Anson, Adrian Constantine “Cap” (1851-1922)
Adrian Constantine “Cap” Anson (1851-1922)
Superstar. Adrian Constantine “Cap” Anson was baseball’s first superstar. The first player to reach 3,000 career hits, he maintained a batting average of .300 or better for eighteen seasons and played twenty-seven seasons in the major leagues, more than any other player. In 1869 Anson played on the Marshalltown (Iowa) High School baseball team. After a year at Notre Dame University, he became the third baseman for the Rockford Forest Cities (Illinois) of the National Association in 1871 and led the club with a batting average of .352. In 1872 Anson joined the Philadelphia Athletics and batted over .350 for the next four seasons. When the National League formed in 1876, the Chicago White Stockings secretly signed him for $2,000, but Philadelphia counteroffered with $2,500, and he remained in Philadelphia.
The White Stockings. Anson joined the Chicago White Stockings in 1877 and remained with the team until 1897. A first baseman, he became team captain in 1878 and team manager in 1879. With Chicago, the six-foot-one-inch Anson achieved a career-high .399 in 1881. As National League batting champion in 1879, 1881, and 1888, he drove in more than 1,700 runs, hit 96 home runs, and led the league in runs batted in (RBIs) four times and in doubles twice. His season high of 21 home runs came in 1884. An inconsistent fielder, Anson still holds the record of 674 errors committed by a first baseman. As manager of the White Stockings from 1879 to 1897, he posted a record of 1,297 wins and 957 losses and led Chicago to five National League pennants between 1880 and 1886. Anson was on all-star teams that visited England in 1874 and later managed a team that toured the world.
Twilight. Anson’s baseball career declined after 1883 when he canceled a game against Toledo (International League) because an African American, Moses Fleetwood Walker, was their catcher. In 1887 he refused to let Chicago play an exhibition game against Newark (IL) because its starting pitcher, George Stovey, was black. Later that year Anson prevented the New York Giants from signing Stovey and worked out a “gentleman’s agreement” with New York’s manager John Montgomery Ward to permanently bar African Americans from major league baseball. In 1891 Chicago’s fortunes declined, and in 1897 James Hart, the president of the White Stockings, dismissed Anson as manager. After managing the New York Giants for twenty-five days in 1898, he retired from baseball. Anson was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939.
Benjamin G. Rader, Baseball: A History of Americas Game (Urbana Oc Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992);