This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: February 27th, Pie Traynor Heads to Cooperstown

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. Traynor was the sixth former Pirates player to go into the Hall of Fame at the time, following Honus Wagner, Connie Mack, Fred Clarke, Rube Waddell and Jack Chesbro. Traynor was the first player who joined the Pirates after 1900 to make it to Cooperstown.

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 hit .249 in 54 games in the Gulf Coast League in 1995, with 33 RBIs, 13 steals and a .617 OPS. In 1996, he batted .230 in 116 games, while splitting his season Hudson Valley of the short-season New York-Penn League (67 games) and Charleston of the Low-A South Atlantic League. He had 27 doubles, seven triples, five homers and 23 steals that season. In 1997, he spent the year with Port Charlotte of the High-A Florida State League, where he hit .235 in 92 games, with 23 doubles, seven homers and 24 steals in 25 attempts. Monroe broke out in 1998 while repeating High-A Port Charlotte. 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, this time with 21 doubles, 81 RBIs and 40 stolen bases.

Monroe made the jump to Triple-A to end the 1999 season for six games, then reported to Double-A Tulsa of the Texas League in 2000, where he hit .282 with 89 runs, 34 doubles, 20 homers, 89 RBIs and 64 walks. His stolen base total plummeted to 12 for the season, and that was in 25 attempts. He hit well in Triple-A with Oklahoma City of the Pacific Coast League in 2001, batting .281 in 114 games, with 25 doubles, 20 homers and 75 RBIs. The Rangers called him up for his big league debut in late July of 2001. Monroe stayed for three weeks, returned to the minors for two weeks, then came back up in September. In 27 games that season with the Rangers, he hit .212 with two homers. He was selected off of waivers by the Detroit Tigers in early February of 2002. Most of that season was spent with Toledo of the Triple-A International League, where he batted .321 in 99 games, with an .890 OPS. He was back-and-forth between Toledo and Detroit that season, though that amounted to just 13 games. He saw action in April, May, June and July, but that amounted to just six games, with the rest of the time coming as a September call-up.

Monroe became a regular during the 2003 season, and the Tigers moved him around the outfield a lot. Each year during the 2004-05 seasons, 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. He played 128 games in 2003, hitting .240 with 51 runs, 18 doubles, 23 homers and 70 RBIs. In 2004, Monroe played 128 games again, this time batting .293 with 65 runs, 27 doubles, 18 homers, 72 RBIs, and a career best .824 OPS. He played a career high 157 games in 2005 and had 623 plate appearances. He hit .277, with 69 runs, 30 doubles, 20 homers and 89 RBIs. He stole eight bases, which was his career high. 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. In fact, he didn’t have a single stolen base or triple during his final three seasons in the majors. In 2006, Monroe hit .255 in 147 games, with career highs of 89 runs, 35 doubles, 28 homers and 92 RBIs. Through the first four months of the 2007 season, he hit just .222 in 99 games, with 47 runs, 19 doubles, 11 homers and 55 RBIs.

Monroe was traded in late August of 2007 to the Chicago Cubs, where he hit just .204 with one homer in 23 games. After another trade, he spent 2008 with the Minnesota Twins, where he struggled again, 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 by the Pirates on July 1st, which ended his big league career. He played winter ball in Puerto Rico during the 2009-10 off-season before retiring. In 814 big league games, he hit .252 with 146 doubles, 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 as well. In his pro debut in 1989 at 21 years old, he played for three different teams for the Expos, seeing time in the short-season New York-Penn League, as well as both of their Class-A affiliates. He combined to hit .244 in 94 games, with 40 runs, 20 extra-base hits and 28 RBIs. In 1990, he played for West Palm Beach of the Florida State League again, as well as seeing time in Double-A with Jacksonville of the Southern League. He combined that year to bat .287 in 134 games, with 56 runs, 26 doubles, six homers, 64 RBIs, 20 steals and 63 walks. The next year was spent with Montreal’s new Double-A affiliate, Harrisburg of the Eastern League. Stairs hit .333 in 129 games, with 87 runs, 30 doubles, ten triples, 13 homers, 78 RBIs and 66 walks. In 1992, he spent most of the year with Indianapolis of the Triple-A American Association, where he posted a .267 average in 110 games, with 57 runs, 23 doubles, 11 homers, 56 RBIs and 49 walks. Stairs debuted in the majors in late May of 1992 at 24 years old, batting .167 in 13 mid-season games.

Stairs was with Montreal in May/June of 1993 as well, this time getting into just six games. The rest of the year was split between Triple-A (Ottawa of the International League) and Japan. He returned to the U.S. in 1994 and spent the year with New Britain of the Eastern League, the Double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. After spending all of 1994 in the minors, he returned to the big leagues in late June of 1995 with the 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 split the first year in Oakland between Triple-A (Edmonton of the Pacific Coast League) and the A’s. He had a .979 OPS in 51 games with Edmonton, then hit .277 with ten homers in 61 games for the A’s, posting a .915 OPS. He then broke out the next season in his first full season in the majors, finishing with a .298 average, 19 doubles, 27 homers, 73 RBIs and 50 walks in 133 games. In 1998, Stairs hit .294 with 88 runs, 33 doubles, 26 homers, 106 RBIs and 59 walks in 149 games. That was followed up by his best season in the majors in 1999. He saw his average drop to .258, but it came with 89 walks, 94 runs scored, 38 homers and 102 RBIs, while posting an .899 OPS. He set career highs in walks, homers and runs scored that season. He finished 17th in the MVP voting that year, the only time he received MVP votes in his 19-year career.

In 2000, Stairs batted .227 in 143 games, with 74 runs, 26 doubles, 21 homers, 81 RBIs and 78 walks, seeing a dip of 152 points in his OPS. After seeing a sharp decline in his production that year, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs on November 20, 2000. Stairs spent one season at Wrigley Field, hitting .250 with 21 doubles, 17 homers, 61 RBIs and 52 walks in 128 games. He signed a one-year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers as a free agent in 2002, and hit .244 with 41 runs, 15 doubles, 16 homers and 41 RBIs in 107 games. For the Pirates in 2003, he mostly played right field until September, when he began to see more time at first base. He was often as a pinch-hitter as well, and finished the year with a .292 average, 20 doubles, 20 homers, 57 RBIs and 45 walks 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. He batted .267 in 126 games in 2004, with 48 runs, 21 doubles, 18 homers, 66 RBIs and 49 walks. In 2005, Stairs hit .275 in 127 games, with 55 runs, 26 doubles, 13 homers,66 RBIs and 60 walks. He played more right field in 2004, then switched to first base in 2005. The 2006 season saw him play for three teams. 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. Between all three stops, he hit .247 in 117 games, with 21 doubles, 13 triples and 51 RBIs.

Stairs signed a free agent deal with the Toronto Blue Jays on December 7, 2006. He hit .289 in 125 games during the 2007 season, with 58 runs, 28 doubles, 21 homers, 64 RBIs and 44 walks. During the first five months of the 2008 season, he batted .250 in 105 games, with 42 runs, 11 doubles, 11 homers, 44 RBIs and 41 walks. He was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies on August 30, 2008, 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 batted just 19 times in 16 games after the trade in 2008, then pinch-hit four times in the postseason, collecting a two-run homer as his only hit. In 2009, Stairs batted 129 times in 99 games and hit .194 with five homers and 17 RBIs. He wrapped up his career as a bench player with the 2010 San Diego Padres and 2011 Washington Nationals. He hit .232 with six homers and 16 RBIs in 78 games for the Padres, then slumped to a .154 average and no homers in 56 games with the Nationals. He played for 12 teams in his 19-year career and he hit .262 with 294 doubles, 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.

Farmer’s minor league career began in 1884 at 20 years old and ended six years later. He debuted with Chester of the Keystone Association. He has no 1885-86 records, then appears in 1887 with three different teams, including Ashland and Shamokin of the Central Pennsylvania League, and the Oswego Starchboxes of the International Association (I couldn’t find a single reference to the name “Starchboxes” in 1887, they mostly went by “Oswegos”, but I’m willing to just go with it for that name). 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. He was said to have batted .395 with Shamokin and played strong defense, helping them to a league championship. When his signing with Pittsburgh was announced on December 12, 1887, it was said that he was getting paid about $1,200 for the 1888 season. It also noted that his was a Philadelphia player, who played for a team in town called Brandywine, and that the locals were urging the Philadelphia Athletics to give him a try. After his big league season in 1888, Farmer finished out his career with two years for the St Paul Apostles of the Western Association. The 1890 stats aren’t available, but he’s credited with a .272 average, 13 extra-base hits and 38 steals in 63 games in 1889. Along with Jocko Fields and Sam Nicholl, Farmer was one of three players born in Ireland from the 1888 Alleghenys.