The Short MLB Career and Life of Elliot Bigelow

“Bigelow’s smacks rank among the hardest hit in Andrews field history and he is feared by every pitcher in the league.”

“Hefty Attack Nicklin’s Aim With Lookouts,” Chattanooga Times, March 24, 1926: 10.

Elliot Bigelow was once listed as a 26 year old prospect (26?) in 1929, one of five players the Boston Red Sox acquired from Washington for Buddy Myer prior to the 1929 season.

Elliot Bigelow - Red SoxElliot Allardice (Gilly) Bigelow was born October 13, 1897 in Tarpon Springs, FL to William Howard Bigelow and Margaret Barclay-Allardice. He was the third of three children born to the horticulturalist and his wife.  William drowned when his sailboat capsized in a storm when Elliot was three and the three children would be raised by Margaret and her second husband, John Hill. Hill was a fruit farmer in the Tampa area.

Elliot spent his high school days playing baseball for Tarpon Springs as a pitcher and outfielder and also spent a short time at a prep school in Mount Herman, Massachusetts (both parents can trace their lineage back several generations to New England).  As with many young athletes, he also played basketball when not playing baseball.  He and his brother John, a pitcher and third baseman, would help form and manage a local town team for Tarpon Springs in 1919.  The next year, he would sign his first pro contract.

For six years, Bigelow was mostly buried in the low minors, despite hitting well over .300 in five straight seasons with St. Petersburg of the Florida State League (and a brief 17-game run with Macon in the South Atlantic League).  He landed in Chattanooga of the Southern Association for the 1925 and 1926 seasons where he would bat .349 and .370 with good numbers of doubles and triples.  He was known as a friendly and “a prince of a fellow,” but infielders generally backed up when Bigelow was a the plate because he was certain to crush a liner or hard grounder their way.

At this point, Washington became interested in Bigelow and gave him a tryout prior to the 1927 season, but instead farmed him back to Birmingham in the Southern Association where Bigelow hit even better than before.

Elliot BigelowBigelow hit .395 in the Southern Association in 1928, following up on a season in which he hit .361 and led the league in homers with 19.  Both seasons were with Birmingham.  The left handed hitter and thrower had developed into a thick (5-11, 185) line drive hitter with fairly good power – and yet was still in the minors ten years after his pro debut.  Despite ten years of gaudy batting statistics, three things were keeping him out of the majors – his actual age (by 1929, he was a 32 year old prospect – not 26), his lack of foot speed (he wasn’t the most mobile of outfielders) and his poor throwing arm, the result of a broken arm as a youngster.  Another story said he injured his arm while pitching in high school.

Regardless, Bigelow wasn’t going to stay in Birmingham or get a second shot with the Senators.  He was moved to Boston as part of the trade that sent Buddy Myer to Washington.  Bigelow’s 1929 season with the Boston Red Sox was his only season in the bigs, appearing in 100 games, batting .284 with little power, but a decent .357 OBP.  However, in those days batting .284 with little power was not quite up to league averages – and his age (and arm and range) being what it was, Bigelow was dispatched back to the minors.  He would spend two years in Chattanooga and a year in Knoxville, most always among the league leaders in batting average and still hitting more than his share of doubles (he led the league in 1931 with 48).  In his twelve year minor league career, he had nearly 2,000 hits and a career batting average of .349; he hit .359 in his seven years in the Southern Assocation.

Elliot Bigelow returned home after the 1932 season, never to play professionally again. Instead he likely went to work for this stepfather’s citrus farm. Bigelow, always good with a sailboat, took up fishing frequently just like his father.  He never married.  Bigelow died August 10, 1933 of cerebral meningitis at his mother’s Tampa home, a few days after surgery had been performed to address an infected ear.

He is buried in Cycadia Cemetery in Tarpon Springs.

Notes: – Elliott – William
World War 1 Registration Card

“Tarpon Springs Base Ball Club Was Organized at the Board of Trade Rooms Saturday Night,” Tarpon Springs Evening Leader, March 10, 1919: 1.

George Kirksey, “Bill Carrigan Start Season With Gang of Minor League Stars,” Johnson City Chronicle, February 12, 1929: 4.

Charles H. Miller, “Bigelow Has Best Batting Average in Southern Past 10 Years,” Memphis Commercial Appeal, January 6, 1928: 19.

Lewie Little,”The Sport Crucible,” Nashville Banner, April 5, 1929: 17.

“Ex-Lookout Dead,” Chattanooga Daily Times, August 11, 1933: 12.

“Elliot Bigelow, Former Member of the Saints Ball Club, Will Be Buried At Tarpon Springs This Afternoon,” St. Petersburg Times, August 13, 1933: 9.

“Bigelow Rights Are Attended By Hundreds,” St. Petersburg Times, August 14, 1933: 6.


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