In 1939, Elliott appeared in the minors in two organizations – first with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the International League, hitting .328 over 115 games, then with the Louisville Colonels, hitting .264 in 14 American Association games. Both leagues were at the “AA” level. He also made his first major league appearance that season. He played 32 games for the Pirates batting third in the lineup and manning center field, hitting .333 with 16 extra base hits and 19 RBI. He opened his career with a six game hitting streak, concluding on September 7th in an 8-7 win over the Cincinnati Reds, as he went 4-for-5 with a walk, three runs, two doubles, a home run and two RBI. He struck out only four times in 140 plate appearances. Pittsburgh closed the season with a 68-85 record.
1940 would see Elliott spend the entire season in Pittsburgh. He played mostly right field, also on occasion appearing in center and left. He hit .292 with 34 doubles (NL seventh), 11 triples (NL seventh), 64 RBI and 13 stolen bases (NL sixth). He walked 45 times, striking out 28 times. He batted mostly second and third in the order, but appeared in each of the top six spots in the order at least once. In the shortened second game of a doubleheader on September 8th, he hit a double and a triple, scoring a run and knocking in three as the Bucs defeated the St. Louis Cardinals, 5-4 in five innings. The Pirates closed the season in fourth place, with a 78-76 record.
In 1941, Elliott earned his first all-star selection, hitting .273 in 141 games. He scored 74 runs, collected 76 RBI, and walked 64 times to 52 strikeouts batting between third and sixth in the order. He ranked fourth in the NL with 10 triples and third with a .969 fielding percentage in right field. On August 6th, he went 3-for-3 with two walks and a sacrifice hit in his six plate appearances, scoring three times and knocking in two as the Pirates won a close one with the Cubs, 13-3. Pittsburgh ended up in fourth place, with an 81-73 record.
Elliott was again selected to the NL all-star team in 1942, also earning enough notoriety to earn a ninth place finish in the NL MVP vote. He hit .296 (NL ninth) with 26 doubles, seven triples (NL fifth), and nine home runs for 89 RBI (NL sixth) and 233 total bases (NL sixth). He whiffed 35 times while drawing 52 walks. After spending his entire career to that point in the outfield, he spent the whole season as Pittsburgh’s starting third baseman, batting mostly from the cleanup spot in the order. On the backside of a doubleheader on August 15th, he went 4-for-6 with a double, a home run, and four RBI as the Bucs set down the Cubs, 8-7 in 11 innings. Pittsburgh posted a 66-81 record, fifth place in the NL.
1943 would see Elliott finish eighth in the NL MVP race. He struck out 24 times while drawing 56 walks in 652 plate appearances over 156 games. He also scored 82 runs (NL 10th), hit 30 doubles (NL eighth), 12 triples (NL third), seven homers, 101 RBI (NL second), and a .315 batting average (NL fourth). He was also flashy with the glove, turning in an NL fourth best .949 fielding percentage from the hot corner, batting third through fifth in the lineup. On May 4th, he hit a single, a double, and a triple, collecting four RBI and scoring twice in an 8-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds. Pittsburgh’s 80-74 record had them firmly in the fourth place position.
In 1944, Elliott was selected to the all-star team for the third time, finishing 10th in the NL MVP vote while batting cleanup all season long. He hit .297 with 85 runs scored, 28 doubles, 16 triples (NL second), 10 home runs, nine stolen bases (NL ninth), 108 RBI (NL second), 75 walks (NL seventh), and only 42 strikeouts. He also continued to impress at third base, finishing fifth in the NL with a .944 fielding percentage. On May 7th, he hit two solo home runs in a 6-5 win over the Cubs. On July 25th, he had six RBI in a 15-0 win over the New York Giants. The Pirates improved their record to 90-63, but finished the season in second place, 14.5 games behind St. Louis.
1945 would see Elliott hit .290 over 144 contests. He scored 80 runs and hit 36 doubles (NL third) with 108 RBI (NL sixth). He also drew 64 walks to 38 strikeouts and finished 16th in the NL MVP vote. He hit fourth through sixth while splitting time between right field and third base. On July 15th, in the second game of a doubleheader, he hit for the cycle, making six RBI in a 15-3 win over the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Bucs posted an 82-72 record, finishing the season at fourth place in the NL.
1946 would be Elliott’s last season with the Pirates. He hit .263 in 140 games with new career lows in almost all offensive categories. After the season, perhaps thinking that Elliott was starting the long downward arc at the end of a career, the Pirates dealt him to the Boston Braves with catcher Hank Camelli for second/third baseman Billy Herman, pitcher Elmer “Smoky” Singleton, and centerfielder Stan Wentzel.
If the Pirates thought that Elliott was starting to wash up, they couldn’t have been more wrong. In five seasons with the Braves, he hit .295 with 101 home runs and 466 RBI, earning three all-star selections and winning the 1947 NL MVP Award. He later played with the New York Giants (98 games, .228), the St. Louis Browns (48 games, .250) and the Chicago White Sox (67 games, .260).
For more on Elliott, check out his SABR bio, by John McMurray.
All-Time Statline: Eight seasons, 1047 games, .292/.363/.419, 1142-for-3913, 436 runs, 213 doubles, 68 triples, 50 home runs, 633 RBI, 45 stolen bases, 429 walks, 267 strikeouts, 21.6 wins above replacement.