Anson, Adrian Constantine ("Cap"; "Pop")
ANSON, Adrian Constantine ("Cap"; "Pop")
(b. 17 April 1852 in Marshalltown, Iowa; d. 18 April 1922 in Chicago, Illinois), major league baseball's first true superstar as a great hitter, manager, and innovator with the Chicago White Stockings.
Anson was the younger of two sons of Henry Anson, a homesteader and hotel operator who helped found Marshalltown, and Jeannette Rice, a homemaker who died when Anson was seven years old. Anson attended Marshalltown public schools, spent two years at the Notre Dame boarding school, and studied for one year at the University of Iowa, from 1869 to 1870. Between 1866 and 1870 he played with his father and uncle on the Marshall-town Stars baseball club, winners of the 1867 state championship.
In 1871 Anson signed for $66 a month as a third baseman with the Forest City Club of Rockford, Illinois, in the National Association. He led Rockford with a .325 batting average and led the league with 11 doubles. After Rockford disbanded, Anson played for the Philadelphia Athletics primarily at first base from 1872 through 1875. He batted .415 with 50 runs batted in (RBI) and paced the National Association with a .455 on-base percentage in 1872. He hit .398 in 1873. In five National Association seasons he compiled a .360 batting average with 423 hits and 197 RBI.
In 1876 Anson married Virginia Fiegal; they had seven children. William Hulbert, the owner of the Chicago White Stockings in the National League, secretly signed Anson for the 1876 season for $2,000. Hulbert had violated league rules by conducting negotiations with Anson and other players while the season was in progress, and in order to forestall expulsion from the National Association, he formed the National League. Anson unsuccessfully sought to be released from that contract when the Athletics offered him $500 more and his new wife opposed moving west.
Anson played first base with the Chicago White Stockings from 1876 to 1897, setting a major league longevity record. He planned originally to rejoin Philadelphia in 1877, but following the 1876 season the National League expelled the Athletics for failing to complete the 1876 road schedule. A right-hander at six feet, one inch and 220 pounds, Anson batted .329 with 2,995 hits and 1,879 RBI in twenty-two seasons for Chicago and hit over .300 in twenty seasons. He led the National League in RBI eight times (1880–1882, 1884–1886, 1888, 1891), recording a career-high 147 in 1886. Anson won four National League batting titles, hitting .317 in 1879, .399 in 1881, .347 in 1887, and .344 in 1888. He also paced the National League five times in fielding percentage (1877, 1880–1881, 1888–1889), three times in on-base percentage (1881, 1888, 1890), twice in doubles (1877–1885), and once each in hits (1881) and walks (1890).
Anson also was notable for his other hitting achievements. A booming line-drive hitter with power in the "dead ball era," he recorded five or more hits in ten games, and in July 1883 he became the first player to double four times in a major league game. On 6 August 1884 he became the first player to belt three consecutive home runs in a major league game. He had clouted two home runs the previous day, making him the first player to hit five home runs in consecutive major league games. He then tied a major league record with six runs scored on 24 August 1886.
The premier nineteenth-century manager, Anson piloted the Chicago White Stockings from 1879 to 1897. His clubs won 1,296 games, giving him a .578 career win-loss percentage. During his first eight managerial seasons, Anson directed Chicago to National League pennants in 1880, 1881, 1882, 1885, and 1886. He hit .423 to help the White Stockings defeat the St. Louis Browns of the American Association in the 1885 World Championship Series, but St. Louis defeated Chicago 4–2 in the 1886 World Championship Series.
Anson managed numerous star players, including Larry Corcoran, Jim McCormick, Clark Griffith, Michael Kelly, Ed Williamson, and Bill Lange. A strong disciplinarian, Anson did not allow his players to drink alcoholic beverages, smoke cigarettes or cigars, or use drugs. He helped introduce the practice of spring training in 1886, when he took the White Stockings to Hot Springs, Arkansas. Anson pioneered the use of hit-and-run plays, signaling, base stealing, player platooning, coaching boxes, and pitcher rotation. He also participated on American All-Star teams visiting England in 1874 and touring the world in 1888 and 1889.
Anson, reflecting the racial prejudices of that era, opposed allowing African Americans to play major league baseball. In 1883 he threatened to withdraw the White Stockings from an exhibition game with the Toledo Mudhens because Toledo catcher Moses Fleetwood Walker was African-American. Anson relented, however, when Toledo threatened to withhold Chicago's financial guarantee. Four years later his club refused to play an exhibition game with Newark of the International League because of their outstanding African-American pitcher, George Washington Stovey. The incident dissuaded the New York Giants from promoting Stovey to the major leagues. The color barrier lasted in major league baseball until 1947, when Jackie Robinson integrated the Brooklyn Dodgers.
In 1888 Anson signed a ten-year contract to manage Chicago. The White Stockings did not capture any more National League pennants and experienced several losing seasons. From 1891 to 1897 the new Chicago co-owner, James Hart, clashed with Anson over the latter's managerial strategies. In 1897, when Chicago finished in ninth place, thirty-four games behind, Anson was dismissed as manager. He piloted the New York Giants for two months in 1898.
In A Ball Player's Career (1900), Anson recounted his professional baseball career and international goodwill tours. He criticized the National League as a gigantic monopoly and in 1900 helped establish a rival American Association. Anson was named American Association president, but he dissolved the league when it proved difficult to launch; it became instead a minor league. He established billiard and bowling businesses in Chicago and managed a semiprofessional baseball team, but these enterprises floundered financially. He was elected city clerk of Chicago in 1905 but was defeated for reelection in 1907.
Anson toured the vaudeville circuit with two of his daughters to earn additional income, performing an act titled "Cap Anson and Daughters" that was partly devoted to baseball. Shortly after, he declared bankruptcy and saw his home foreclosed. When the National League attempted to establish a pension fund for him, he rejected the financial assistance. Anson, who had hoped to become baseball's first commissioner in 1921, was managing Chicago's Dixmoor Club when he died of a heart attack. The National League paid for his funeral, and he is buried at the Oakwood Cemetery in Chicago.
Anson died thinking he was the first player with 3,000 National League hits, but he actually fell five hits short. He had been credited erroneously with twenty more hits than he earned in the 1879 season. In 1939 the Veterans Committee elected him to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. His hitting, managerial skills, innovative leadership, and aggressive style helped transform a sandlot sport into the national pastime.
Anson's files are in the National Baseball Library in Cooperstown, New York, and in the Chicago Historical Society. His autobiography, A Ball Player's Career (1900), features his international tours. Bill James, The Baseball Book (1990); Jerry E. Clark, Anson to Zuber (1992); Brad Herzog, The Sports 100 (1995); and Frederick Ivor-Campbell et al., Baseball's First Stars (1996) contain brief career summaries. For Anson's role with Chicago, see Warren Brown, The Chicago Cubs (1946); Arthur Bartlett, Baseball and Mr. Spalding (1951); Eddie Gold and Art Ahrens, The Golden Era Cubs, 1876–1940 (1985); Peter Levine, A. G. Spalding and the Rise of Baseball (1985); and Warren Wilbert and William Hageman, Chicago Cubs: Seasons at the Summit (1997). Pertinent articles include Roger H. Van Bolt, "'Cap' Anson's First Contract," Annals of Iowa (Apr. 1953); George S. May, "Major League Baseball Players from Iowa," Palimpsest (Apr. 1955); David L. Porter, "Cap Anson of Marshalltown: Baseball's First Superstar," Palimpsest (July/Aug. 1980); and Tom Nawroki, "Captain Anson's Platoon," National Pastime (1995). Obituaries are in the Chicago Tribune (22 Apr. 1922), New York Times (22 Apr. 1922), and "Baseball'sGrand Old Man," Literary Digest (6 May 1922).
David L. Porter