A Baker’s Dozen Things You Should Know About Cap Anson

Here's a Wikipedia shot of Cap Anson throwing the first pitch in 1908 in Chicago

Time to leave both February and black baseball for a return to the Major Leagues. Here’s a transition (see numbers 8 and 9 below) to start:

1. Adrian Anson was born in Iowa in 1852.

2. He was neither a good student nor a well-behaved child. He was tossed out of both boarding school and the University of Iowa (after a single semester at Iowa).

3. He could play a little baseball. At age 19 he was playing for the Rockford Forest City of the National Association (1871). The team wasn’t very good, but Anson was a competent third baseman and hitter.

4. By 1875 he was a star and one of the first players to join William Hulbert’s new National League.

5. His team, the Chicago White Stockings (now the Cubs), won the first NL pennant with Anson holding down third base.

6. The team fell off the next two seasons resulting in two changes for Anson. He moved to first base which became his primary position for the remainder of his career, and he was made manager (hence “Cap”, short for “captain”) of the team.

7. During the 1880s he was, arguably, the best player in baseball. He won two batting titles, seven RBI titles (and another in 1891), led the NL in hits and doubles once each, and won two OBP and OPS titles in the decade. His team also won five pennants and participated in the 1885 and 1886 versions of the World Series, splitting the title with St. Louis.

8. Anson was in the forefront of opposition to allowing black players to join the NL. When Moses Fleetwood Walker joined the American Association’s Toledo Blue Stockings in 1884, Anson announced the Colt’s (the White Stockings had changed names) would not play the team in any case, exhibition, real, or otherwise. He further announced the team would boycott and team that played a team with a black player. He backed down on the threat a couple of times (the team needed the gate receipts), but seems never to have changed his mind about the issue.

9. Anson’s actions were in part, and I emphasize only “in part”, responsible for the banning of black players from Major League baseball by a “gentlemen’s agreement” (I guess people who do that are “gentlemen”). There were obviously a lot of people who agreed with Anson or the ban could not have occurred.

10. He played his last game in 1897. He also managed his last game with the Colts the same year. In 1898 he managed a handful of games for the Giants, then retired.

11. He  became the first player with 3000 hits (and the only 19th Century player to do so), although his exact hit total is disputed. That, along with his other numbers, got him a ticket to Cooperstown in 1939.

12. Cap Anson died in Chicago in 1922.

13. In 1882, Anson had a son. He named him Adrian (after himself) Hulbert (after William Hulbert, founder of the National League). The child died four days later.

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