Pie Traynor

Position: Third Baseman
Team: Pittsburgh Pirates, 1920-1937

Pie Traynor maintained he was given his odd nickname because he was inordinately fond of pie as a boy in Somerville, Massachusetts. Whatever the moniker’s roots, however, Traynor was never known by any other name.

Pie Traynor assumed the role of player-manager for Pittsburgh halfway through the 1934 campaign.
Pie Traynor assumed the role of
player-manager for Pittsburgh
halfway through the 1934 campaign.

Originally a shortstop, Harold Joseph Traynor (1899-1972) was a sandlot standout in Somerville. He attempted to get a tryout with the Braves in 1918 but was turned away. He signed his first pro contract in 1920 with Portsmouth of the Virginia League and played well, prompting the Pirates to sign him. He batted .336 in 1921 and was handed the Pirates’ shortstop post in 1922.

Traynor floundered there for nearly two months until Bill McKechnie took over as manager. One of his first moves was to switch Traynor to third base. Pie hit .282 that season. In 1923, he hit .338 with 12 homers and 101 RBI, and he led NL third sackers with 191 putouts and 310 assists.

The Bucs won the pennant in 1925, with Pie hitting .320 with 106 RBI. He again led NL third basemen in putouts and assists. The Pirates then beat the Senators in the Series, with Traynor hitting .346. In Game 7, he drove in the tying run in the seventh inning.

In 1927, Pie hit .342 and had 106 RBI, again leading the loop in putouts, as Pittsburgh again took the pennant. In the Series this time, however, the Pirates were swept by the Yankee juggernaut. Pie, however, began a four-year run in which his yearly batting average never went below .337, and a five-year stretch of 100-plus RBI seasons.

Pie played with the Pirates his entire 18-year career and also managed the club for five-plus campaigns. A player-manager when he first took the job, he spent the last four years of his dugout stint as a helmsman only. Traynor could never quite pilot the Pirates to the top. His greatest disappointment came in 1938, when Pittsburgh lost out to the Cubs on Gabby Hartnett’s “Homer in the Gloamin’.”

In 1969, Traynor was selected as the game’s all-time greatest third baseman by sportswriters. If the same poll were taken today, the results would almost certainly be different; his reputation has probably suffered more than any other player’s during the past 20 years.

While he may have been overrated with the glove, he was still an excellent third baseman. He led NL third sackers in putouts seven times, chances per game five times, and double plays four times. Traynor was voted into the Hall in 1948.

Here are Pie Traynor's major league totals:

.3201,941 7,559 1,1832,416

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