One of the slower dates for Pittsburgh Pirates birthdays. Just three players born on December and none of them were around long with the team. We also have two transactions of note below.
Steve Carter, outfielder for the 1989-90 Pirates. He was drafted five times before he signed, including the first and last times with the Pirates (1983 and 1987). The Pirates were his worst draft spots over that time as well, first going in the 21st round out of high school, then finally signing as a 17th round pick out of the University of Georgia. In between he was a second round pick of the Kansas City Royals in 1984, then twice got drafted in the third round by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1985, back when they had June and January phases of the draft. All three of those picks came while he was attending Hagerstown Community College. Carter debuted in pro ball with Watertown of the short-season New York-Penn League, where he hit .310 in 66 games, with 50 runs scored, 18 doubles, 24 steals and 33 walks in 66 games. He began the 1988 season in Low-A with Augusta of the Class-A South Atlantic League, where he hit .299 in 74 games, with an .807 OPS and 22 steals. He played briefly for Salem of the Class-A Carolina League, before moving up to Harrisburg of the Double-A Eastern League. Carter saw his 1988 season ended early due to a hand injury just nine games into his time in Double-A. He got off to a hot start at Triple-A with Buffalo of the American Association in 1989 (10-for-25 in seven games), and the Pirates had as many as seven players injured at one time in April, so he was called up on April 16th and made his debut that day. He had just 16 games above A-Ball at the time.
On April 26, 1989, Carter was sent back to the minors, but he was gone for a total of 16 hours before Andy Van Slyke had go to on the disabled list and he returned. He played his last game with the Pirates on May 7th and he was sent down two days later. He did not return in September when the rosters expanded, despite finishing with a .295 average in 100 games at Triple-A. Carter batted .303 with 39 extra-base hits in 120 games with Triple-A Buffalo in 1990, then returned to the Pirates in September, though he only played five games off of the bench. Just before Opening Day in 1991, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs for Gary Varsho. Despite solid minor league batting numbers, his big league time was done. He played until 1995, including some time in Mexico, before retiring. During the 1991-95 stretch, he saw time in the minors with the Cubs, Detroit Tigers, Cincinnati Reds, Houston Astros and Florida Marlins. His big league career lasted 14 games and he had 21 at-bats, with three hits, including a double and a homer. Carter played all three outfield spots during his brief MLB time, though he only got starts in right field. He finished as a .291 hitter in 773 minor league games. He was born on the same exact day at Major League pitcher Jeff Carter, but they are not twins.
Lou Marone, relief pitcher for the 1969-70 Pirates. He was a 30th round pick of the Pirates in 1965 out of San Diego Mesa College. He almost didn’t make it to the majors, as the Pirates nearly cut him in 1967 due to major conditioning issues (they said he was 5’9″, 220+ pounds, despite being now listed at 5’11”, 185). Marone had a brief big league career that was spent entirely with the Pirates over two seasons. He debuted in the minors at 19 years old in 1965, playing most of the year with Batavia of the Class-A New York-Penn League. He also made one appearance with Salem of the short-season Appalachian League and threw three no-hit innings. He combined to go 7-4, 3.13 in 72 innings, with 83 strikeouts. In 1966, Marone played for Raleigh of the Class-A Carolina League as a starting pitcher, while spending the rest of the year with Asheville of the Southern League (Double-A) as a reliever. He combined to go 6-10, 4.22 in 111 innings over 12 starts and 28 relief outings. During his tumultuous 1967 season, he pitched just five games (all starts) for Clinton of the Class-A Midwest League. In 1968, Marone was back in A-Ball for the season, playing with Salem of the Carolina League. He went 6-6, 3.56 in ten starts and 24 relief appearances, striking out 88 batters in 91 innings.
Marone debuted in the majors at the end of May in 1969 after posting an 0.93 ERA over 29 innings for York of the Double-A Eastern League. He remained with the Pirates through the end of the season, mostly pitching late in losses. The Pirates went 5-24 in his appearances. In his 29 games that year, he posted a 2.55 ERA in 35.1 innings. He made just one early season appearance in 1970, allowing one run in 2.1 innings. Marone pitched for the Pirates on April 18, 1970, then was sent to Triple-A to develop a slider. In the process of throwing his new pitch, he injured his arm and couldn’t pitch for most of the summer. He pitched just ten minor league innings that year and allowed ten runs. He was sent home and worked as a bartender, then returned to Pittsburgh in August and threw batting practice. Marone pitched two seasons in the minors (1971-72), with most of that time coming as a reliever in Double-A. He had a 4.44 ERA in 77 innings in 1971, and a 3.32 ERA in 111 innings in 1972. He couldn’t make the Pirates out of Spring Training in 1973 and he was released in mid-April without pitching a minor league game. In June, he was working as an insurance salesman in Montreal when the Pirates came there on a road trip. Marone pitched batting practice for the Pirates during that series, but he never returned to baseball. His cousin John D’Acquisto pitched ten years in the majors (1973-82), making 22 appearances against the Pirates during that time.
Harry Simpson, outfielder for the 1959 Pirates. He had the nickname “Suitcase” because he reminded a sportswriter during his early years of a cartoon character named Suitcase who had large feet, just like Simpson. You often hear that his nickname came along because it seemed like he was always on the move during his career, which spanned 19 seasons, including stints in the Negro Leagues and Mexico. However, he had the nickname while he was still with his first team in pro ball. He hit over 200 homers in his pro career.
Simpson debuted in pro ball with the Philadelphia Stars of the Negro National League in 1946 at 20 years old, which is now considered to be Major Leagues. That recent decision added three years to his big league career. While stats from those leagues are incomplete, then known stats show that he hit .279 in 46 games as a rookie, with 29 runs scored and 19 RBIs. He is credited with a .297 average in 34 games in 1947, followed by a .300 average, 29 runs scored, 13 extra-base hits and 24 RBIs in 45 games in 1948. He was signed by the Cleveland Indians in 1949 and played two years of minor league ball before debuting in the American League. Simpson played for Wilkes-Barre of the Class-A Eastern League in 1949, where he hit .305 in 139 games, with 125 runs scored, 27 doubles, 16 triples, 31 homers, 120 RBIs and 77 walks. In 1950, he moved up to San Diego of the Pacific Coast League and had a huge season, batting .323 in 178 games, with 121 runs scored, 41 doubles, 19 triples, 33 homers and 156 RBIs
Simpson split his 1951 season between first base and right field, struggling a bit initially with the jump to the majors. He batted .229 in 122 games, with 14 extra-base hits, 51 runs scored and 45 walks. He put together a solid year in 1952 when he hit .266 with 66 runs, 41 extra-base hits, 65 RBIs and 56 walks in 146 games. It was a one-year peak and his numbers/playing time dropped in 1953 down to a .227 average and a .618 OPS in 82 games. He spent 1954 in the minors with Indianapolis of the Triple-A American Association, hitting .282 with an .824 OPS in 100 games. He then briefly played for the Indians again in 1955 (one at-bat in three games) before moving on to the Kansas City Athletics for three seasons. Simpson finished the 1955 season with a .301 average, 42 runs scored, 28 extra-base hits and 52 RBIs in 112 games for the Athletics. He hit .293 with 76 runs scored, 22 doubles, a league leading 11 triples, 21 homers and 105 RBIs in 1956 when he made his lone All-Star appearance. He spent half of the 1957 season with Kansas City, hitting .296 in 50 games before he was traded to the New York Yankees on June 15th in a seven-player deal.
Simpson hit .250 with 27 runs scored and 39 RBIs in 75 games for the Yankees to finish the season. They lost the World Series that year and he went 1-for-12 with a single and a .167 OPS. In 1958, he hit .216 with no homers in 24 games for the Yankees before they traded him back to the A’s, exactly one year to the day that they acquired him. He finished the season by hitting .264 with seven homers and 27 RBIs in 78 games. In his final big league season, he spent time with the A’s, Chicago White Sox and the Pirates. After eight early season games with Kansas City, they traded him to Chicago even up for Ray Boone. He played 38 games with the White Sox, hitting .187 with two homers. He came to Pittsburgh in trade for first baseman Ted Kluzsewski on August 25th. Simpson went 4-for-15 with two RBIs in nine games for the Pirates. Exactly seven weeks after he was acquired, he was sold back to the White Sox, after the two sides agreed during the original deal that the Pirates could keep or return Simpson after the 1959 season ended. While he never played in the majors again after 1959, Simpson still played another five years of pro ball, finishing his career in Mexico in 1963-64. He returned to San Diego in 1960, where he had his best minor league season, but he ended up hitting just .222 with a .714 OPS in 95 games. He rebounded to hit .303 with 24 homers and 105 RBIs in 1961 with San Diego, followed by an .837 OPS in Indianapolis in 1962. He had a .900 OPS in 11 games with Indianapolis in 1963, before going to Mexico for the final 1+ seasons of his career. In 11 years in the majors, Simpson hit .269 in 1,013 games, with 413 runs scored, 240 extra-base hits and 436 RBIs.
On this date in 1982, the Pirates signed second baseman Jose Lind as an 18-year-old amateur free agent out of Puerto Rico. He debuted in the Gulf Coast League in 1983 and hit .301 in his first season of pro ball. He moved up one level each of the next four years, then made it to the majors for a short time in 1987, before becoming the starting second baseman. Lind played for the Pirates for six seasons (1987-92), hitting .255 with 50 stolen bases, 292 runs scored and 249 RBIs in 779 games, helping the Pirates to three straight playoff appearances. He won a Gold Glove in 1992.
On this date in 1984, the Pirates selected catcher Junior Ortiz in the Rule 5 draft from the New York Mets. He was originally with the Pirates in 1982-83, but he was traded to the Mets in the middle of the 1983 season in a deal to acquire Marvell Wynne. After the Rule 5 draft, he spent five more seasons in Pittsburgh as the backup catcher. In his first year back, Ortiz hit .292 in 23 games. The Pirates used two catchers all season that year and Tony Pena started 141 games. Pena was traded before the 1987 season, which opened up playing time for Ortiz, who hit .336 during his limited backup time in 1986. During his time in Pittsburgh, Ortiz hit .264 with five homers and 81 RBIs over 299 games with the Pirates.
There’s an interesting connection between Lind and Ortiz, besides being teammates, and it pairs well with both of them being part of transactions today. When the Pirates traded Ortiz to the Minnesota Twins on April 4, 1990, they also included Orlando Lind, the brother of Jose Lind, who played in the minors for the Pirates from 1983 through 1989.