Pittsburgh Pirates All-Time Top 100: 30. Elbie Fletcher

Elbie Fletcher was a 6’ first baseman from Milton, MA. Born on March 18th, 1916, the lefty signed his first professional contract with the Boston Braves as a free agent in 1934. He spent most of the year with the Harrisburg Senators in the New York Penn League, hitting .291 in 82 contests. He also made his first major league appearance in September with Boston, going 2-for-4 with a stolen base and four runs over eight contests. He played 71 games with the Wilkes-Barre Penguins in the NYPL in 1935, hitting .365 through 71 contests and also appearing with the Braves, hitting .236 in 39 games.

1936 would see Fletcher appear exclusively with the “AA” level Buffalo Bisons in the International League, hitting .344 in 154 contests. He also clubbed 17 round trippers and 44 doubles. He graduated to the majors for good in 1937, playing the next two and a half seasons with the Braves and racking up a .260 average in 330 games, along with 92 RBI. On June 15th,

1939, Boston sent him to the Pirates for middle infielder Bill Schuster (0-for-3, two games with Boston) and cash. He hit .303 in 102 games with the Bucs, with 12 home runs, 71 RBI, and 48 walks. Despite splitting the season between two teams, he finished 25th in the NL MVP voting. His .991 fielding percentage ranked him fourth in the league. Pittsburgh used him at the fifth spot in the order. On August 31st, in the first game of a twinbill, he went 3-for-3 with two doubles and a walk as the Pirates beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 1-0. The Pirates ended the season in sixth place in the eight team National League, with a 68-85 record.

1940 would see Fletcher hit .273 in 147 Pirates games. He led the NL with 119 walks and with a .418 on-base percentage. He scored 94 runs (NL seventh), hit 22 doubles, seven triples, and 16 home runs for 104 RBI (NL fourth), finishing with enough NL MVP votes to place 19th in the contest. He also led the league by getting nine free passes from HBP. He also ranked high defensively, with 1512 putouts (NL second), 104 assists (NL first), double plays turned (NL second), and a .993 fielding percentage (NL second). He batted first through seventh in the lineup (mostly fifth). He had 35 multi hit games on the season, including a 3-for-4 afternoon with a walk, a double and five RBI in an 11-5 win against the Phillies on June 9th. On June 20th, he hit three doubles and collected four RBI in an 8-7 win against his former club, now known as the Boston Bees. The Pirates finished at 78-76, fourth place in the NL.

In 1941, Fletcher hit .288 in 151 games (NL eighth), again leading the NL with 118 walks and with a .421 OBP. He scored 95 runs (NL fourth), hit 29 doubles, 13 triples (NL second), 11 home runs and 74 RBI, finishing 14th in the NL MVP voting. He also posted a just-another-day fielding percentage of .991 (NL fourth). He batted second through seventh in the order, mostly at fifth. On July 6th, in game one of a doubleheader, he hit a double and two solo home runs, accounting for all of Pittsburgh’s offense in a 2-1 win against the Chicago Cubs. The Bucs finished in fourth place, with an 81-73 record.

In 1942, Fletcher led the NL with a .417 OBP. He hit .289 with 105 walks (NL second) in 145 contests at first base. He scored 86 runs (NL ninth), hit 22 doubles and collected 57 RBI. His .992 fielding percentage was third best in the NL. He batted mostly third and fifth in the order. On July 11th, he went 2-for-4 with two runs and a grand slam in a 12-5 blitzing of in-state nemesis Philadelphia. The Pirates finished with a 66-81 record, in fifth place in the NL.

1943 would see Fletcher hit .283 over 154 games (NL fourth) as Pittsburgh’s regular first baseman. He scored 91 runs (NL sixth), hit 24 doubles and nine home runs for 70 RBI, drawing 95 walks (NL second) and finishing with a .395 OBP (NL fourth) batting third, fifth or sixth in the order. He also was selected to appear in his first and only career all-star game, finishing 21st in the season ending NL MVP vote, leading the league with a .996 fielding percentage. On April 25th, he collected a season high four hits (all singles), scoring twice in a 6-2 win over the Chicago Cubs. He hit two doubles and a triple in a 9-6 win against the Brooklyn Dodgers on August 24th. The Pirates finished in fourth place in the National League, at 84-70.

After spending two years serving in the military, Fletcher returned to action in 1946. He hit .256 over 148 games (NL sixth) back at first base, with 72 runs scored, 25 doubles, eight triples (NL fifth), 66 RBI, and 111 walks (NL second) for a .384 OBP (NL eighth). His .995 fielding percentage placed him third in the NL. He batted first through seventh in the order, mostly in the two slot. In a 10-inning 4-3 loss to the Braves on June 22nd, he walked, hit a double and a home run, accounting for all three of Pittsburgh’s RBI. The Pirates finished the season in seventh, at 63-91.

1947 would be Fletcher’s last season with the Pirates. He played 69 games at first base, hitting .242 with a .364 OBP. Pittsburgh traded him to the Cleveland Indians for Les Fleming (24 games with Pittsburgh, .258) after the season. He was released soon after the 1948 season started, signing a free agent contract with the New York Giants. After hanging out in the minors for a season, the Braves purchased his contract, where he finished up his major league career, hitting .262 in 122 games for Boston.

All-Time Statline: Seven seasons, 916 games, .279/.403/.412, 875-for-3140, 509 runs, 154 doubles, 43 triples, 60 home runs, 464 RBI, 20 stolen bases, 625 walks, 306 strikeouts, 23.8 wins above replacement.

Next up: a catcher from the glory days.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of the managing editor (Charlie) or SB Nation. FanPosts are written by Bucs Dugout readers.

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