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A photo of Cap Anson.

Adrian Constantine Anson (April 17 1852April 14 1922), known by the nicknames "Cap" (for "Captain") and "Pop", was a professional baseball player in the National Association and Major League Baseball. He played in a record twenty-seven consecutive seasons,[1] and was regarded as one of the greatest players of his era and one of the first superstars of the game.[2]

Anson spent most of his career with the Chicago Cubs franchise (then known as the "White Stockings" and later the "Colts"), serving as the club's manager, first baseman and, later in his tenure, minority owner. He led the team to five National League pennants in the 1880s. Anson was one of baseball's first great hitters and was the first to tally over 3,000 career hits (3,012 is the most accepted "official" figure). He is generally considered (with the possible exception of Albert Goodwill Spalding) as the most recognizable name of the 19th century. Anson shared the record with Mel Ott (Giants), Stan Musial (Cardinals), and Al Kaline (Tigers) for most major league years entirely with one team (counting National Association as non-major league). Brooks Robinson (Orioles) and Carl Yastrzemski (Red Sox) played entire major league careers of 23 years - to break the record - for one American League team.

His contemporary influence and prestige are regarded by historians as playing a major role in establishing the racial segregation in professional baseball that persisted until the late 1940s.[3] On several occasions, Anson refused to take the field when the opposing roster included black players.

After retiring as a player and leaving the Colts, Anson briefly managed the New York Giants for part of 1898. He ran several enterprises in Chicago, including opening a billiards and bowling hall and running a semi-professional baseball team he dubbed "Anson's Colts". Anson also toured extensively on the vaudeville circuit, performing monologues and songs. Many of his business ventures failed, resulting in Anson losing his ownership stake in the Colts (by then called the Cubs) and filing for bankruptcy.

Anson was selected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939 and was posthumously inducted as one of the first 25 in June, 1939.

Early life

Anson was born in Marshalltown, Iowa.[3] Beginning in 1866, he spent two years at the high-school age boarding school of the University of Notre Dame after being sent there by his father in hopes of curtailing his mischievousness.[4] His time away did little to discipline him, and soon after he returned home his father sent him to the University of Iowa, where his bad behavior resulted in the school asking him to leave after one semester.[4]

Professional career

National Association

Anson played on a number of competitive baseball clubs in his youth and began to play professionally in the National Association (NA) at the age of 19.[3] His best years in the NA were 1872 and 1873, when he finished in the top five in batting, OBP (leading the league in 1872), and OPS. His numbers declined slightly the following two seasons, but he was still good enough that Chicago White Stockings Secretary-turned-President William Hulbert sought him 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 and ultimately founded the new National League to forestall any disciplinary action.[5][3] Anson, who had become engaged to a Philadelphia native in the meantime,[6] had second thoughts about going west, but Hulbert held Anson to his contract and he eventually warmed to the Windy City.[7]

Chicago White Stockings/Colts

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, hence the nickname "Cap",[3] although the newspapers typically called him by the more formal "Captain Anson" or "Capt. Anson". 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 using a third-base coach, having one fielder back up another, signaling batters, and the rotation of two star pitchers.[8][3] In the first half of the 1880s, aided by speedy players like Mike Kelly, Anson had his players aggressively run the bases, forcing the opposition into making errors. After the expression first became popular, in the 1890s, he retroactively claimed to used some of the first "hit and run" plays.

Anson shares credit as an innovator of modern spring training along with then-Chicago President Albert Spalding, as they were among the first to send their clubs to warmer climes in the South to prepare for the season.[8] 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 RBIs 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 RBIs (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 accomplished on August 24, 1886.

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 1898),[2][8] 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. On the managerial front, he failed to win another pennant.

As the end of the 1880s approached, the club had begun trading away its stars in favor of young players, with the exception of the veteran Anson. Local newspapers had started to call the team "Anson's Colts", or just "Colts", before the decade was out. With the advent of the Players' League in 1890, what little talent the club still had was drained away, and the team nickname "Colts", though never official, became standard usage in the local media[9][2][10] along with variants such as (Anson's) White Colts and (Anson's) Broncos.[8]

He also mellowed enough that he became a fatherly figure and was often called "Pop".[3] When he was fired as manager after the 1897 season, it also marked the end of his 27-year playing career. The following season, newspapers dubbed the Colts the "Orphans", as they had lost their "Pop".[8][3]

Racial intolerance

File:Cap Anson 0555fu.jpg

Cap Anson baseball card (N162), 1888.

Anson was well known to be a racist and refused to play in exhibition games versus dark-skinned players.[8] This attitude was not considered to be unusual in his day, and Anson remained very popular in Chicago while playing for the White Stockings. On August 10, 1883 Anson refused to play an exhibition game against the Toledo Blue Stockings because their catcher, Moses Fleetwood Walker, was African American.[8] When Blue Stockings Manager Charlie Morton told Anson the White Stockings would forfeit the gate receipts if they refused to play, Anson backed down.[11][3] On July 14, 1887 the Chicago White Stockings played an exhibition game against the Newark Little Giants. African American George Stovey was listed in the Newark News as the Little Giants' scheduled starting pitcher. Anson objected, and Stovey did not pitch.[8] Moreover, International League owners had voted 6-to-4 to exclude African-American players from future contracts.[12][11] In September 1888 Chicago was at Syracuse for an exhibition game. Anson refused to start the game when he saw Walker’s name on the scorecard as catcher. Again, Anson pressured his opponents to find a Caucasian replacement.[12]

Albert Spalding and James Hart

Anson first met Albert Spalding while both were players; Spalding was a pitcher for the Rockford Forest Citys, Anson played for the Marshalltown, Iowa team.[8] Spalding convinced the 18-year-old Anson to come play for the Forest Citys at a salary of $65 per month.[8]

In 1876, when Anson was playing for Philadelphia, Spalding and William Hulbert lured Anson to the Chicago team, which Spalding now managed.[8] After signing the contract, Anson had second thoughts (his future wife did not want to leave her family in Philadelphia), and offered Spalding $1,000 to void the contract.[8] Spalding held Anson to the contract, and Anson came to Chicago in March, 1876.[8]

Spalding retired as a player and manager after the 1877 season, but continued as secretary, and later president, of the White Stockings.[8] Anson became a player/manager of the team in 1879, and by 1889 had a 13% ownership.[8][6]

In 1888 Spalding announced that the White Stockings, including Anson, and a "picked nine"[6] from the rest of the National League would begin a World Tour after the end of the season. Spalding put up most of the money, but Anson invested $3,750 of his own.[6] James Hart was hired as business manager and Anson developed an intense dislike for him.[6]

After the Spalding stepped down as president of the Chicago club in 1891, he appointed James Hart to the position,[8] which Anson felt should have been his despite his dismal business record.[6] Spalding, however, continued to run the club behind the scenes.[8]

In December 1892, Hart, with Spalding's blessing, reorganized the White Stockings into a stock company.[6] Anson was required to sign a new contract, which ended in 1898 instead of 1899 as the previous one had.[6] Anson spotted the error later but said nothing, trusting that Spalding would honor the previous terms.[6]

Hart began to undermine Anson's managerial decisions by reversing fines and suspensions imposed by Anson.[6] By 1897 Anson had little control over his players; after Anson demanded a sportswriter print that Anson thought "the Chicago ball club is composed of drunkards and loafers who are throwing him down",[6] his days as manager were numbered. Spalding invited Anson and his wife on a four week journey to England in late November 1897.[6] Spalding dropped many hints on the voyage, encouraging Anson to voluntarily retire, but Anson had no intention of doing so.[6] Things remained in limbo until January 29 1898 when the Associated Press printed a statement by Spalding: "I have taken pains as a mediator to find out from Chicagoans how they feel about a change of management. There has been a decided undercurrent in favor... Lovers of baseball think that Anson has been in power too long."[6]

Cap Anson throws out the first pitch for the Cubs in 1908, at Chicago's West Side Park

Career hits total

There has been some controversy as to whether Anson should be considered the first player ever to reach the 3,000 hit milestone. For many years, official statistics credited him with achieving that goal.

When the first edition of Macmillan's Baseball Encyclopedia was published in 1969, it disregarded a rule in place only for the 1887 season which counted base-on-balls (walks) as hits and times-at-bat instead of 0's in both categories as they were before and have been since. Anson's 60 walks were removed from his 1887 hit total, resulting in a career mark of 2,995.[6] The figure was lowered for a time to 2995 because of some disputed findings by the late researcher John Tattersall.

The other controversy over Anson's total hits had to do with his five years in the National Association.[13] Neither the Macmillan Encyclopedia editions nor Major League Baseball itself at that time recognized the NA as being a true major league.[6] Only recently has Major League Baseball website seemed to accept the NA as a de facto major league; the website. compiled by independent statisticians, now includes the NA years in Anson's record, placing major league hits total as 3,418.[13] Anson is officially placed at seventh in the all-time leaders in hits. The ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia, by Pete Palmer and Gary Gillette, last published in 2007, has more or less confirmed the hit figure of 3012. which has also been accepted by the SABR Baseball List & Record Book (published in 2007 and edited by Lyle Spatz of the SABR Baseball Records Committee) and used by The Sporting News Complete Baseball Record Book (latest issued 2008 on-line). Retrosheet has also now accepted the "3012" figure Most historians now use the "3012" figure.

Other sources credit Anson with a different number of hits, largely because scoring and record keeping was haphazard in baseball until well into the 20th century.[14] Beginning with the publication of the Baseball Encyclopedia, statisticians have continually found errors and have adjusted career totals accordingly. According to the Sporting News baseball record book, which does not take NA statistics into account, Anson had 3,012 hits over his career.[15] The National Baseball Hall of Fame (which uses statistics supplied by the Elias Sports Bureau) credits Anson with the long-discredited 3,081 hits.[16] This figure disregards games played in the NA, but includes the 1887 walks as hits, and does not deal with disputed hits.


Anson briefly made a return to baseball managing the New York Giants in June and July of 1898.[8] He then attempted to buy a Chicago team in the Western League, but failed after being opposed by Spalding.[8] In 1900, he helped to organize a new version of the defunct American Association, called the New American Base Ball Association, and was named its president.[3][6] However, at the first sign of trouble he dissolved the league before a single game was played, drawing heated criticism from other backers.[3][6]

After a number of failed business attempts, including a handball arena and bottled ginger beer that exploded on store shelves,[6] he was later elected city clerk of Chicago in 1905[17] and then, after serving one term, failed in the Democratic primary to become sheriff in 1907.[18]

In 1907, Anson made another attempt to come back to baseball, acquiring a semi-pro team in the Chicago City League, which he would call "Anson's Colts".[6][3] Anson initially had no intention of playing for the team, but in June 1907, at the age of 55, Anson started playing some games at first base in an attempt to boost poor attendance.[6] Despite the draw of seeing Anson play, the team did not attract much attendance, and lost money for Anson.[6] In the fall of 1908, Anson assembled a semi-pro football team, also called Anson's Colts. Although the football team won the city championship, they were not a financial success.[6]

Some of Anson's few successful ventures were a combination billiards hall and a bowling alley he opened in downtown Chicago in 1899.[18][6] Anson was named vice-president of the American Bowling Congress in 1903, and led a team to the five-man national championship in 1904.[2] Anson was forced to sell the billiards hall in 1909 when faced with mounting financial problems that led to his bankruptcy.[18] Anson was also an avid golfer.

With the aid of ghostwriter Richard Cary Jr., Anson's memoirs, titled A Ball Player's Career: Being the Personal Reminiscences of Adrian C. Anson, were published in 1900. This book is considered the first baseball autobiography.[6] This book was redently reprinted and is usually considered the mostr authoritative source on Anson.

Anson began acting during his baseball career. In 1888, he made his stage debut with a single appearance in Hoyt's play A Parlor Match at the Theatre Comique in Harlem.[19] He also played himself in an 1895 Broadway play called The Runaway Colt, written to take advantage of his fame.[13][19] Later, Anson began touring on the vaudeville circuit, a common practice for athletes of the time,[19] which lasted up until about a year before his death.[17] He first appeared in vaudeville in 1913 doing a monologue and a short dance. In 1914, George M. Cohan wrote a monologue for him,[19] and in 1917, Cohan, with Chicago Tribune sportswriter Ring Lardner wrote another piece for him, titled First Aid for Father.[6] Anson appeared with two of his grown daughters, Adele and Dorothy, and would bat papier-mâché baseballs made by Albert Spalding into the audience.[6] He appeared in 1921 accompanied by his two daughters in an act written by Ring Lardner with songs by Herman Timberg.[20]

Anson retired from vaudeville in 1921, and continued to refuse a pension from Major League Baseball, despite having no other income.[6] In April 1922, he became the general manager of a new golf club in the South Side of Chicago.[6] Following a glandular ailment,[21] Anson died on April 14 at the age of 69 in Chicago, Illinois and was interred at the Oak Woods Cemetery in Chicago.[22]

Anson was inducted into the Baseball 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 RBI, runs, hits, singles, and doubles.[23] Defensively, he also holds the franchise record for putouts, but also is second in franchise history for errors.[24]

Personal life

In 1872 the 20 year old Anson met 13 year old Virginia Fiegal, the daughter of a Philadelphia bar and restaurant owner.[6] Anson married Virginia on November 21 1876, and they remained married until her death in 1915.[6] For the first seven years of their marriage, the couple lived in Chicago during the baseball season and Philadelphia during the off season, but eventually moved to Chicago year around.[6]

The Ansons had seven children, three of whom would die in infancy.[6] Daughter Grace was born in October 1877, son Adrian Hulbert was born in 1882 and died four days later, daughter Adele was born in April 1884, son Adrian Constantine Jr. was born in 1887 and died four months later, daughter Dorothy was born in 1889, son John Henry was born in 1892 and died four days later, and daughter Virginia Jeanette was born in 1899.[6]

See also


  1. Most Seasons Played. Retrieved on 2006-11-22. (Note that Nolan Ryan's 27 seasons are not consecutive.)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Cap Anson. Society for American Baseball Research Baseball Biography Project. Retrieved on 2008-01-22.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 Pietrusza, David; Matthew Silverman; Gershman, Michael. Baseball: The Biographical Encyclopedia. New York: Total Sports, pp. 29-31.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Cap Chronicled - Chapter 1: The First Son. Retrieved on 2008-01-22.
  5. William Hulbert. Retrieved on 2008-01-22.
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 6.12 6.13 6.14 6.15 6.16 6.17 6.18 6.19 6.20 6.21 6.22 6.23 6.24 6.25 6.26 6.27 6.28 6.29 6.30 6.31 6.32 6.33 David L. Fleitz (2005). Cap Anson: The Grand Old Man of Baseball. Jefferson, N.C: McFarland & Company, 346.
  7. Cap Chronicled - Chapter 2: A Ballplayer is Born. Retrieved on 2008-01-22.
  8. 8.00 8.01 8.02 8.03 8.04 8.05 8.06 8.07 8.08 8.09 8.10 8.11 8.12 8.13 8.14 8.15 8.16 8.17 8.18 Golenbock, Peter. Wrigleyville: A Magical History Tour of the Chicago Cubs. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, pp. 20-90.
  9. Gold, Eddie; Art Ahrens (1985). The Golden Era Cubs: 1876-1940. Bonus Books, pg. 2.
  10. Template:Citation/make link, The New York Times: pg. 3, June 14, 1891, 
  11. 11.0 11.1 Cap Chronicled - Chapter 4: Cap's Great Shame - Racial Intolerance. Retrieved on 2008-01-22.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Rosenberg, Howard W. (2006). Cap Anson 4: Bigger Than Babe Ruth: Captain Anson of Chicago, 560.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Merkin, Scott (July 27 2007). Complex Anson a legend of baseball. Major League Baseball. Retrieved on 2008-01-05.
  14. Schwarz, Alan (2005). The Numbers Game: Baseball's Lifelong Fascination With Statistics. Macmillan, pp. 99-103.
  15. 2007 Complete Baseball Record Book - Career Milestones (PDF). Sporting News. Retrieved on 2007-06-05.
  16. Cap Anson's Hitting Stats. National Baseball Hall of Fame. Retrieved on 2007-06-05.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Cap Chronicled - Chapter 5: Saloons & Stages - Life after Baseball. Retrieved on 2008-01-22.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 - Timeline. Retrieved on 2008-01-22.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 Mark Lamster. Spalding's World Tour: The Epic Adventure that Took Baseball Around the Globe - And Made It America's Game. New York: PublicAffairs.
  20. Laurie, Joe, Jr. (1953). Vaudeville: From the Honky-tonks to the Palace. New York: Henry Holt.
  21. 'Pop' Anson, famed in baseball, dead. New York Times. Retrieved on 2008-01-22.
  22. Adrian Constantine "Cap" Anson. Retrieved on 2008-01-22.
  23. Chicago Cubs Hitting Stats, Career All Time. Major League Baseball. Retrieved on 2008-01-24.
  24. Chicago Cubs Fielding Stats, Career All Time. Major League Baseball. Retrieved on 2008-01-25.

External links