Pittsburgh Pirates Countdown: Top Five First Basemen
By David Hill
2. Elbie Fletcher (1939-1943, 1946-1974)
It would be difficult to follow Elbie Fletcher’s path to the major leagues these days. Instead of being drafted and working his way through the minors, Fletcher actually came to the attention of the then Boston Braves through a newspaper poll. The winner of the poll got an invitation to Spring Training, and Fletcher actually made the Braves Opening Day roster.
Interestingly enough, when Fletcher was acquired by the Pittsburgh Pirates from the Braves, he took over at first for Gus Suhr of the previous slide. He certainly filled Suhr’s shoes admirably, putting together a .279/.403/.412 batting line hitting sixty home runs and 154 doubles.
Where Elbie Fletcher truly stood out was in his ability to get on base. Fletcher led the national League in walks in 1940 and 1941, and led the league in on base percentage from 1940 through 1942. Interestingly, and perhaps because of World War Two, Fletcher made his only appearance in the game for his 1943 season, when he produced a .283/.395/.395 batting line with nine home runs. That season was actually the worst of his first run with the Pirates.
He may not have been the most exciting player, but Fletcher was solid on offense and was stellar defensively, rating among the league leaders in almost every defensive category. And to think what would have happened if his family did not read that fateful newspaper.
Next: The Hall of Famer