Barney Dreyfuss ushered in the second glory era of the Pittsburgh Pirates when he purchased Pie Traynor from Portsmouth (Virginia League) in 1920. The classy, intelligent Massachusetts native had been ignored by both Boston clubs. He came up as a shortstop but was moved to third base by Pittsburgh manager Bill McKechnie in 1922 – the first of 12 straight seasons in which he played 130 or more games.
Traynor topped the .300 mark ten times, and from 1925 through 1930 batted .342. Yet, playing on teams that featured the Waner brothers, he led the Pirates in hitting just once, with a .356 mark in 1929. When he hit .366 in 1930, teammate Paul Waner hit .368. Traynor usually made contact, striking out only 278 times in his career. He fanned only seven times in 540 at-bats in 1930.
At third base Traynor had a great arm and was outstanding on bunts and slow choppers. Teamed with defensive whiz Glenn Wright at shortstop, and in a lineup with hitting stars Max Carey and Kiki Cuyler, in 1925 Traynor helped Pittsburgh to its first pennant since 1909. He hit .346 in their seven-game World Series victory over Washington, and homered off Walter Johnson in the opener. He handled 24 chances without an error.
Traynor hit .342 in 1927, led NL third basemen in double plays for the fourth straight year, and had three hits on October 1 when Pittsburgh clinched another pennant. In Game Three of the WS, he broke up Herb Pennock‘s perfect game with an eighth-inning single, but the Pirates were swept by the Yankees.
Playing in spacious Forbes Field, Traynor hit few home runs, but consistently reached double figures in doubles and triples. He tied teammate Carey for the NL lead with 19 three-base hits in 1923. He remains among the Pirates’ all-time leaders in every offensive category but home runs.
While posting a record-tying seventh season as the NL putout leader at third base despite a sore throwing arm, Traynor replaced George Gibson as Pirate manager in June 1934. He played occasionally in 1935 and 1937, finishing with a NL record 2,288 putouts at 3B. He managed for six seasons, leaving in 1939 with what was then the second-most wins in Pirate history (457). He came close to a pennant in 1938, but Chicago’s Gabby Hartnett‘s “Homer in the Gloamin'” snatched it away. Traynor scouted for the Pirates until his death.
Widely regarded for years as baseball’s greatest third baseman, Traynor was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1948, and was honored as a member of the all-time team selected in 1969 for baseball’s centennial. He was one of Pittsburgh’s most popular players, eagerly adopted by the community though he never lost his New England accent. The Giants’ John McGraw, himself a third baseman, called Traynor the greatest team player in the game. Though there are several stories about his nickname, it seems to have come from Traynor’s childhood taste for pies.