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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.