November 11, 1898|
|Died: March 16, 1972
|September 15, 1920 for the Pittsburgh Pirates|
|Last MLB appearance|
|August 14, 1937 for the Pittsburgh Pirates|
|Runs batted in||1,273|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Vote||76.9% (fifth ballot)|
Harold Joseph "Pie" Traynor (November 11, 1898 – March 16, 1972) was an American professional baseball player, manager, scout and radio broadcaster. He played his entire Major League Baseball career (1920–37) as a third baseman with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1948.
Following the Second World War, Traynor was often cited as the greatest third baseman in Major League Baseball history. In recent years his reputation has diminished, with the modern-era careers of third basemen such as Eddie Mathews, Brooks Robinson, Mike Schmidt and George Brett moving to the forefront in the memories of baseball fans.
Traynor was born in Framingham, Massachusetts, to parents who had emigrated from Canada. He received his nickname as a child in Somerville, Massachusetts, because he frequented a grocery store and often asked for pie. The store owner called him "Pie Face", which was later shortened to Pie by his friends. Traynor began his playing career in 1920 as a shortstop for the Portsmouth Truckers of the Virginia League. He was asked by a Boston Braves scout to work out with the team at Braves Field, but the scout forgot to tell the Braves manager George Stallings. Stallings proceeded to run Traynor off the field, telling him not to return. Traynor made his major league debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates at the age of 21 on September 15, 1920, appearing in 17 games that season. He appeared in 10 games for the Pirates in 1921, but spent the majority of the season playing for the Birmingham Barons. He posted a .336 batting average in 131 games for the Barons, but his defense was still a problem as he committed 64 errors as a shortstop.
Traynor became the Pirates' regular third baseman in 1922, hitting for a .282 batting average with 81 runs batted in. Following the advice of Rogers Hornsby, he began using a heavier bat and blossomed into one of the National League's best hitters in 1923, when he hit above .300 for the first time with a .338 batting average along with 12 home runs and 101 runs batted in. With tutoring provided by teammate Rabbit Maranville, his defense also began to improve, leading National League third basemen in putouts and assists. In 1925, Traynor posted a .320 average with six home runs, 106 runs batted in and led the league in fielding percentage as the Pirates won the National League pennant by eight and a half games over the New York Giants. In the 1925 World Series, he hit .347 including a home run off future Hall of Fame pitcher Walter Johnson as the Pirates defeated the Washington Senators in a seven-game series. Traynor ended the season eighth in Most Valuable Player Award balloting. His 41 double plays in 1925 set a National League record for third basemen that stood for 25 years.
The Pirates won the pennant again in 1927 with Traynor hitting .342 with five home runs and 106 runs batted in, but they would lose to the New York Yankees in the 1927 World Series. In November of that year, members of the Baseball Writers Association of America selected him as the third baseman for the 1927 all-star major league team. Traynor hit .337 and produced a career-high 124 runs batted in during the 1928 season despite hitting only three home runs and finished in sixth place in the National League Most Valuable Player Award balloting. He continued to be a cornerstone for the Pirates, posting a .356 batting average in 1929, followed by a career-high .366 average in 1930. In 1933 Major League Baseball held its inaugural All-Star Game and, Traynor was selected as a reserve player for the National League team. Traynor's last full season was in 1934 when he hit over .300 for the ninth time in ten seasons, and was named as the starting third baseman for the National League in the 1934 All-Star Game. During the 1934 season, his throwing arm was injured in a play at home plate and his defense began to suffer as a result. Traynor played his final game on August 14, 1937.
In a 17-year major league career, Traynor played in 1941 games, accumulating 2,416 hits in 7,559 at bats for a .320 career batting average along with 58 home runs, 1,273 runs batted in and an on-base percentage of .362. He retired with a .946 fielding percentage. Traynor was not a home run hitter - he reached a high of 12 in 1923 - but had high numbers of doubles and triples, hitting 371 doubles and 164 triples lifetime and leading the league in triples in 1923, with 19. He hit over .300 ten times and had over 100 runs batted in (RBI) in a season seven times. Among major league third basemen, his seven seasons with more than 100 runs batted in is second only to the nine seasons by Mike Schmidt. Chipper Jones is the only other third baseman in history to match Traynor's five consecutive seasons with more than 100 runs batted in. He had 208 hits in 1923, and was the last Pirate infielder with 200 or more hits until shortstop Jack Wilson, who had 201 hits in 2004. He struck out only 278 times in his career.
Traynor was considered the best fielding third baseman of his era, leading the National League in fielding percentage once, assists and double plays three times and putouts seven times. His 2,289 putouts ranks him fifth all-time among third basemen. His 1,863 games played at third base was a major league record that would stand until 1960 when it was surpassed by Eddie Yost. Traynor is also the only Major League Baseball player ever to steal home plate in an All-Star Game. Traynor finished in the top ten in voting for the National League's Most Valuable Player Award six times during his career.
Traynor became the Pirates' player-manager during the 1934 season. He retired as an active player after the 1937 season, but continued on as the Pirates' manager. He almost won another pennant as a manager in 1938, as the Pirates led the National League for most of the season before faltering to the Chicago Cubs in the famous "Homer in the Gloamin'" game at Wrigley Field. The loss of the pennant devastated Traynor. He seemed to lose confidence in his team, and after a sixth place finish in 1939, he resigned after five seasons as the manager of the Pirates.
Post-retirement and legacy
|Pie Traynor's number 20 was retired by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1972.|
After spending time as a scout for the Pirates, Traynor eventually took a job as a sports director for a Pittsburgh radio station in 1944. His radio broadcasts became popular with Pittsburgh sports fans and he remained at the job for 21 years. Traynor retired from broadcasting in 1965. In 1948, Traynor was selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, being the first third baseman to be chosen by the Baseball Writers Association of America. In 1969, as part of the observance of the centennial of professional baseball, Traynor was named the third baseman on Major League Baseball's all-time team. In 1971, he threw out the first pitch of Game 3 of the 1971 World Series at Three Rivers Stadium. He died in 1972 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the age of 73 not long after the Pirates moved into Three Rivers Stadium and retired his uniform number 20. Traynor was buried in Homewood Cemetery in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
In 1999, he ranked number 70 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and was nominated as a finalist for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. Baseball historian Bill James ranked Traynor 15th all-time among third baseman in his Historical Baseball Abstract.
- List of Major League Baseball players with 2,000 hits
- List of Major League Baseball players with 100 triples
- List of Major League Baseball players with 1,000 runs
- List of Major League Baseball players with 1,000 runs batted in
- List of Major League Baseball triples champions
- List of Major League Baseball player–managers
- Hitting for the cycle
- "Pie Traynor". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 27 October 2010.
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- James, Bill (2001). The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. New York: Free Press. p. 554. ISBN 0-684-80697-5.
- Birtwell, Roger (September 1969). Pie Traynor Best of All Third Basemen. Baseball Digest. Retrieved 30 October 2010.[dead link]
- Pie Traynor at the SABR Bio Project, by James Forr, retrieved 30 October 2010
- "Pie Traynor Minor League Statistics". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 27 October 2010.
- Graham, Frank (October 1954). On Seeing Pie Traynor Again. Baseball Digest. Retrieved 27 October 2010.[dead link]
- "1923 National League Fielding Leaders". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 30 October 2010.
- "1925 National League Fielding Leaders". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 30 October 2010.
- "1925 World Series". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 27 October 2010.
- "Pie Traynor Post-Season Batting Statistics". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 26 October 2010.
- "1925 Most Valuable Player Award Balloting Results". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 27 October 2010.
- "1927 World Series". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 30 October 2010.
- "Baseball Scribes Name All-Stars Of 1927 Season". Beaver Falls Tribune. 30 November 1927. p. 14. Retrieved 5 April 2011.
- "1933 All-Star Game". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 27 October 2010.
- "Baseball Stars Meet In 'Game Of Century' At Chicago Tomorrow". The Evening Independent. Associated Press. 5 July 1933. p. 6. Retrieved 5 April 2011.
- "1934 All-Star Game". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 27 October 2010.
- Third Basemen With Most 100 RBI Seasons. Baseball Digest. January 2009. Retrieved 30 October 2010.[dead link]
- Kuenster, Bob (September 1994). All-Time Best Third Basemen Starred as Hitters, Fielders. Baseball Digest. Retrieved 27 October 2010.[dead link]
- "Career Leaders & Records for Putouts as Third Baseman". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 31 October 2010.
- Middlesworth, Hal (October 1960). 17 Years At Third Base!. Baseball Digest. Retrieved 25 October 2010.[dead link]
- "Pie Traynor Manager Statistics". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 27 October 2010.
- "'Homer in the Gloamin'". mlb.com. Retrieved 27 October 2010.
- "Pie Traynor New York Times Obituary". TheDeadBallEra.com. Retrieved 30 October 2010.
- "Pittsburgh Pirates Retired Numbers". mlb.com. Retrieved 27 October 2010.
- "100 Greatest Baseball Players". sportingnews.com. Retrieved 27 October 2010.[dead link]
- "The Major League Baseball All-Century Team". mlb.com. Retrieved 27 October 2010.
- Pie Traynor Official Web Site
- Pie Traynor at the Baseball Hall of Fame
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- Pie Traynor at the SABR Bio Project, by James Forr, retrieved 30 October 2010
- The Deadball Era
- Pie Traynor at Find a Grave