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 out of the University of Toledo 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. After his tough debut, Wilkins moved up to the Low-A South Atlantic League in 1993, where he went 5-6, 4.21 in 77 innings over 48 appearances for Augusta. In 1994, he moved up to High-A to pitch for Salem of the Carolina League. He started six games over his first two seasons, then moved to a full-time starting role in 1994, going 8-5, 3.70 in 28 starts, with 151 innings pitched. He average nearly one strikeout per inning during his first two seasons, but he was down to 5.4 strikeouts per nine innings as a starter. In 1995, Wilkins moved up to Double-A and made 12 starts and 25 relief appearances, going 5-3, 3.99 in 99.1 innings for Carolina of the Southern League. He repeated Double-A to start 1996, but after 11 appearances, he spent the rest of the season in the majors.
Wilkins pitched 245 games in his big league career, and all but two were 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. He went 4-3, 3.84 in 75 innings over 47 appearances for the Pirates in 1996. His best season came in 1997 when he went 9-5, 3.69 in a career high 70 games and 75.2 innings. He picked up one save as a rookie and two in 1997, but none over his last four seasons. In 1998, Wilkins went 0-0, 3.52 in 15.1 innings over 16 games. He lost time that season due to a strained rotator cuff. While on the disabled list in late May, Wilkins broke the jaw of fellow reliever Jeff Tabaka during a drunken bar fight at the team hotel. Wilkins had to have shoulder surgery on September 1st, but he was back healthy during the 1999 season, though he pitched 12 times in the minors that year. He went 2-3, 4.24 in 51 innings over 46 appearances in 1999. During the 2000 season, he went 4-2, 5.07 in 60.1 innings over 52 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. He split that season between Triple-A and the majors, going 0-1, 6.75 in 17.1 innings over 14 games in Pittsburgh. 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, spending time with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Chicago Cubs and Florida Marlins. 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.
Frank Papish, pitcher for the 1950 Pirates. 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. He debuted in pro ball at 18 years old in 1936, playing for Omaha of the Class-A Western League, where he went 10-16, 4.93 in 197 innings. He played for Dallas of the Texas League in 1937, going 7-10, 4.79 in 154 innings. The next year he dropped down two levels to Longview of the East Texas League, but the results weren’t any better. He went 7-5, 4.45 in 97 innings. In 1939, Papish played for Class-B Anniston of the Southeastern League for the first of three straight seasons. He went 10-13, 5.06 in 185 innings. The next year he went 20-14, 3.31 in 269 innings. Despite the success, he was back there in 1941, where he went 11-9, 3.24 in 189 innings. He also put up a 4.39 ERA in 41 innings for Class-A Birmingham of the Southern Association that season. Papish stayed in the Southern Association in 1942, playing for Little Rock, where he went 13-10, 3.52 in 220 innings. He was back there in 1943 as well, though he had a failed stint in Double-A Minneapolis, where he had a 6.00 ERA in 18 innings. For Little Rock that year he was 13-8, 3.40 in 209 innings. In his third season in Little Rock in 1944, he went 16-17, 4.06 in 277 innings. That led to his first big league chance at 27 years old.
In 1945 with the Chicago White Sox, Papish went 4-4, 3.74 in 84.1 innings, making five starts and 14 relief appearances. The next year he went 7-5, 2.74 in 138 innings, making 15 starts and 16 relief appearances. He threw two of his three career shutouts that season. The 1947 season was his busiest in the majors. Papish had a 12-12, 3.26 record in 199 innings, with 26 starts and 12 relief appearances. Things went downhill quick, as the 1948 season saw him go 2-8, 5.00 in 95.1 innings over 14 starts and 18 relief appearances. After the season, he was traded to the Cleveland Indians in a deal that included pitcher Bob Kuzava, who would play for the 1957 Pirates.
The Pirates bought Papish from the Indians in December of 1949 after he went 1-0, 3.19 in 62 innings over 25 games (three starts) that season. 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. After joining the Pirates, he spent most of the 1950 season in Triple-A Indianapolis of the American Association, going 11-3, 2.81 in 15 starts and four relief appearances. Papish missed time early in the year due to a back injury, then required a hospital visit due to an illness that came on while he was trying to recover from his injury. He was called up by the Pirates for a doubleheader on June 18th. 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 over the next nine days following that start and allowed a run in each game. Papish finished with a 27.00 ERA in 2.1 innings. He returned to Indianapolis to finish the season, and remained there through part of 1952. He moved on to Chattanooga of the Southern Association for parts of the 1952-53 seasons, while also seeing time with Memphis in that same league in 1953, which turned out to be his final season of pro ball. Papish won 142 minor league games. He went 26-29, 3.58 in 581 innings over 64 starts and 85 relief appearances in the majors over parts of six seasons.
Ron Davis, outfielder for the 1969 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball in 1961 at 19 years old. He hit .218 with three homers in 74 games that year, spending most of his time at Class-A Jacksonville of the South Atlantic League. In 1962, he dropped down to Class-B Durham of the Carolina League, where he hit .296 in 92 games, with 27 extra-base hits and 60 walks. He moved up to Triple-A for 30 games and put up a .535 OPS, but 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 played in the Double-A Texas League during the 1963-66 seasons, two years in San Antonio and two years (1965-66) in Amarillo. His 1964 season was limited to just 15 games due to military service. Before rejoining Houston in 1966, Davis hit .302 with 16 doubles, 12 homers and 52 RBIs in 96 games for Amarillo. He returned to the majors in early August and hit .247 with two homers and 19 RBIs in 48 games. He spent the entire 1967 season in the majors, hitting .256 with 19 doubles, seven homers and 38 RBIs in 94 games. Davis split the 1968 season between Houston and the St Louis Cardinals. He was traded for two players in June 15th after hitting .212 with one homer in 52 games for the Astros. He batted .177 with a .499 OPS in 33 games for the Cardinals to finish out the season.
Prior to both guys joining the Pirates, Davis was part of a 4-for-1 trade from the St Louis Cardinals to the San Diego Padres in December of 1968, with Dave Giusti being the sole player going to the Cardinals in the deal. Three months later, the Pirates acquired Davis in a four-player deal that saw Tommie Sisk go to San Diego. 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. Davis remained with the Pirates through the 1971 season, spending his final two seasons with Triple-A Charleston of the International League, which marked the end of his pro career. He was a .233 hitter with 44 doubles, ten homers, 79 RBIs and 96 runs scored 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 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 National League 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 World Series 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.