01/19/2006 2:21 PM
for immediate release: 19 January, 2006
CCBL Legends Special : Pie Traynor
MLB Hall of Famer Pie Traynor one of the Greatest Players
Ever to Perform on Cape Cod
FALMOUTH – The ink was barely dry on the Versailles Treaty that signaled the end of the Great War and the Black Sox Scandal was about to unfold when a hard-hitting shortstop from Somerville, Mass., showcased his skills on the playing fields of Cape Cod.
The year was 1919 and the great Harold “Pie” Traynor was beginning a meteoric rise that would place him just one year later into the starting lineup of the National League’s Pittsburgh Pirates and eventually see him voted as the best third baseman in major league baseball history.
Traynor, whose .320 lifetime batting average during his 17-year career is second all-time for major league third basemen behind only Hall of Famer Wade Boggs, who hit .328 for his career, performed during the summer of 1919 as a 21-year-old shortstop for both the Falmouth and Oak Bluffs town teams.
Pie led Falmouth to a superlative 9-2 record by hitting a lusty .447. He also led Oak Bluffs to a 9-5 mark and hit .240 for that squad (must have been the ferry ride!). His total statistics included one homer, 21 runs scored, five doubles, and 12 stolen bases, with a combined batting average of .322.
With roots tracing back to Union soldiers returning home from the Civil War, the Cape League originated in 1885 with individual town teams, was reorganized into the Cape Cod Baseball League in 1923 with teams in Chatham, Falmouth, Hyannis and Osterville and is now the premier collegiate baseball summer league in the country.
Traynor played on the Cape four years before local teams formally organized the Cape Cod Baseball League, but he performed for the Falmouth franchise that was one of the inaugural teams that still exists today.
One of the greatest and most accomplished players to perform on Cape Cod, Traynor was followed in the CCBL by future major league legends Mickey Cochrane, Red Rolfe, Carlton Fisk, Thurman Munson, Mike Flanagan, Jeff Reardon, Mo Vaughn and 2004 AL Manager of the Year Buck Showalter, along with current MLB standouts Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Jeromy Burnitz, Sean Casey, Darin Erstad, Nomar Garciaparra, Mark Mulder, Todd Helton, Frank Thomas, Jason Varitek, and Barry Zito, among others.
After his summer on the Cape in 1919, Traynor (who was born in Framingham) was signed by manager Les Bangs of Portsmouth in the Virginia League in 1920, where he hit .270 and signed for $10,000 with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He made his major league debut on Sept. 15, 1920 – making the same one-year rise from the Cape to the major leagues as Craig Hansen (Harwich '04) accomplished with the Boston Red Sox in 2005.
Pie was voted the greatest MLB third baseman for the first half of the 20th century (ahead of Jimmy Collins of the Red Sox and former Cape Leaguer Rolfe of the Yankees) and hit .320 lifetime during his 17-year major league career – still the highest ever by a third baseman.
His lifetime batting average is 15 points ahead of three-time batting champion George Brett (.305) and way ahead of other Hall of Fame third basemen such as Collins (.294), sluggers Eddie Mathews (.271) and Mike Schmidt (.267) and slick-fielding Brooks Robinson (.267).
The pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates during the 1920s and '30s, Traynor was a superior third baseman and a skillful hitter. He hit .300 or better 10 times, and never struck out more than 28 times in a season.
Hitting behind the “Big-Poison-Little Poison” brother combination of Paul and Lloyd Waner of the Pirates most of his career, the 6-0 1/2”, 175-pound third baseman drove in more than 100 runs seven times and scored more than 100 runs twice. He hit .366 in 1930 and batted .356, .337 and .342 in the three previous seasons. At age 23 in 1923, he hit .338 with 208 hits, 108 runs scored, 101 RBIs, 12 homers and a league-leading 19 triples.
Originally a shortstop, he became one of the top fielding third basemen in history, recording a NL record 2,288 putouts, 6,134 chances and 308 double plays in his career at the hot corner.
As a fielder, he led the National League in putouts seven times and assists three times and once started four around-the horn double plays in one game against the New York Giants.
"I've seen Pie Traynor field a hot grounder over at third base bare-handed and get the runner at first," once said former Pirates teammate and Chicago Cubs manager Charlie Grimm. "He had the quickest hands and strongest arm of anyone in major league baseball."
He hit .346 with one homer and two triples in the 1925 World Series, including a four-bagger off all-time great Walter (Big Train) Johnson to help beat the Washington Senators in seven games. He also led the Pirates to the World Series in 1927 against the "Murderers Row" New York Yankees with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.
He later managed the Pirates from 1934-39 before becoming a major league scout. He also broadcasted Pirates games on radio station KOV in Pittsburgh for 20 years.
Traynor was voted to The Sporting News Major League All-Star Team seven times (1925-27, ’29, ’31-33) and played in the first two official All-Star Games (’33-34). He was voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1948.
Considered by legendary New York Giants manager John McGraw to be "the finest team player in the game," Pie received his nickname because of his fondness for pastry as a child.
Amazingly, Traynor never learned to drive a car because he feared if he did, he would have an excuse not to walk, an activity he found relaxing and healthy.
Because of his extraordinary exploits on both Cape Cod and Major League Baseball, Pie Traynor is considered one of the all-time greats in the history of the game.
Written by John Garner, Jr., CCBL Director of Public Relations & Broadcasting
508-790-0394; [email protected]
Cape League research compiled by Pie Traynor biographer Dave Proctor
and Falmouth Commodores historian Al Irish.