬† 25, 1902. Falkenberg was the opposing starting pitcher and impressed the Pirates enough that they signed him on the spot. He limited the Pirates to just three runs, despite the fact that his teammates committed seven errors that day. It was actually the second time he faced them that year. On June 17th, he out-pitched Hall of Fame Jack Chesbro, holding the Pirates regular starting lineup to two runs. Despite his success against the World Series champs, Falkenberg was seldom used by the Pirates during the 1903 season. He started just six games, two very early in the season then another four in August. He spent time in the middle of the year back with Worcester. He went 1-5, 3.86 in 56 innings before returning to the minors to finish the season after being given his release on August 29th. It was said after the season that he was planning on quitting baseball to become a college teacher. However, he played for Toronto of the Eastern League for nearly two full years before making it back to the majors. Falkenberg would eventually become a star pitcher, but not until the 1913-14 seasons when he won a combined 48 games. He won 130 big league games in his career and 131 minor league games. He is currently recognized as being 6’5″ during his playing days, but some reports from 1903 said that he was 6’7″ and the tallest Major League player at the time. He was also referred to by his actual first name (Fred) during his time in Pittsburgh.

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