This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: December 22nd, Connie Mack, Matty Alou and the Lee Mazzilli Trade

Six former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus one trade of note. Before we get into that, current catcher Jacob Stallings turns 31 years old today.

Connie Mack, Hall of Fame manager for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1894 to 1896, and also played for the team from 1891 to 1896. As a player, he was a strong defensive catcher. He began his Major League career with the Washington Nationals in 1886, spending four seasons there. Like most of the better players of the day, he went to play in the newly formed Player’s League in 1890. After the PL folded, most players returned to their original teams from the 1889 season as long as the team put them on a reserve list. For Mack though, the Nationals franchise no longer existed, so he was free to sign with another team and Pittsburgh came calling. While other teams tried to make a claim for Mack, with Boston putting up the strongest fight, Pittsburgh finally officially got their catcher on February 4, 1891.

Mack spent the remainder of his playing days in a Pirates uniform, sharing the catching duties for six seasons. He almost left the club after the 1891 season when they tried to cut his salary, refusing to sign for the new terms. His best season came in 1892 when he caught 92 games and threw out a league leading 47% of attempted base stealers. That number particularly stands out when you realize just how much running teams did back then. Opponents attempted 257 steals against him, meaning he threw out an average of 1.32 runners per game. By modern metrics, he had 2.6 WAR on defense in 1892, the second best mark in the majors. Mack hit .242 in 326 games with the Pirates, just two points below his career average. When offense was at an all-time high in 1894 around baseball, Mack had a .619 OPS, a full 203 points below the Pirates team average.

Mack took over the managerial duties in late 1894 and led the team to a winning record in each of his two full seasons. After a disagreement with the Pirates following the 1896 season, he moved on to manage a minor league team from Milwaukee for four years before the American League was formed in 1901. He became the manager/owner of the Philadelphia Athletics club, guiding the team for 50 seasons, winning five World Series titles. His 3,731 career wins as a manager will likely never be broken. The closest active manager is Dusty Baker, who is 1,839 wins away from Mack. Mack’s son Earle played five games over three seasons in Philadelphia for his father and also managed in the majors, though he was mostly his father’s bench coach.

Matty Alou, outfielder for the 1966-70 Pirates. The Pirates acquired Alou from the San Francisco Giants on December 1, 1965 for Ozzie Virgil and Joe Gibbon. He had been in the majors with the Giants since 1960, but he never received more than 351 plate appearances in a season and he was just a .260 hitter over 453 games. When he joined the Pirates, manager Harry Walker, along with Roberto Clemente, convinced Alou to change his approach at the plate and the new style helped him win a batting crown his first season with a .342 average, 111 points higher than he hit in 1965. He finished ninth in the NL MVP voting, with his outfield partner Clemente winning the award. Alou batted .338 with 87 runs scored in 1967, then the 1968 season saw him make his first All-Star team. He finished second that year to Pete Rose in batting (.335 to .332) and 11th in the NL MVP voting, but his personal best season would be the 1969 season. Alou set a Major League single season record for at-bats in a season with 698. He hit .331 by collecting 231 hits, the third highest total in team history trailing Paul Waner’s record 237 in 1927 and his brother Lloyd’s 234 in 1929. Alou led the league with 41 doubles, scored 105 runs and added 22 stolen bases, while making his second All-Star appearance.

In 1970, Alou dropped down to a .297 average. It was easily his lowest total while with the Pirates, but he still scored 97 runs and collected 201 hits thanks to a league leading 677 at-bats. After the season the Pirates traded Alou, along with veteran pitcher George Brunet, to the St Louis Cardinals in exchange for Nelson Briles and Vic Davalillo. With the Pirates he hit .327 in 743 games, the fifth highest average in team history. He remained in St Louis through late August of 1972 when he was traded to the Oakland A’s. Alou was traded to the New York Yankees after the 1972 season, then remained there until a September 1973 trade (for cash) sent him back to St Louis. After the season, he was sold to the San Diego Padres, who released him in July of 1974, ending his big league career. Alou went right from San Diego to Japan and played his final 2 1/2 season of pro ball overseas. He was  a .307 career hitter in 1,667 games over 15 seasons. Alou originally signed out of the Dominican Republic in 1957 when he was 18 years old. He comes from a great baseball family that included his brothers Jesus and Felipe, as well as his nephews Moises Alou and Mel Rojas, and his cousin Jose Sosa. Between them, they played a total of 76 seasons in the majors. On September 15, 1963 at Forbes Field, the three Alou brothers played in the same outfield for the first of three times that season.

Chris Jakubauskas, pitcher for the 2010 Pirates. He pitched just one game for the Pirates, starting on April 24, 2010, and he only faced four batters. After giving up a lead-off single, followed by two outs, Lance Berkman hit a line drive that hit Jakubauskas in the head and he needed to be removed from the game. That was his last game for Pittsburgh. He missed most of the season with a concussion, though he also suffered a groin injury during his comeback attempt in the minors. Jakubauskas was granted free agency after the season and he signed with the Baltimore Orioles the following February. Prior to joining the Pirates, his big league career consisted of just 35 games for the 2009 Seattle Mariners. He was 30 years old by the time he made the majors. After leaving the Pirates, his pitched 33 games for the 2011 Baltimore Orioles. Jakubauskas spent the 2012 season in the minors, playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Toronto Blue Jays. He spent the 2013 season in Triple-A, playing for the Milwaukee Brewers and Cleveland Indians, then played winter ball that off-season, before retiring. Jakubauskas began his career by pitching five years in Independent ball after going undrafted out of college. He was a first baseman in college, but he played the position just once in pro ball. He entered pro ball via a tryout without pitching once since he graduated high school. He required Tommy John surgery during his time in independent ball and he served as a high school coach during his recovery time.

Glenn Wilson, outfielder for the 1988-89 and 1993 Pirates. Wilson began his big league career with the 1982 Detroit Tigers, then played for the Philadelphia Phillies (1984-87) and Seattle Mariners (1988), before coming to the Pirates in July of 1988 in exchange for young outfielder Darnell Coles. Just over a year later, the Pirates traded Wilson to the Houston Astros for outfielder Billy Hatcher. After spending all of 1991 in the minors, and then not playing at all in 1992, Wilson returned to the Pirates as a free agent in 1993 and spent most of the year with Triple-A Buffalo. He was up in the majors for ten games and he had a .143 batting average, in what ended up being his final season of pro ball. He played 147 games total for Pittsburgh over three seasons, hitting .274 with 11 homers and 64 RBIs. Wilson was a first round draft pick in 1980 out of Sam Houston State University, taken 18th overall by the Tigers. He debuted in the majors just 22 months after signing. He spent a total of ten seasons in the majors, hitting .265 with 98 homers and 521 RBIs in 1,201 games. In 1985 for the Phillies, he had 39 doubles, 14 homers, and drove in 102 runs. Wilson made his only All-Star appearance that year, and even received mild MVP support. He led all NL right fielders in assists three times and also all NL outfielders in assists thrice. During the 1985 season, he led NL right fielders in put outs, range factor, assists, errors and double plays.

Lonnie Smith, outfielder for the 1993 Pirates. Smith had played 15 years in the majors before signing as a free agent with the Pirates in January of 1993. He hit .286 in 94 games for Pittsburgh and posted an .864 OPS, spending most of his time of defense in left field. In September, the Pirates traded Smith to the Baltimore Orioles for two minor leaguers who never made it, Stan Cameron and Terry Farrar. During his career, Smith played in the World Series five times with four different teams. He was on the winning side with the 1980 Philadelphia Phillies, 1982 St Louis Cardinals and 1985 Kansas City Royals. Smith played 1,613 games over his 17 seasons, hitting .288 with 909 runs scored and 370 stolen bases. From 1982-84, he led the league in hit-by-pitches every season, getting plunked nine times each year. During the 1989 season, he led the NL with a .415 OBP. He hit 21 homers that year, more than double any of his other season outputs.

Smith was a first round pick of the Phillies in 1974 out of high school, taken third overall. He wasted no time signing his deal and moved quickly through the minor league season, getting to Triple-A just 22 months later. Despite hitting .308, with an .835 OPS in 134 games at age 20 in 1976, he didn’t debut in the majors until September of 1978. Even then, it was just a trial and he spent the full season in Triple-A in 1979 before coming back for a second September call-up. The Phillies gave him 298 at-bats in 1980 and he responded by putting up a .339 average. That was followed by a .324 average in 62 games during the strike-shortened 1981 season. After the season, he was traded to the Cardinals in a deal that involved five players and three teams. In 1982, he hit .307, scored 120 runs, drove in 69 runs and stole 68 bases, finishing second in the NL MVP voting. It ended up being his only All-Star appearance, though he had two more years in which he received mild MVP support. Smith played for the Cardinals (1982-85), the Royals (1985-87), the Atlanta Braves (1988-92), the Pirates and the Orioles, finishing his big league career when baseball went on strike in 1994. The Cardinals traded him to the Royals mid-season in 1985, then watched him hit .333 against them in the World Series.

Bob Hall, pitcher for the 1953 Pirates. Hall spent two seasons playing for the Boston Braves (1949-50) before coming to the Pirates three seasons later. He was picked up by Pittsburgh in the December 1952 Rule 5 draft after spending two seasons in the Pacific Coast League. He went 14-11, 3.28 in 203 innings in 1952. The 1953 Pirates were a very bad team, going 50-104 and Hall had his struggles. He went 3-12, 5.39 in 17 starts and 20 relief appearances, throwing a total of 152 innings. On June 23rd, he threw his only career shutout and it came on the road against the Braves. He returned to the minors in 1954 and played three more seasons before retiring. His Major League record finished at 9-18, 5.40 in 27 starts and 62 relief outings. He wasn’t much better in the minors, going 70-88, 4.20 over nine seasons. He debuted in pro ball in 1942 at 18 years old, then immediately missed three years while serving during WWII. Hall was originally part of the Detroit Tigers system. He went 15-7 for Vancouver of the Western International League in 1947, though it came with a 5.21 ERA. He moved up to the PCL in 1948 with Seattle and went 7-11, 3.96 in 134 innings, which earned him his time with the Braves. He was acquired by Boston via trade after the 1948 season. Hall spent the entire 1949-50 seasons in the majors and remained Braves property through the end of the 1952 season. Seattle purchased his contract just six weeks before the Pirates selected him in the Rule 5 draft. He remained Pirates property until June 22, 1954 when he was sold outright to Seattle.

The Trade

On this date in 1982, the Pirates traded four players to the New York Yankees for outfielder Lee Mazzilli. He was just 28 years old at the time of the trade but he was two years removed from his last good season, when he hit .280 with 76 RBIs and 41 stolen bases for the 1980 New York Mets. In 1982, he played for both the Yankees and Texas Rangers, hitting .251 with 34 RBIs in 95 games. The trade worked out well for the Pirates in the sense that three of the four players they gave up never reached the majors. Tim Burke was the fourth player and he was a reliever who didn’t make the big leagues until 1985, two years after the Yankees had traded him to the Expos. The Pirates would have been better off with him over Mazzilli, but not by any huge margin. His best seasons were all before the Pirates were winning pennants.

Mazzilli played 3 1/2 seasons in Pittsburgh before he was released in the middle of the 1986 season. He was used quite often as a pinch-hitter with the Pirates, though he also got time in at 1B/LF/CF as well. The choice to keep him around as a pinch-hitter after 1983 was an interesting one because he had just six hits in 49 pinch-hit appearances that year. He was hardly any better in 1984 in the role, hitting just .188 in 38 games as a pinch-hitter, but the Pirates persistence to use him that way paid off finally in 1985 (sort of, they still lost 105 games). He started just 15 times all season, but in 72 pinch-hit appearances he hit .286 with 15 walks for a .437 OBP. He played 61 games for the Pirates in 1986 before his release, with 48 of those games off the bench. All told, he hit .244 in 373 games with Pittsburgh. Mazzilli played 1,475 games in his 14-year career, 415 of them in the pinch-hit role.