I am now convinced that Bob Elliott ought to be in the HOF.
In fact, I am convinced that Elliott may well be the most deserving third baseman outside the HOF other than Ron Santo.
When Bill James penned the essay that created the "Keltner List", he suggested that if you ran down the list of questions for Bob Elliott, you'd find a surprising number of yes's on the list. Let's see how he stacks up:
Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?
No, of course not. Elliott played in the era of DiMaggio, Musial, and Williams.
Was he the best player on his team?
From 1942-46, after Arky Vaughn left the Pirates, Elliott was probably the best player on the Bucs. He was the NL MVP with the Braves in 1947 as well. He was NOT the best player on the Braves; Warren Spahn was. Elliott, however, was probably the best position player on the Braves through 1950.
Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?
Elliott was probably the best third baseman in baseball for most of his career; his stiffest competition coming PROBABLY from George Kell. Elliott was traded to make room for the second greatest third baseman in history, Eddie Mathews.
Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?
The Boston Braves improved by four games when Elliott was traded to them. He won the MVP that year. The Braves took the next step forward in 1948 and won the NL pennant; Elliott has a .701 Offensive Winning Percentage, his second best season. Without Elliott, the Braves would not have won the pennant. Most of Elliott's teams posted winning records, although all of Elliott's Pirate teams were in double digits in games behind.
Was he good enough that he could play regularly after passing his prime?
Elliott played until age 36, and was a productive regular through age 34. At age 35, he was traded to the Giants, ostensibly to make room for Eddie Mathews, the hot Braves rookie of 1952. Elliott was shunted to the outfield, as the Giants were committed to Bobby Thompson at third, and they needed coverage for the injured Monte Irvin and for Willie Mays, who was drafted. He had his worst season, but had a better season next year, moving back to third base for the Browns and the White Sox. Elliott could possibly have continued to play regularly at third for 1-2 more seasons past that, but his play would have been fairly close to replacement level.
Is he the very best baseball player in history who is not in the Hall of Fame?
No, he is not.
Are most players who have comparable statistics in the Hall of Fame?
Most players who have comparable batting stats are NOT in the HOF. However, Elliott has a higher career Offensive Winning Percentage than any third baseman outside the HOF, other than Santo, and higher than Brooks Robinson and Pie Traynor.
Do the player’s numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?
Elliott scores 34.2 on HOF standards; this is below average for a HOFer.
Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?
Elliott's nickname was "Mr. Team". He was considered a consummate team player, and he usually played on winning teams. Elliott was also an excellent defensive third baseman; about at league average in fielding percentage, but with high range factors.
Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame?
He's the second best third baseman outside the HOF who is eligible, but not in. I rate Elliott behind Ron Santo, about even with Ken Boyer and Stan Hack, and ahead of Darrell Evans and Graig Nettles.
How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?
Elliott won the 1947 NL MVP award. His 1948 follow-up season was almost as good. In all fairness, Elliott won the award in a year when the superstars were having slightly down years, but Elliott did take the award with nine (9) first place votes, far more than anyone else.
How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the players who played in this many All-Star games go into the Hall of Fame?
Elliott was selected to seven (7) all-star teams, and probably merited two (2) more all-star selections.
If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?
In his better years, possibly. Elliott was probably the best position player on the 1948 Braves that did win the pennant. He was at least the second best player on the Braves, behind Spahn.
In his Pirate years, the answer is "no". Elliott WAS the best player on that team, and the Bucs finished in the first division (usually), but always more than 10 games out.
What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?
Nothing as far as I can see.
Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider.
I believe that Elliott's nickname of "Mr. Team" speaks volumes here.