Born on this date in 1898 was one of the greatest Pittsburgh Pirates players of all-time, Hall of Fame thirdbaseman, Harold “Pie” Traynor. He has the 9th highest average in team history, hitting .320 over his 17 seasons in the majors, all spent in Pittsburgh. He is seventh in team history in games played(1941) and at-bats(7559), sixth all-time in runs scored(1183) and doubles (371), fifth in total bases (3289) and fourth in RBI’s(1273), triples(164) and hits with 2416, which puts him in a tie in that category with Hall of Famer Max Carey. His 124 RBI’s in 1928 are the 6th highest single season total in team history and his .366 batting average in 1930 is the 8th highest total.
Traynor was from the Boston area and tried out for both local major league teams with neither signing him although the Red Sox liked him enough to recommend him to a team from Portsmouth, Virginia with the understanding they would sign him when they thought he was ready. The owner of Portsmouth however had other ideas and he decided to sell Traynor. Both the Giants and Senators tried to sign him after he hit .270 but they would not match the high price the Portsmouth owner put on him. The Pirates ended up paying the $10,000 price tag after scouting him and they never looked back on that decision. Pie ended up hitting .212 in 17 games that year in his first taste of the majors and he returned to the minors for the 1921 season. He would hit .336 in 131 games for Birmingham in 1921, get called up to the Pirates in September and never return to the minors again.
Traynor had a strong rookie season in 1922. He hit a career low .282 but still drove in 81 runs while scoring 89 times. It was just a sign on things to come for him and 1923 proved to be quite a season for him, he hit .338 while driving in 101 runs, scoring 108 and leading the NL in triples with 19 while also adding a career high in both homers with 12 and stolen bases with 28. He slipped a little in 1924 hitting .294 with 82 runs and 86 RBI’s but in 1925 the Pirates won the World Series and Traynor was a big part of that team. He hit .320 with a career high 114 runs scored, while driving in 106 runs. In the 7 game series he hit .346 with a homer and four runs batted in. He also led all NL third baseman in putouts and assists.
In 1927 the Pirates went to the World Series again and once again Traynor was a big part of that team. He hit .342 while driving in 106 runs and scoring 93 times. It was his third season of at least 100 RBI’s up to that point but it also started a streak of five straight seasons in which he passed the century mark in RBI’s, driving in a total of 560 runs over that span. From 1925-33 he received MVP votes in all but one of those nine seasons and amazingly the year he didn’t get any votes, he hit .366 with 119 RBI’s. The all-star game was started in 1933 and Traynor made the team both years that he was still an everyday player. He was the Pirates manager from 1934-39 and although he never won an NL pennant, he did finish with a 457-406 record plus a second place finish in 1938. Traynor made the Hall of Fame in 1948 and the Pirates retired his number 20 in 1972.
Also born on this date in 1891 was another Hall of Famer who played on the Pirates, shortstop Rabbit Maranville. He didn’t have quite the overall impact that Traynor had with the Pirates but he did play four years in his prime in Pittsburgh and for two of those years he was right next to Traynor in the infield giving the Pirates a strong left side both on offense and defense. Rabbit had already played nine seasons before he joined the Pirates in 1921, coming over from the Boston Braves in a trade for three players and cash. He was very strong on defense and had good speed but he wasn’t much of a hitter. He carried a .251 average into the 1921 season and his career high for runs was just 79 while he topped 50 RBI’s just once in his first nine years.
The trade to the Pirates, a better overall team that the Braves, helped Maranville set new career highs right away in runs scored with 90, hits with 180 and batting average with a .294 mark, plus he also drove in 70 runs that first year. It would get even better in 1922 when he topped his previous season’s average by one point while also scoring a career high 115 runs and collecting 198 hits. He also set single season major league records at the time for at-bats with 672 and plate appearances with 747. Rabbit slacked on the offense side in 1923 but his defense was strong as he led NL shortstops in assists, putouts and fielding percentage. In 1924 he drove in 71 runs while also setting career highs with 33 doubles and 20 triples. Following the season the Pirates traded him along with Wilbur Cooper (the Pirates all-time win leader) and Charlie Grimm to the Chicago Cubs for Al Niehaus, Vic Aldridge and George Grantham.
Maranville would be elected to the Hall of Fame in 1954. He is the all-time leader for putouts at shortstop and he has more assists than anyone in the history of baseball. He collected 2605 career hits and scored 1255 runs. With the Pirates he hit .283 in 601 games, 25 points above his career average of .258
One other birthday of note from this date. Charlie Hastings (1870), pitched for the 1896-98 Pirates. He began his major league career with the 1893 Cleveland Spiders, going 4-5, 4.70 in 15 games, nine as a starter. He then spent the next two seasons in the minors, struggling badly in 1894(7-20, 5.21) before turning it around in 1895, when he won 28 games for the Kansas City Blues of the Western League. In his three seasons with the Pirates, Hastings was used sparingly each year, getting occasional starts and seeing some relief work. The Pirates had star pitchers Pink Hawley, Frank Killen and Jesse Tannehill receiving most of the starts during his three seasons. Hastings got 36 total starts and 16 relief appearances for Pittsburgh, going a combined 14-24, 4.51 in 379.1 innings. His best ERA came during the 1898 season when he also pitched the most, 3.41 in 137.1 innings. The downside was his 4-10 record for a team that finished just under the .500 mark. During the previous season, his 5-4 record(with a 4.58 ERA) was the only winning record among the six pitchers the Pirates used all season. Hastings returned to the minors in 1899, playing pro ball until 1904, before retiring.
Hastings first start with the Pirates was an interesting one. On May 20, 1896, the Pirates played Brooklyn in Pittsburgh. Hastings wasn’t doing well in the first three innings, allowing two runs each frame. He was replaced for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the third and that is when things got interesting. It began to rain hard and the Pirates manager Connie Mack told his team to go easy in the field, hoping that the game would be called before it was official and would have to be replayed from the start the following time the two teams met(It was a getaway day for Brooklyn, while Pirates took on the Phillies the next day). So the Pirates replacement pitcher, Jot Goar came in and started lobbing the ball over the plate, Brooklyn caught on and tried to make outs of their own to make sure the game reached five innings but the Pirates anticipated the game being called as the weather got worse. It was never called much to the Pirates dismay, because the weather cleared up, leaving the Pirates in a 17-0 hole after five innings. When they realized the game was going to be official they began to play hard again. The Brooklyn pitcher, Bert Abbey, was told not to strain his arm though and with the score out of hand, he began lobbing the ball over the plate, allowing the Pirates to score six runs in the last two innings for a 25-6 final.