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Elbie Fletcher

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Elburt Preston Fletcher

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[edit] Biographical Information

First baseman Elbie Fletcher was born, raised, and attended high school in Milton, Massachusetts. He had an unusual way of getting to the major leagues: he won an newspaper contest. He appeared in the majors very briefly with the Boston Braves in 1934 at the age of 18. Even at that youthful age, he was not the youngest player in the league - that distinction went to Phil Cavarretta, who was 17 at the time. In an image of things to come, Fletcher hit .500 - 2 hits in 4 at-bats that year.

Fletcher came back to the club (now known as the Boston Bees) for 39 games at the age of 19, and then became a regular with the team in 1937 at the age of 21. Ralph McLeod, who was from North Quincy, Massachusetts, near to Milton, and knew Fletcher from high school, was a teammate on the 1938 Bees with Elbie.

From 1937 to 1939, Elbie drew an above-average amount of walks. But in 1940, after being traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates, he began to get over 100 per year. He wasn't just getting walks - he had 7 triples and 14 home runs in 1940, driving in 104 RBI. From 1940 to 1942, he led the National League three times in on-base percentage.

Fletcher continued to play first base for the Pirates until 1947 (entering the Navy in December 1943 and being discharged in December 1945 due to World War II), and getting substantial walks all the time. He was an All Star in 1943. Ralph Kiner joined the team as a 23-year-old rookie in 1946. But while Kiner had a walk to strikeout ratio of 74/109 that year as a rookie, Fletcher had a much better ratio of 111/37. Kiner, perhaps learning from Fletcher, turned it around the next year and went on to draw over 100 walks with less than 100 strikeouts from 1948-1953.

In 1948, Fletcher was not in the majors. In 1949, he went back to Boston for one last season with them, still drawing copious walks and hitting 11 home runs in 122 games for a very productive last season in the majors.

Bill James, in an updated ranking of the top first basemen of all time, ranked Fletcher # 53, between Phil Cavarretta and Rudy York. The similarity scores method shows an interesting similar player to Fletcher, one who is much more recent - Bruce Bochte.

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • NL All-Star (1943)
  • 3-time NL On-Base Percentage Leader (1940-1942)
  • 2-time NL Bases on Balls Leader (1940 & 1941)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 1 (1940)

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