Adrian Constantine Anson 1852-1922
First Base, Third Base, Catcher
Rockford Forest Citys 1871
Philadelphia Athletics 1872-1875
Chicago White Stockings/Colts 1876-1897
Career WAR: 93.9
Best Season: 1881 84 G .399/.442/.510/.952 172 OPS+ 82 RBI 5.8 WAR
“The time may have been, and probably was, when base-ball was as rotten as horse racing, but that time has gone by. The men in control of base-ball matters are of the highest personal character, and no one will say anything against them. As to the charges against any individual player, I will believe them when they have been proved. Every thing [sic] possible has been done to protect the patrons of the National game, and efforts in that direction will never be abated. I don’t know of any crookedness in the ball field. If I did I’d undoubtedly say something about it.”
Known For: A career .334 hitter, at 6’2” 200 lbs, he was a huge man for his time. exceptional bat control, became player manager in 1877, belligerence towards opponents and umpires, perhaps the game’s first true national celebrity.
The Bad: One of the key figures in forcing black players out of professional baseball, was rated as the top bettor on baseball during the era.
3,000 Hits?: For a long time Anson was credited as baseball’s first 3,000 hit man. In fact, B=R lists him as having 3,435. That number is controversial for several reasons. First, it counts his time in the National Association from 1871-1875. MLB.com still does not count those hits. The first edition of Macmillan’s Baseball Encyclopedia published in 1969 gave him credit for just 2,995. Since then, historians have adjusted the number and it currently sits on 3,012.
Keep Your Day Job: Anson had a number of failed business attempts during and after his baseball career. Among those were a failed handball arena and bottled beer that exploded on the shelves. His most successful ventures were Bowling, in which he captained a championship team in 1904, and taking his family across the country performing a vaudeville act.
Not Even a Very Good Racist: Though his racist behavior was well documented, Anson probably gets too much credit for driving black players out of white baseball. It’s not that he wasn’t trying, but his influence over the rest of baseball has been pretty consistently overstated. He was a star on the field but by most accounts was not well respected by his peers, who would be unlikely to follow his lead if they weren’t moving that way on their own. At best, it is possible that without Anson, black players would have played a few more years before being completely eliminated from organized white baseball.
The best thing that can be said about Anson is that he was such a dominant player for such a long time that he is a Hall of Fame player and was elected by the WGOM in spite of his off-the-field failings.
Comments from Voters:
“I know it’s apples and oranges, but I think this hurt baseball more than Pete Rose did. That said, still voting for him. Anson helped make baseball popular as well in addition to the gaudy numbers.” – Beau