This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: December 17th, Five Former Pirates Born on This Date

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. He debuted in pro ball at 19 years old in the Gulf Coast League, where he hit .284 with 14 extra-base hits and nine steals in 50 games. In 1980, Wynne moved up to the Class-A South Atlantic League, where he batted .278 in 137 games, with 20 doubles, 15 triples, 18 homers and 29 steals. After joining the Mets, he spent 1981 with Jackson of the Double-A Texas League. In 127 games, he hit .286 with 69 runs scored and 35 extra-base hits. Despite being known for having decent speed, he went 4-for-11 in steals that season. In 1982, Wynne spent the entire season with Triple-A Tidewater of the International League. He batted .230 in 130 games, with 76 runs scored, 32 extra-base hits, 65 RBIs and 28 steals. He was there to start the 1983 season as well, hitting .286 in 51 games, with 32 runs scored and 17 extra-base hits before his trade to the Pirates. Once again he had trouble with the stolen bases, going 4-for-9 during that time.

Wynne made his Major League debut the day after the trade, playing center field for the first of 101 games 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 (he was caught stealing 19 times). In 1985 the Pirates won a Major League low 57 games and Wynne struggled, hitting .205 with ten steals and 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. In his first year with the Padres, Wynne hit .264 in 137 games, with 34 runs scored, 19 doubles, 37 RBIs and 11 steals in 22 attempts. He started 59 games that season, while playing 66 games as a defensive replacement in center field. In 1987, he played 98 games (40 starts) and hit .250 with 14 extra-base hits, 24 RBIs and 11 steals. Wynne had a solid season in 1988, which led to some extra at-bats. In 128 games, he hit .264 with 13 doubles, 11 homers, 42 RBIs and 37 runs scored. However, that peak year was followed by a rough 1989 season, which he split between the Padres and the Chicago Cubs, who acquired him in an August 30th trade. In 125 games that season, he had a .243 average, 37 RBIs and a  .628 OPS. He was well below average defensively (-2.3 dWAR), while playing between 30-47 games at each outfield spot that year. He finished his big league career with the 1990 Cubs, hitting .204 in 92 games, with 21 runs scored and 19 RBIs.

Wynne played eight seasons in the majors, scoring 300 runs, with 80 steals (in 138 attempts), 244 RBIs 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. It was immediately followed by his worst season in 1989, when he went from 1.5 WAR in 1988, down to -2.0 that season. He finished with a -2.9 career WAR, though he put up positive WAR in four of his eight seasons. After finishing his big league career in 1990, 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 out of the University of St Francis, and he played for three organizations before joining the Pirates in June of 1994 as a minor league free agent signing. He debuted in pro ball in the short-season New York-Penn League, where he spent his first two seasons with Batavia. He had a 3-5, 3.92 record in 66.2 innings in 1989, then followed that up with a 7-1, 2.64 record in 81.2 innings over 14 starts in 1990. In 1991, the Phillies sent him to Clearwater of the High-A Florida State League, where he went 7-5, 3.39 in 93 innings, while working mostly in long relief. Parris was back in a starter role for most of 1992, splitting the season between Double-A Reading of the Eastern League and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre of the International League. He had similar results at each level, combining to go 8-10, 4.41 in 136.2 innings. 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 Parris three months into the season, which was a full 11 months before he joined the Pirates. He had a 7.91 ERA and pitched just 19.1 innings total in 1993, including time in Double-A with Seattle. He signed with the Pirates as a minor league free agent in June of 1994, and they sent him down to High-A ball, where he went 3-3, 3.63 in 57 innings for Salem of the Carolina League. Parris started the 1995 season in Double-A and went 9-1, 2.51 in 14 starts for Carolina of the Southern League before the Pirates called him up for his big league debut in late June. He went 6-6, 5.38 in 82 innings over 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. He finished with a 5.82 ERA in 108.1 innings with the Pirates.

Parris spent the entire 1997 season in the minors, splitting his time between Double-A and Triple-A. He began 1998 back in Triple-A with Indianapolis of the International League, where he went 6-1, 3.84 in 13 starts. He was never much of a strikeout pitcher, but he managed to accumulate 102 strikeouts in 84.1 innings during that time, which led to his return to the majors. He got called up by the Reds in mid-June of 1998 and had a 3.73 ERA in 99 innings over 16 starts and two relief outings. Parris had his best season in the majors in 1999 when he went 11-4, 3.50 in 128.2 innings over 21 starts and a relief outing. He actually made six starts back in Indianapolis to begin the season, then missed all of August due to shoulder tightness, so even his best season had some bumps. Parris followed that up with a 12-17, 4.81 season in 2000, when he threw a career high 192.2 innings. In November of 2000, the Reds traded him to the Toronto Blue Jays. He went 9-11, 5.17 in 33 starts and 181 innings for the 2001-02 Toronto Blue Jays, while spending parts of each season on the disabled list. He finished his big league career with a 6.18 ERA in 43.2 innings over seven starts and three relief appearances for the 2003 Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who released him in June. In his career, Parris went 44-49, 4.75 in 753.1 innings over 129 starts and ten relief outings.

Charlie Sands, catcher for the 1971-72 Pirates. 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. His work in 1965 was limited to the Fall Instructional League. In 1966, Sands played for Miami of the Florida State League (Class-A), where he hit .245 in 101 games, with 17 extra-base hits, 33 RBIs and 47 walks. In 1967, he was healthy for the entire season, yet the Yankees used him just once all year. He got in work after the season in the Fall Instructional League. In 1968, Sands played for Kinston of the Class-A Carolina League, where he hit .268 in 88 games, with 22 extra-base hits and 64 walks. In 1969, the Yankees split his time between Double-A and Triple-A, though he struggled in limited use at both levels, combining for a .229 average and no homers in 40 games. In 1970, he saw the same split between Double-A and Triple-A, but this time he saw more games at each level and improved on the previous numbers. In 87 games, he hit .226, though it came with a .708 OPS, which was 99 points higher than the previous year. That was due in part to 56 walks, as well as six homers.

The Pirates acquired Sands following the 1970 season in a six-player trade with the 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 who 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 and struck out. 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 during that time, 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 in the Oakland system through the end of the 1976 season. In his six seasons in the majors, he hit .214 in 93 games, with six homers, 23 RBIs and a solid .372 OBP, with one more walk (36) than strikeout (35).

Jim Mattox, catcher for the 1922-23 Pirates. Before he joined pro ball, he was a catcher for a semi-pro team in Gastonia, North Carolina in 1919 and a player-manager for a semi-pro team in Salisbury, North Carolina in 1920. He also played ball at Washington and Lee University, which led to his later start in pro ball. He played that first season of pro ball in 1921 as a 24-year-old, and he hit .344 with 29 extra-base hits in 103 games for Rochester of the Double-A International League.  The Pirates had an agreement with Rochester during Spring Training in 1922. Mattox would train with the team, and if he did well, then the Pirates would purchase his contract outright. He almost didn’t make the team because of an arm injury that limited his playing time. He spent the 1922 season as the third-string catcher for the Pirates 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 young Johnny Gooch as the starter, with veteran Walter Schmidt serving as his backup.

In 1923, Mattox received even less playing time in the same third-string role, starting three games and getting into another 19 off the bench. He started just one of the first 100 games that year, then caught back-to-back games when Schmidt was briefly sidelined. Mattox hit .188 in 32 at-bats, in what would be his last season in pro ball. That season Schmidt saw the bulk of the player time, with Gooch as his backup. 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, leaving him with a total of 154 games in pro ball over three seasons. 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 at 22 years old, going 18-11 for Worcester of the Class-A 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 with the Pirates 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. Returning to baseball proved to be a smart decision. He had an 18-17 record in 1904, then put together an 11-10, 2.61 record in 190 innings in 1905, which led to his big break in the majors.

Falkenberg would eventually become a star pitcher, but not until the 1913-14 seasons. His return to the majors came with the Washington Senators in late August of 1905. He went 7-2, 3.82 in 75.1 innings, with six complete games and two shutouts over the final seven weeks of the season. In 1906, Falkenberg went 14-20, 2.86 in 298.2 innings, leading the American League in both walks and wild pitches. His 178 strikeouts ranked second behind another former Pirates pitcher, Hall of Famer Rube Waddell. In 1907, he posted a 6-17, 2.35 record in 233.2 innings, with 17 complete games in 24 starts. He didn’t allow a single home run all season. His 1908 season was split between Washington and the Cleveland Naps, who purchased his contract in July. Falkenberg had a 1.96 ERA in 82.2 innings before the sale, followed by a 3.88 ERA in 46.1 innings to finish out the season. In 1909, he went 10-9, 2.40 in 165 innings over 18 starts and six relief appearances. He saw more work in 1910, which led to a 14-13, 2.95 record in 256.2 innings, with 18 complete games and three shutouts. He saw sporadic use during the 1911 season, compiling a 3.29 ERA in 106.2 innings, which led to him spending the 1912 season back in the minors.

Falkenberg pitched for Toledo of the Double-A American Association in 1912, where he went 25-8 and threw 308.2 innings. His ERA isn’t available from that year, but he allowed just 2.74 runs per nine innings. That performance led to him returning to the majors and he put together back-to-back outstanding seasons. In 1913 for the Naps, he went 23-10, 2.22 in 276 innings, with 23 complete games and six shutouts in 36 starts. He was second in the league in wins, eighth in ERA, and his 166 strikeouts trailed only Walter Johnson, who finished with 243 strikeouts. Falkenberg jumped to the Federal League in 1914 like many other players and he had a huge season, going 25-16, 2.22 in 377.1 innings, with 236 strikeouts, 33 complete games and nine shutouts. He led the league in shutouts, strikeouts and innings, as well as starts (43). His 8.0 WAR that year was the best in the league for all players. In 1915, Falkenberg split his season in the Federal League between the Newark and Brooklyn clubs, combining to go 12-14, 2.86 in 220 innings. The league folded and many of the players who jumped leagues were unable to get big league jobs the next year.

Falkenberg spent the 1916 season with Indianapolis of the Double-A American Association, going 19-14, 1.82 in 291 innings. The next year he got a brief shot with the Philadelphia Athletics, which turned out to be his final big league time. He went 2-6, 3.35 in 80.2 innings. He returned to Indianapolis to finish the season, where he had an 11-6, 1.99 record in 163 innings. Falkenberg won ten games for Indianapolis in 1918, then finished his career by splitting the 1919 season between two Pacific Coast League teams, going 15-18, while throwing 314 innings. He won 130 big league games in his career and 131 minor league games. His final big league stats over 12 seasons had him with a 130-123, 2.68 record in 2,275 innings, with 266 starts, 180 complete games, and 27 shutouts. 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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