An on-base percentage machine, Fletcher was a terrific first baseman before World War II who lost two years to military service during the Great War. A master at pitch recognition, Elbie drew in the excess of 100 walks four separate times over the course of his career. Given his supreme batting eye, Fletcher topped the National League in on-base percentage three consecutive years: 1940-1942. More than just a gifted on-base player, Elbie could also swat the occasional homerun and once had a 100 RBI season.
A native of Milton, Massachusetts, Elbie made the Majors in 1934 at the age of 18. He didn’t stick in the Majors at such a young age. The Braves summoned him back to the Majors for good in 1937 when they named him their regular first baseman. Elbie struggled his first full season in the Majors with a meager .247 batting average and 56 walks compared to 64 strikeouts. But the youngster was just getting his feet wet at the Major League level and he would never again strikeout more than he walked in any subsequent season.
Fletcher showed some promise in 1938 but didn’t breakout until he was traded to the Pirates early in the ’39 season. Sent to the Pirates for Broadway Bill Schuster, the trade was a steal for Pittsburgh. Elbie hit .303 with a dozen homeruns the rest of the season. But 1940 was the year Elbie established himself as the premier on-base percentage man in the National League. Although he hit a decent .273, Elbie drew a league high 119 walks which boosted his on-base percentage to an NL best .418. But the first baseman proved to be quite the run-getter as well. Elbie set a career high with 104 RBI and swatted a personal best 16 round trippers.
The Pirates weren’t contenders during the 1940s. Fletcher was one of the few bright spots Pittsburgh had after the end of the Waner Brother days. In 1941, Elbie showed that his monster season in ’40 wasn’t a fluke. He paced the senior circuit in walks and on-base percentage again. A gifted defender as well, Elbie paced first basemen in assists (he would do this six times in his career) and finished second in putouts. He followed up that season with another terrific campaign in 1942 as Elbie paced the NL in on-base percentage for the third consecutive season.
With the war raging overseas, many star players left the game. Baseball had a much different look in 1943 with such stars as Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio joining the service after the 1942 season. Elbie remained on the diamond in 1943 and posted a stellar .395 on-base percentage (fourth in the NL) while leading his position peers with a .996 fielding percentage. But after the season Elbie left the Pirates and served in the military for the duration.
After the war ended Fletcher returned to the Pirates and like many other players wasn’t the same upon his return to the Majors. He only mustered a .256 batting average–the worst mark he fashioned since his first full season in the Majors. The Pirates stuck with him, hoping that he’d regain his form in 1947, but when he failed to do so, he lost his job to an aging Hank Greenberg. Elbie returned to the minors in 1948 where he got back on track and the Braves gave him a final look in ’49. That year Elbie socked eleven homeruns on an amazing .396 on-base percentage. It was his last season in the Majors.
G 1,415/R 723/H 1,323/2B 228/3B 58/HR 79/RBI 616/SB 32/BB 851/SO 495/BA .271/OBP .384/SA .390