Cap Anson

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Cap Anson.jpg

Adrian Constantine Anson
(Pop, Uncle, Cap, Captain)

Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1939

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Biographical Information[edit]


"One July afternoon many years ago some player on the bench happened to mention Pop Anson and his remarkable record. The fact was brought out that the famous old slugger was the only player who had ever made three thousand hits. It seemed a staggering total. I was fairly swamped by it." - Hall of Famer Sam Crawford, writing in Baseball Magazine in 1917, about his goal of 3,000 hits (which he never reached)

Adrian Constantine "Cap" Anson (April 11, 1852, Marshalltown, IA - April 14, 1922, Chicago, IL) was a first baseman and third baseman for the Rockford Forest Citys, Philadelphia Athletics, and Chicago White Stockings. His major league playing career lasted 27 seasons, and he also managed for many years (mostly as a player-manager). One of the first superstars in the game's history, he is likely the first man in history to reach 3,000 hits

Playing Career[edit]

Signing and National Association[edit]

Anson spent a year at the University of Notre Dame before he started playing professionally in 1871 in the National Association. His best years in the NA were 1872 and 1873, when he finished in the top 5 in batting, OBP (leading the league in 1872), and OPS both years. He fell off a little after that, but was still good enough that he was sought by Chicago White Stockings Secretary-turned-President William Hulbert as he strove to improve his club for the 1876 season. Hulbert broke league rules by negotiating with Anson and several other stars while the 1875 season was still in progress, ultimately founding the new National League to forestall any disciplinary action. Anson, who had married a Philadelphia, PA native in the meantime, had second thoughts about going west, but Hulbert held Anson to his contract and he eventually warmed to the Windy City.


Anson with Chicago in 1888

The White Stockings won the first league title, but fell off the pace the following two seasons. During this time, Anson was a solid hitter, but not quite a superstar. Both his fortunes and those of his team would change after Anson was named captain-manager of the club in 1879. With Anson pacing the way, the White Stockings won five pennants between 1880 and 1886. They were helped to the titles using new managerial tactics, including the rotation of two star pitchers. After the expression first became popular, in the 1890s, he retroactively claimed to used some of the first "hit and run" plays, and, especially aided by clever base runner King Kelly in the first half of the 1880s, had his players run the bases in a way that forced the opposition into making errors.

In a modern sense of going South right before a season, he shares credit as an innovator of spring training along with then-Chicago President Al Spalding. An aggressive captain and manager, he regularly helped players play better, and his contributions helped make baseball a higher-quality sport, while at the same time making it more popular with fans. On the field, Anson was the team's best hitter and run producer. In the 1880s, he won two batting titles (1881, 1888) and finished second four times (1880, 1882, 1886-87). During the same period, he led the league in RBI an incredible seven times (1880-82, 1884-86, 1888). His best season was in 1881, when he led the league in batting (.399), OBP (.442), OPS (.952), hits (137), total bases (175), and RBI (82). He also became the first player to hit three consecutive home runs, five homers in two games, and four doubles in a game, as well as being the first to perform two unassisted double plays in a game. He is one of only a few players to score six runs in a game, a feat he accomplished on August 24, 1886.

Unfortunately, Anson was well-known to be a racist. While baseball would have become segregated without him, his regular refusal to play in exhibition games versus dark-skinned players helped usher in segregation. Despite this, Anson remained very popular in Chicago while playing for the White Stockings, which were increasingly known as the Colts starting with an influx of new players in the mid-1880s. Anson signed a ten-year contract in 1888 to manage the White Stockings (which, because of a typographical error he failed to spot, ended after the 1897 season instead of the 1898 one), but his best years were behind him. He led the league in walks in 1890 and garnered his eighth and final RBI crown in 1891, but declined precipitously thereafter. He still became the oldest player to hit a home run in the National League, when he hit his final home run at the age of 46 in 1897. This mark stood until 2005, when it was beaten by 47-year-old Julio Franco. On the managerial front, he failed to win another pennant. He also mellowed enough that his nicknames became "Uncle" and "Grandpa." When he was fired as manager after the 1897 season, it also marked the end of his 27-year playing career. The following season, reporters called the former Colts the "Orphans" to reflect Anson's departure.

3,000 Hits?[edit]

There is much controversy as to whether he became the first player ever to make 3,000 hits in a major league career. For many years, recognized statistics credited him with precisely that total. Researchers in the 1990s argued that he was incorrectly credited with extra hits in 1887, when bases on balls were counted as hits. Eliminating the 60 walks Anson received that year would drop his hit total to 2,995 according to statistics officially recognized by Major League Baseball. However, if one counts his 423 earlier hits in the NA, the major leagues' predecessor (which Major League Baseball does not), he is well over the mark. He was, by any standard, the first player to make 3,000 hits in his professional career.

Post-Playing Career[edit]

Anson briefly made a return to baseball managing the New York Giants in June and July of 1898, but fully retired afterward. He was later named president of a new American Association, but he scuttled the venture at the first sign of trouble, leaving him a laughingstock. He was later elected city clerk of Chicago in 1905, and failed in the Democratic primary to become sheriff in 1907. He opened a lavish billiard club and bowling alley in Chicago in 1899, billed at the time as having "the largest and best equipped billiard and pool rooms in the world", but the venture went bankrupt in 1908. He proceeded to mortgage his home to finance a semi-pro team in 1909, but that enterprise went bust within a year, leaving him with his house foreclosed and no obvious means of supporting himself.

He then decided to try his hand in vaudeville, something which a lot of baseball players did at the time. He was not a particularly talented actor, but he could recite a decent monologue (and George M. Cohan and Ring Lardner wrote texts for him), keeping the crowd's attention. In later years, he had even greater success with an act with two of his daughters, Adele and Dorothy, who performed most of the singing and dancing, while at the show's climax, Anson would stand on stage in his old Cub uniform, swinging a silver bat and hitting papier-mâché balls lobbed at him by spectators. As unlikely as this sounds, this was a big success and he toured the United States in various reviews, putting him back in a correct financial position. As late as 1920, he had delusions of becoming commissioner of baseball. He settled for general manager of a golf club in Chicago in April 1922, dying that month of a glandular ailment at the age of 69. He was interred in the Oak Woods Cemetery of Chicago, his funeral a huge event in Chicago.

Of course, he would have liked to remain involved in baseball, and most particularly in the Chicago National League club. He had become a minority owner in 1880 when he bought his first shares, and that status helps explain why he was vehemently against the Players League in 1890, going on the record to call those who jumped to the new circuit as "traitors". When the Players League collapsed after that season, he was hailed by some journalists as "the savior of the National League", but he had also created bitter rivalries with those he had insulted, who would never be interested in cutting him a break after that. When Al Spalding retired from actively running the Chicago team in 1891 to look after his sporting goods business, Anson expected to succeed him as team President, but instead it was team secretary Jim Hart who was picked by Spalding. Hart eventually bought a majority of team shares, and while he offered Anson, who by then was a bitter rival, an opportunity to buy him out, Anson failed to round up enough investors to do so. By the time his contract as manager expired, he was no longer in a position to influence decisions. He eventually sold his remaining stock in 1905.

Anson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1939, one of the first 19th Century players selected. Over 100 years after his retirement, he still holds several Cubs franchise records, including most career hits and runs. In addition, the White Sox owe their name to the team he made famous, the White Stockings of the 19th Century and Anson, in part motivated by his dislike for the current management of the Chicago National League club, played an unorthodox role in helping Charles Comiskey place the White Sox in Chicago for the 1900 season.

In 1992, Anson was one of the ringers originally chosen by C. Montgomery Burns for his softball team to lead the Springfield Power Plant to glory in The Simpsons episode "Homer At The Bat". Unfortunately for Burns, all of his handpicked ringers were long deceased.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 2-time NL Batting Average Leader (1881 & 1888)
  • 4-time League On-Base Percentage Leader (1872/NA, 1881/NL, 1888/NL & 1890/NL)
  • 2-time NL OPS Leader (1881 & 1888)
  • NL Hits Leader (1881)
  • NL Total Bases Leader (1881)
  • 3-times NL Singles Leader (1880, 1881 & 1888)
  • 3-time League Doubles Leader (1871/NA, 1877/NL & 1885/NL)
  • 8-time NL RBI Leader (1880-1882, 1884-1886, 1888 & 1891)
  • NL Bases on Balls Leader (1890)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 1 (1884)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 7 (1884-1887 & 1889-1891)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 6 (1884-1889)
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1939

Preceded by
Bob Ferguson
Chicago White Stockings Manager
Succeeded by
Silver Flint
Preceded by
Silver Flint
Chicago White Stockings - Colts Manager
Succeeded by
Tom Burns
Preceded by
Bill Joyce
New York Giants Manager
Succeeded by
Bill Joyce

Year-By-Year Managerial Record[edit]

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs Notes
1875 Philadelphia Athletics National Association 4-2 3rd Philadelphia Athletics Replaced Dick McBride (49-18) on October 11
1879 Chicago White Stockings National League 41-21 -- Chicago White Stockings Replaced by Silver Flint on August 28
1880 Chicago White Stockings National League 67-17 1st Chicago White Stockings League Champs
1881 Chicago White Stockings National League 56-28 1st Chicago White Stockings League Champs
1882 Chicago White Stockings National League 55-29 1st Chicago White Stockings League Champs
1883 Chicago White Stockings National League 59-39 2nd Chicago White Stockings
1884 Chicago White Stockings National League 62-50 5th Chicago White Stockings
1885 Chicago White Stockings National League 87-25 1st Chicago White Stockings League Champs Tied World's Series
1886 Chicago White Stockings National League 90-34 1st Chicago White Stockings League Champs Lost World's Series
1887 Chicago White Stockings National League 71-50 3rd Chicago White Stockings
1888 Chicago White Stockings National League 77-58 2nd Chicago White Stockings
1889 Chicago White Stockings National League 67-65 3rd Chicago White Stockings
1890 Chicago Colts National League 83-53 2nd Chicago Colts
1891 Chicago Colts National League 82-53 2nd Chicago Colts
1892 Chicago Colts National League 70-76 7th Chicago Colts
1893 Chicago Colts National League 56-71 9th Chicago Colts
1894 Chicago Colts National League 57-75 8th Chicago Colts
1895 Chicago Colts National League 72-58 4th Chicago Colts
1896 Chicago Colts National League 71-57 7th Chicago Colts
1897 Chicago Colts National League 59-73 9th Chicago Colts
1898 New York Giants National League 9-13 -- New York Giants Replaced Bill Joyce (68-60)
from June 11 to July 7

Records Held[edit]

  • Errors, first baseman, career, 583

Further Reading[edit]

  • David L. Fleitz: Cap Anson: The Grand Old Man of Baseball, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2005. ISBN 978-0-7864-2238-8
  • Michael Haupert: "Exit Stage Left: The Sad Farewell of Cap Anson", The National Pastime, SABR, 51, 2023, pp. 18-21.
  • Robert H. Schaefer: "Anson in Greasepaint: the Vaudeville Career of Adrian C. Anson", in The National Pastime, SABR, Volume 28 (2008), pp. 129-137.

Related Sites[edit]

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