Jim Russell was a 6'1" switch hitting outfielder from Fayette City, PA. Born October 1st, 1918, he was initially signed by the McKeesport (PA) Little Pirates in 1937. Prior to his Major League debut in 1942, he played minor league ball with the Butler Yankees and the Beaver Falls Browns in the Class "D" level Pennsylvania State Association (192 games, .328, 49 doubles, 11 home runs), the Class "C" level Youngstown Browns of the Middle Atlantic League and the St. Joseph Autos of the Michigan State League (109 games, .266, 20 doubles, 17 home runs), the Class "B" Southeastern League Meridian Eagles (125 games, .363, 52 doubles, 10 home runs), and the Class "A1" Southern Association Memphis Chickasaws (24 games, .383).
In 1942, Russell started out with the "AA" International League Toronto Maple Leafs (99 games, .295, 19 doubles, 40 RBI). He was promoted to Pittsburgh in September, where he played center field and batted second in the order in five games. He collected one hit in his first 14 Major League at bats, but more importantly, he was in the big show to stay.
In 1943, Russell appeared in 146 games, hitting .259 with four home runs and 44 RBI. He was seventh in the NL with 77 walks, which was impressive considering he struck out 67 times. He also ranked amongst the league leaders with 11 triples, (fifth) and 12 stolen bases (third). He batted mostly second in the order, also getting some time batting first and third while serving as the Pirates everyday left fielder. On August 19th, he went 2-for-4 with a walk and three runs, belting two round trippers good for four RBI. He had 37 multi-hit games, including 13 three hit performances and two games in which he had four. The wartime Pirates finished fourth in the National League, 25 games out of first with an 80-74 record.
1944 would see Russell enjoy a breakout campaign. He finished 29th in the year ending NL MVP voting, appearing in 152 games and hitting a career and NL ninth best .312 with an NL third best 109 runs, eight home runs, and 66 RBI. Along with an NL sixth most 79 walks, he had a league eighth ranking OBP of .399. He was also fourth in the league with 14 triples. He batted second and third in the order as the Pirates normal left fielder. He had 52 two hit games, 15 three hit games, five four hit games, and on June 23rd he went 5-for-7 with a run and an RBI in a 5-5 14 inning tie with the St. Louis Cardinals. At 90-63, the Pirates finished the season in second, 14.5 games behind pennant winning St. Louis.
Russell hit .284 in 146 games in 1945. He had 71 walks, 88 runs, 12 home runs and 77 RBI. He ranked fourth in the NL with 15 stolen bases and eighth with eight triples. Mostly slotted third, he also batted second, fifth and sixth in the lineup in left field. On July 23rd, he went 4-of-5 with three runs, a double, a home run, and three RBI as the Pirates defeated the Boston Braves, 8-5. The Pirates finished fourth in the National League at 82-72, 16 games behind the pennant winning Chicago Cubs.
In 1946, Russell hit .277 in 146 games with eight round trippers and 50 RBI. He drew 67 walks, scoring 68 runs with 11 stolen bases. His 29 doubles ranked eighth in the NL. He batted second, third, sixth and seventh while playing most of the season between left field and center, with a handful of starts at first base. In game one of a doubleheader on September 1st, he went 5-for-5 with two runs, two doubles, two triples and an RBI in a 7-6 10 inning loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. Pittsburgh finished the season mired deep in the NL's second division with a 63-91 record, 34 games behind League Champion St. Louis.
1947 would see Russell play in 128 games, hitting .253. He walked 63 times and scored 68 runs while plating 51. He hit eight triples and eight home runs. He batted mostly second in the order, with a few starts in first, third, and sixth as the Pirates center and right fielder. On August 20th, he went 5-for-6 with a double, a triple, three runs and five RBI in a 16-10 ERA killer over the Boston Braves. At 62-92, the Pirates were not good enough to finish out of last place, sharing the honor with the Philadelphia Phillies.
After the 1947 season, Russell was traded along with Al Lyons and Bill Salkeld to the Boston Braves for Johnny Hopp and Danny Murtaugh. He batted .246 over two seasons with the Braves, hitting 17 home runs with 110 walks and 108 RBI. He later finished out his major league career playing two seasons with the Brooklyn Dodgers, hitting .216 with 10 home runs in 93 games.
Russell played two more seasons in the minors after 1950, later serving as a talent scout for the Washington Senators and the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers.
All-Time Statline: Six seasons, 723 games, .277/.367/.407, 729-for-2631, 414 runs, 127 doubles, 47 triples, 40 home runs, 288 RBI, 51 stolen bases, 358 walks, 286 strikeouts, 12.5 wins above replacement.