Chicago Sun-Times’ Characterization Of Cap Anson Inaccurate

Last Updated On: April 2, 2024
19th century Chicago Cubs player Cap Anson, black and white studio portrait.
Was Cap Anson known for his integrity and dignity? Not hardly.

When the Chicago Sun-Times listed its top 50 Chicago Cubs players of all time on March 24, 2024, it listed Adrian “Cap” Anson, the Cubs’ all-time leader in average, hits, runs, runs batted in, and doubles. One cannot argue with including Anson in the top 50, but one can strenuously argue with the Sun-Times’ statement than “Anson was known for his integrity [and] dignity.”

Not hardly.

Grumpy And Irascible

Anson was grumpy and irascible. Around the National League, lots of players, managers, umpires, and fans couldn’t stand him — and loved it when his team lost. And Chicago sportswriters eventually made no secret of the fact that they thought that Anson, after many years of managing, was too old and out of touch to run the team.

Anson argued with umpires more than other managers did. He enjoyed gambling, a pastime that Major League Baseball frowns upon for managers and players alike (Shohei Ohtani take note).

1891 Collapse

Among the other National League teams, Anson was “not at all popular,” the Boston Evening Record noted in 1891. The resentment towards Anson led to speculation that when the Cubs (then known as the White Stockings) collapsed in 1891 (yes, the 1969 collapse was not the first), the league wanted it that way. That year, fans wondered why the teams who played in late September against Boston, the club that overtook Chicago, looked so bad. Anson’s personality was a possible reason for other National League teams’ lackadaisical play against Boston.

But the biggest reason one cannot call Anson a man of integrity and dignity is because Anson is considered by baseball historians to have been the driving force in segregating professional baseball in the 19th Century. While many players and managers of that era were prejudiced against Blacks, Anson took it a unique step further by prohibiting the Chicago team from taking the field against teams that included Black players.

Refusing To Play

On August 10, 1883, Anson initially refused to let the Cubs play a game against the Toledo Blue Stockings if they started their African American catcher-centerfielder Moses Fleetwood Walker. Anson only relented because he knew he would lose a day’s pay if the Cubs’ did not play.

But Anson continued to push to exclude African Americans from baseball. On July 14, 1887, Anson refused to let the Cubs play an exhibition game against the Newark Little Giants of the International League if Black pitcher George Stovey was in the lineup. This time, Anson was successful and the Giants sat Stovey down.

Following A Bad Precedent

Because Anson was one of the top player/managers of his day, professional baseball took notice, and began banning Black players.  The International League formally voted to not allow Black players the year Anson refused to let the Cubs play against Stovey, and Major League Baseball in the late 1880s entered into a “gentlemen’s agreement” (even though those agreeing were no gentlemen) that no Blacks would be allowed to play.

Walker, the first Black person to play Major League Baseball, would be one of the last until Jackie Robinson in 1947.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame in a less enlightened era in 1939 ignored Anson’s foibles and elected him as a member. It is doubtful, however, with Anson’s open animosity toward Black players, that he would be elected today. Despite all his Cub records, Anson is not in the Chicago Cubs Hall of Fame, and never will be because of his leadership in segregating professional baseball—showing his lack of integrity and dignity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

6160 W. 60th St. * Chicago, IL * 60638 * United States * Tel: (773) 229-0024
© 2021 ANB Communications