This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: February 27th, Pie Traynor Makes the Hall of Fame

Three former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date and there’s one event of note to cover.

The Noteworthy Event

On this date in 1948, Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Pie Traynor was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He narrowly missed getting elected in 1947, falling two votes shy of the minimum 75% of the votes required to gain entrance into the Hall. Traynor played his entire career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, making his debut in September 1920 and continuing on through 1935, briefly making another five game appearance during the 1937 season. He was also the Pirates manager from 1934 until 1939. On the Pirates all-time list he ranks ninth in batting average (.320), seventh in games played (1,941), sixth in runs scored (1,183), tied for fourth in hits (2,416) with Max Carey, sixth in doubles (371), fourth in triples (164) and fourth in RBIs with 1,273. Traynor would be joined that year in the Hall by longtime American League pitcher Herb Pennock, who passed away four weeks earlier. During the 1927 World Series, Traynor broke up a no-hit attempt by Pennock with a one out single in the eighth inning of game three. There was no Hall of Fame ceremony in 1948, so Traynor actually went it with the 1949 class, which consisted of pitchers Mordecai Brown and Kid Nichols, and second baseman Charlie Gehringer.

The Players

Craig Monroe, outfielder for the 2009 Pirates. He was originally an eighth round draft pick of the Texas Rangers in 1995 at 18 years old out of Texas HS in Texarkana, Texas. He made his Major League debut with Texas in 2001 before the Detroit Tigers picked him up off waivers in February 2002. He struggled through his first three years of the minors, yet he still made it to High-A ball by 20 years old in 1997. Monroe broke out in 1998 while repeating High-A. He hit just .242, but it came with 17 homers, 50 stolen bases and 66 walks. Despite the strong stats, he spent a third season in High-A and improved the batting average (.260), but saw a drop in his OBP due to fewer walks. He hit 17 homers again, and he stole 40 bases. Monroe made the jump to Triple-A to end the 1999 season, then reported to Double-A in 2000, where he hit .282 with 20 homers and 64 walks. His stolen bases plummeted to 12 for the season and that was in 25 attempts. After hitting well in Triple-A, the Rangers called him up for his big league debut in late July of 2001. He stayed for three weeks, returned to the minors for two weeks, then came back up in September. In 27 games that season, he hit .212 with two homers. After playing just 13 games for the 2002 Tigers, Monroe became a regular during the 2003 season, playing 128 games that year and in 2004, followed by a  career high 157 games in 2005. The Tigers moved him around the outfield a lot. During the 2004-05 seasons, each year he had at least 20 starts at all three outfield spots, and he often switched spots mid-game if necessary. Despite the versatility, he rated below average defensively during every full season he played in the majors. Monroe played 672 games with the Tigers, hitting .259 with 101 homers. He topped the 20 home run mark three times, hitting a high of 28 in 2006, when he also set a career high with 92 RBIs. In 2004 he put up a .293 average, which was a career best. It was also the only season he topped the .800 OPS mark, finishing at .824 that year. He was a stolen base threat in the minors, then attempted just 37 steals during his nine seasons in the majors, and was successful just half (19) of the time.

Monroe was traded mid-season in 2007 to the Chicago Cubs and hit just .204 with one homer in 23 games. He spent 2008 with the Minnesota Twins, where he struggled, hitting .202 with eight homers and 29 RBIs in 58 games. Minnesota released him in August of 2008 and he signed with the Pirates in January of 2009. He made quite an impression in Spring Training when he hit eight homers and drove in 16 runs. He was the backup corner outfielder once the season started, getting his share of pinch-hit at-bats as well. In 34 games, Monroe had 87 plate appearances, hitting .215 with three homers and 16 RBIs before he was released on July 1st, ending his big league career. He played winter ball during the 2009-10 off-season before retiring. In 814 big league games, he hit .252 with 115 homers, 433 RBIs and 368 runs scored. He has been a broadcaster for the Tigers since 2012.

Matt Stairs, outfielder/first base for the 2003 Pirates. He was originally signed as an amateur free agent by the Montreal Expos in 1989. By the time the Pirates signed him as a free agent in December of 2002, he had already played with five different teams over his ten seasons in the majors. He would end up moving around a lot more after he left Pittsburgh. Stairs debuted in the majors in 1992 at 24 years old. He played two partial seasons with the Expos, which amounted to 19 games total. After spending all of 1994 in the minors, he returned to the big leagues in 1995 with the Boston Red Sox, hitting .261 with one homer in 39 games. Stairs signed with the Oakland A’s as a free agent for 1996 and soon became a strong regular in their lineup. He hit .277 with ten homers in 61 games in 1996, then broke out the next season with a .298 average, 27 homers and 73 RBIs in 133 games. In 1998, Stairs hit .294 with 26 homers and 106 RBIs. That was followed up by his best season in the majors. He saw his average drop to .258, but it came with 89 walks, 94 runs scored, 38 homers and 102 RBIs. He set career highs in walks, homers and runs scored that season. After seeing a sharp decline in his production in 2000 (.227 average and 21 homers), he was traded to the Chicago Cubs. Stairs spent one season at Wrigley, hitting .250 with 17 homers and 61 RBIs in 128 games. He signed with the Milwaukee Brewers as a free agent in 20002 and he hit .244 with 16 homers in 107 games.

For the Pirates in 2003 he mostly played right field until September when he saw more time at first base. He was often as a pinch-hitter as well and finished the year with a .292 average, 20 homers and 57 RBIs in 305 at-bats. His .950 OPS was the second best of his career. He was granted free agency after the season and signed with the Kansas City Royals, where he stayed for the next 2 1/2 season. Stairs went on to play until August 2011 when he was released by the Washington Nationals. He hit .269 with 39 homers and an .801 OPS in 330 games in Kansas City. The Royals traded him to the Texas Rangers at the 2006 trade deadline, but after just 26 games, the Rangers placed him on waivers. He finished the season with the Detroit Tigers, then signed a free agent deal with the Toronto Blue Jays. Stairs spent two seasons in Toronto and put up an .831 OPS in 230 games, hitting .270 with 32 homers and 108 RBIs. He was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies late in the 2008 season and remained there through the end of 2009. Stairs was mostly used as a pinch-hitter in Philadelphia and helped them to a World Series title in 2008 and a second World Series appearance in 2009. He wrapped up his career as a bench player with the 2010 San Diego Padres and 2011 Nationals. He played for 12 teams in his 19-year career and he hit .262 with 265 homers, 899 RBIs and 770 runs scored in 1,895 games. He had an .833 OPS as a pinch-hitter in 490 plate appearances, with 23 homers and 87 RBIs.

Bill Farmer, catcher for the 1888 Alleghenys. He made his big league debut on May 1, 1888, catching Hall of Famer Pud Glavin in a 10-1 loss to Detroit, which was called after seven innings due to darkness. Farmer got his chance to play due to multiple injuries, including starting catcher Doggie Miller. Farmer played his second game in right field for four innings on May 12th, filling in for Cliff Carroll, who became ill mid-game. The local paper said that he played brilliantly on defense, with the records showing that he had four catches in his short time. That would be Farmer’s final game for Pittsburgh. He remained with the club for quite some time after his final game. In early June, a minor league team in Wheeling asked to borrow his services on loan due to multiple catching injuries, but Allghenys owner Al Nimick was unwilling to give him up. A few days later it was mentioned that he might get a try at catching again with the Alleghenys needing to shake things up after starting the season with a 14-19 record. On June 18th and 19th, Pittsburgh played a minor league team from Zanesville, Ohio and Farmer started in center field one day and left field the other. His time with Pittsburgh ended on July 12th when he was released unconditionally, with the Alleghenys paying him up until July 22nd as part of a ten-day player release that was typical of the day. Manager Horace Phillips said that his other catchers were all doing well at the plate and they wouldn’t have any time to play Farmer, so they released him, stating that it would be unfair for him to sit the rest of the season. He played three late season games between August 15th and August 24th for the Philadelphia Athletics of the American Association in 1888, then never play in the majors again. Shortly after he was picked up by Philadelphia in late July, they noted that he would only be used in case of emergency. He was scheduled to catch Gus Weyhing in his Philadelphia debut on July 31st, but injured his hand during warm-ups and couldn’t play. He went 0-for-4 at the plate for the Alleghenys and 2-for-12 with an RBI for the Athletics. His minor league career began in 1884 at 20 years old and ended six years later. While his complete 1887 stat line is unknown, the records show that he had 71 hits in 42 games, including 15 extra-base hits and 12 stolen bases. Along with Jocko Fields and Sam Nicholl, Farmer was one of three players for the 1888 Alleghenys who was born in Ireland.