It amazes me that Cleveland Indians third baseman Ken Keltner gets so much mileage when Hall of Fame candidates are discussed but his vastly superior peer Bob Elliott receives little support. Elliott, nicknamed “The Franchise” by his Boston Braves teammates, was a run producing third base star of the 1940s.
Elliott made his debut with the 1939 Pirates who had scrappy Lee Handley manning the hot corner and the Waner Brothers in the outfield. There wasn’t a place for Bob on the diamond, but when he hit .333 over 130 at-bats, the Bucs knew they needed to find a place for his bat. The Pirates overhauled their outfield in 1940, benching the aging Waner Brothers and handing Elliott and the eldest DiMaggio, Vince, regular posts in the garden. Bob took over right field and promptly led NL right fielders in hits, doubles and stolen bases.
He received his first All-Star nod in 1941, leading NL right fielders in triples while hitting .273. If there is an argument against Bob Elliott, it is that he played through World War II while most of the game’s stars took up arms. Elliott benefited from he loss of players by driving in 100 or more runs from 1943 to 1945: the three main years of player loss. But, despite this little discrepancy, Bob was a fine run producer – war years or not.
Bob made the transition to third base in 1942 and tied the Cubs Stan Hack for most hits by a hot corner man. He paced NL third basemen in triples, RBI and slugging. In 1943, Bob finished second in the senior loop in the RBI department: he was the only 3B to eclipse the 100 RBI mark. He also paced his position peers in batting average, runs, hits, triples and slugging. For the second straight year, Elliott was the league’s runner-up in the RBI, posting 108 RBI while leading 3B with a .465 SA.
In the final war year, 1945, Elliott notched his third consecutive 100 RBI season. A gifted extra-base hitter, Bob slapped 36 doubles – most by Major League third basemen. With the war finally over, talented players returned to the diamond and men such as Bob, who benefited from three years of playing when the level of talent was weak, now had to prove themselves as viable Major League stars. Bob never hit below .290 in the war years, but when the war ended, his batting average fell to .263 in 1946. The Pirates felt that Elliott was simply a war era star and quickly shipped him off to Boston in 1947 for an aging Billy Herman. The trade was a monumental disaster for the Pirates.
Joining the Boston Braves in 1947, Elliott won the MVP Award by slugging .517 and smacking 22 long balls with 113 RBI. Elliott proved that he was a legitimate star and not a Snuffy Stirnweiss – excelling only when the talent pool was dry. In his MVP season, Bob led NL third basemen in RBI, doubles, walks and batting average. He earned the nickname “The Franchise” by leading the Braves to a World Series the following year in 1948. During his ’48 season, Bob led the National League with a Ted Williamsesque total of 131 walks. In his only World Series contest, Bob hit .333 with two homers and five RBI in a loss to Cleveland.
In 1949, Bob had an amazing 90 to 38 walk-to-strikeout ratio and followed up that season by hitting .305 with his sixth 100+ RBI season. In 1951, Bob made his seventh and final All-Star appearance, leading NL third basemen in doubles. After the ’51 season, he was traded to the Giants and his career was essentially over. He retired after the 1953 season, a campaign split between the Browns and White Sox.
G 1,978/R 1,064/H 2,061/2B 382/3B 94/HR 170/RBI 1,195/BB 967/SO 604/BA .289/SA .440