Today’s Card of the Day comes from a set we have not looked at here yet in this series. It features a player who is also making his first appearance, which surprised me, mostly because today’s history article doesn’t have a lot of good matches for a Card of the Day featuring a player shown with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Elbie Fletcher is a little more obscure than he should be in Pirates history. He might be the most patient hitter in team history. He ranks tenth among all Pirates with 625 walks, yet he’s all the way down at 44th place in plate appearances with 3,821. His .815 OPS is 24th best among all qualified hitters. His .403 OBP is ninth best, but five of the players ahead of him have fewer plate appearances. The three who have more plate appearances are named Arky Vaughan, Ralph Kiner and Paul Waner, three of the best hitters in team history. Fletcher obviously isn’t in their elite company, but it’s always nice to put a stat into perspective by using three Cooperstown residents.
Fletcher probably would have a better place in team history if he played through the two war years he missed (1944-45). He was at his peak then, while the competition was dropping around the league, due to losing players like him to the service. The fact that a good portion of his Pirates time came right before and immediately after that war time, means that he isn’t in many baseball card sets showing him on the Pirates. One of those sets is the 1941 Goudey set, which is probably the least popular of his Pirates cards.
Here’s the front of the card:
The back of this card is blank, so this is the only scan necessary. This card can be found with multiple backgrounds, which goes for every card in the 33-card set. You can find this Fletcher card in green, yellow, red or blue. I’ve seen an order for difficulty between the backgrounds, but a search of over 100 scans shows that they all show up at a nearly identical clip. It’s seems like there are slightly more yellow and red backgrounds than blue and green, but nothing that adds value.
Fletcher is card #26 in the set, as shown in the bottom right corner. Whenever I see a number of the front that is 1-2 digits, I wonder if it is a player’s number. I just wrote about Fletcher before doing this article, so I already knew that he had an interesting jersey history with the Pirates. He wore #16 in his first year with the team (1939). He switched to #5 for a short time in 1940, then took #3 for 1940-43. He wore #15 when he returned from the war in 1946, then had #3 again in his final season with the team.
All of the cards in this set have black and white photos with no background visible, though a handful of cards that show full body photos also have the shadow of the players. The funny thing is that not all of the full body photos have the shadows, so they made some game time decisions.
It’s interesting that they used his actual first name on the card instead of the much more popular Elbie. A search of “Elburt Fletcher” on Newspapers.com shows that his first name was used just over 2,000 times during his career in print. Then changing the search to “Elbie Fletcher”, we get almost 41,000 results. That’s quite a difference.
If you’re interested in this card, the scan you see above is the only one that has been on Ebay in the last three months for any color background. It’s a PSA 4 and it’s going for $300. Judging by other cards for sale, the price is at least 2x what it should be, BUT it’s your only option if you want his card, so you can judge if that price is too high for you. This set isn’t that popular because it has very little name power. Carl Hubbell and Met Ott are the only Hall of Famers.