|Book Review: Pie Traynor Biography|
Written by Owen McGivern (Contact & Archive) on February 17, 2010
"Pie Traynor" is a mellow, pleasant biography of the erstwhile Pittsburgh Pirates third sacker.Â PT was with the club from 1920-1939 as player, player-manager and manager. The story faithfully follows Pie down through the years when Big League ball was far rougher than it is today. Yet we learn that Spring Training of 1922 in West Baden Springs, Indiana, included a regimen of mineral baths!
Among the highlights is a fine recounting of the exciting 1925 World Series victory over the Washington Senators. The rain-soaked Game 7 must have been a great one, with that controversial catch by the Senators' Sam Rice. We also learn that the Pirates were not intimidated by the Murderers Row of the 1927 Yankees, though they lost that Fall Classic in 4 games straight. Another high point is the sad tale of the 1938 pennant race against the Cubs. The Pirates lost that one when Gabby Hartnett hit the infamous "homer in the gloamin'" in darkening Wrigley Field.
There is also a fretful look at Babe Ruth in his final blaze of glory.Â On May 25, 1935 the big guy hit three homers at Forbes Field, with Traynor as the Pirates skipper. Lots of stars and characters from the past pass by: Kiki Cuyler, that Main Line Blue Blood Herb Pennock, Stan Musial, Dizzy Dean, Charlie ("Jolly Cholly") Grimm, Heinie Manush and Poosh 'Em Up Tony Lazzeri -- a Cub in his final days. There is also Pie's teammate, Paul Waner. Casey Stengel marveled that Waner could slide "without breaking the bottle on his hip!"
Things got more serious for Pie in his final playing days. Injuries took their toll and the guy was not cut out to mange. Pie was never highly paid and failed to negotiate higher salaries for himself.Â His final, non-playing years are almost uplifting. One wonders if the guy wasn't happier out of uniform!Â Pie became a Pittsburgh institution. He was a ubiquitous public speaker and pitchman for the American Heating Company on radio KQU ("who can?-American!"). He was close friends with Steelers' founder Art Rooney. He seemingly knew everyone in town.Â If his final years were hard, Pie hid it well. One suspects he preferred the role of elder statesman to ballplayer.
This bio is a very nice stroll down memory lane.Â Steel City natives should pounce. Those who drink Iron City Beer will be right at home. There are lots of Pittsburgh-specific references herein.Â Fans of old-time baseball also have a safe choice here.Â But "Pie Traynor" is best for a limited audience. Younger fans may fail to identify.Â Those who never heard of "the Homer in the Gloamin,'" all the guys mentioned above or remember that Tony Lazzeri started with the Yankees may not be at home here. Those who fondly recall Roy Face, Bob Skinner-or Rocky Nelson (!) will be happy with this biography of the Hall of Famer, Pie Traynor.
On a positive closing note, this bio is very well-researched with 21 pages of notes and bibliography.Â The authors have done their homework.Â Photos are sharp and clear and the type is easy on the eye. Since so many publishers skimp on such details, these items are worthy of mention.
AHP Rating: 2 Balls for most, 3 Balls for hardcore fans
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Four Balls: An exceptional book that truly earns a walk straight to the local book store to get a copy.