THE BEST SEASON IN BOSTON'S BASEBALL HISTORY

A consistent and sometimes spectacular player, Bob Elliott was the biggest everyday offensive threat on the 1948 Boston Braves. He led that pennant-winning team in games played, home runs, and runs batted in. He was very selective at the plate, striking out just 57 times while leading the National League with 131 bases on balls. The performance was not surprising; a year prior, the husky third baseman became the first Boston Brave to be named the National League’s top player since Johnny Evers won the Chalmers Award in 1914. Sportswriter Harold Kaese quoted Hall of Fame second baseman/manager Rogers Hornsby as saying, “Bob Elliott made the Braves. He’s the old-time type who hits and plays his best in the clutch.”

It is sometimes reported that the right-handed Elliott was such an integral part of the ’48 Braves lineup that New England sportswriters gave him the nickname “Mr. Team.”
A profile of Elliott published by the Pittsburgh Pirates when he was with that team in 1943 had foreshadowed his success with Boston, saying that “his power, speed, and fielding skill and spirit make him look so much like a natural that there is hardly any question that he is destined to rank eventually with the greatest of his time.”

Elliott was a rugged young man, blond, blue-eyed, and wearing a chin like a chisel, and was well regarded by his peers, fans, and the press.

The 6-foot, 185-pound line-drive hitter came to the major leagues as an outfielder, and he played there through 1941 with the Pirates. In support of the war effort, Elliott joined Elvin “Buster” Adams of the Philadelphia Phillies working for Consolidated-Vultee Aircraft Corp. in San Diego during the 1943 offseason.

While never known principally for his defense, Elliott did develop into a mighty fine third baseman in spite of his growing pains.
Durability was another Elliott trademark. Once he became a regular with the Pirates in 1940, he never played in fewer than 140 games with the team through 1946. He batted in more than 100 runs in every season from 1943 through 1945, and on July 15 of ’45 hit for the cycle. Although he was approaching 30 years of age, he was clearly the the Pirates most desirable player in a potential trade.
That change of scenery took place after Elliott endured a subpar 1946 season, by his standards (.263, 5 homers, 68 RBIs). On September 30th, the day after the end of the season, the Pirates traded Elliott to the Braves along with Hank Camelli in return for Billy Herman, Elmer Singleton, Stan Wentzel, and Whitey Wietelmann.


In spite of his success with Pittsburgh, Elliott never did reach his full potentiality until he was traded from the Pirates to the Braves. Billy Southworth reportedly started envisioning a pennant when Elliott joined the team, and he made a point of motivating his new third sacker.
Elliott hustled and won the most valuable player award. That was 1947 and the lift he gave the Braves spurred them to the pennant the following season. In fact, that reputation for hustling stayed with Elliott.

Although he finished in the top 10 in the National League’s MVP voting in every year from 1942 through 1944, Elliott’s performance in 1947 put him over the top. He batted .317, hit 22 home runs, had a career-best 113 RBIs, and seemed to always make the key hit or fielding play when the Braves needed it. In the MVP balloting, Elliott received nine of the 24 first-place votes and 205 total points, outdistancing second-place finisher Ewell Blackwell of the Cincinnati Reds by 30 points. “Mr. Team” became the first NL third baseman ever to win the award as well as the first player from a non-pennant-winning team to earn the NL honor since 1938.

During his breakthrough season Elliott did not lead the National League in any statistical category, although he was second in batting and doubles (35), sixth in on-base percentage (.410), and fourth with his career-high RBI total.

Elliott  signed a new contract for $30,000 shortly thereafter. He was still far from the six-figure stratosphere inhabited around that time by Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams, but he was among the top-paid players on a club filled with veterans.

After another 100 regular-season RBIs in 1948, capped by his pennant-clinching home run, Elliott had a few more big blows in the World Series versus the Indians. With the Braves trailing three games to one, and a then-record 86,288 fans watching at Cleveland, he hit two homers to pace an 11-5 Boston win in Game Five. In the top of the first inning, his three-run shot off Bob Feller gave Boston a 3-0 lead; two innings later, he hit a solo blast off Feller. The Indians wound up winning the sixth game and the series back in Boston, but “Mr. Team” finished the fall classic with seven hits, five RBIs, and a .333 average.

His Game Five heroics made up for some defensive gaffes by Elliott earlier in the Series. He made three errors at third base during the first two games, and the press was quickly on his heels. It was unknown to the public at the time that Elliott’s father was “critically ill,” causing Bob to travel to California to be with his dad before the series opened in Boston. Elliott was intent on keeping the matter private at first, but an unnamed teammate revealed the situation to the media.

After Game Two, Elliott played errorless defense and set World Series records for chances accepted at third base (28) during a six-game series as well as the most chances accepted cleanly (25).

Although the Braves fell from their lofty heights in 1949 and never captured another pennant in Boston, Elliott stayed one of the team’s top offensive contributors. One highlight for Bob in his remaining years with the club was hitting three home runs in a game on September 24, 1949, and his 76 RBIs that season gave him the distinction of having driven in more runs during the 1940s (903) than any player in the majors. He started off the next decade in similar fashion (with 24 homers and 107 RBIs in 1950), but his performance slipped a bit in 1951. Although his offensive numbers were down, he was still chosen as an All-Star that summer, the third time has a member of the Braves and his seventh overall.

After this disappointing campaign came more headaches for Bob in the form of a salary dispute. Ten days before the start of the 1952 season, reports from the spring training camp hinted that the contract offered by the Tribe included the maximum pay cut of 25 percent from Elliott’s 1951 stipend.

With the team trying out Willard Marshall at third, Elliott was concerned about his job security. The timing of his dispute couldn’t have been worse for Elliott, coming on the heels of his subpar season and with the team losing money due to a dramatic drop-off in attendance. Thus “Mr. Team” was likely not surprised when, past his 35th birthday, the Braves traded him to the New York Giants on April 8, 1952, in return for relief pitcher Sheldon Jones and $50,000.

 Elliott was posthumously inducted into the San Diego Hall of Champions in January 1967. Thirty years later, on August 30, 1997, he was similarly elected to the Boston Braves Hall of Fame by fans of the long-defunct team who had formed the Boston Braves Historical Association.