Adrian Constantine "Cap" Anson (April 17, 1852 - April 14, 1922) was considered one of the first superstars of baseball and one of the greatest players of his era, leading his Chicago White Stockings (later renamed the Colts and then Cubs) to five National League pennants and retiring as the all-time leader in hits, runs scored, doubles and RBI. Adrian caught the baseball bug at an early age, but when the traveling Rockford Forest Citys, led by pitcher Al Spalding, rolled through his small Iowa town of Marshalltown, he saw a future in baseball. When Rockford left town, having beaten Anson’s Marshalltown team that featured his father, brother and himself, Forest City executives were impressed with the Anson men and had contracts for each forwarded to them shortly thereafter. Adrian was the only one to accept the offer and played 25 games for Rockford, hitting .325 with a league leading 11 doubles. More importantly, he developed a lasting friendship with Spalding. In 1872, after Rockford dissolved, the Philadelphia Athletics signed the 20-year old Anson and he rewarded them by batting .415 with a league best .455 on-base percentage. After four years in Philly (1872-1875), the Chicago White Stockings lured Anson away from the Athletics at the suggestion of Al Spalding, who signed with the club as their next ace and manager. Spalding, Anson and National League batting champion Ross Barnes led the club to the NL pennant that season with a record of 52-14. In 1877, Spalding moved into the front office to become the White Stocking president and after a testing a couple candidates for his replacement as manager, Al chose Anson, to lead his club. With his new job of manager, Adrian was dubbed “Cap”, short for captain, a name that stuck with him throughout his life. Now at the helm and having been used around the infield for much of his early career, Cap parked his 6’0”, 225 lbs. frame (huge for the times) at first base and remained there for the duration of his career.
With skilled place-hitter Cap Anson batting cleanup and the additions of Mike “King” Kelly, Abner Dalrymple and Larry Corcoran, Chicago once again won the 1880 National League pennant with an astounding 67-17 record, a still-standing record .798 winning percentage. Personally, Anson led the NL in RBI for the first of eight times this season. He took the White Stocking to three more pennants while in Chicago (1876, 1880-1882, 1885) and played an astonishing 22 seasons on the north side (1876-1897). Cap was one of the last players in baseball to use a glove and was helped revolutionized the game by adding the third base coach, using signals to call plays, using a rotation of more than one star pitcher and introducing the “hit and run” play that the White Stocking executed masterfully with Anson’s tremendous ability to hit the ball virtually wherever he wanted. Cap Anson led the National League eight times in RBI, four times in batting average and on-base percentage, twice in doubles and once in hits walks and total bases. As player/manager, he compiled a record of 1,295-932 with the Athletics, Chicago White Stockings (later named the Colts) and New York Giants, winning five pennants in Chitown.
Cap Anson retired in 1897 having collected 3,435 hits – the first player to amass 3,000 hits in his career, 582 doubles, 1,999 runs scored, 2,075 RBI and 984 walks while batting .334 for his 27 years in the league. Unfortunately, his fielding was lacking and he retired as the all-time leader in errors with 976. Also referred to as “Pop”, Anson went on to become minority owner of the Chicago White Stockings team, capitalized on his fame in vaudeville and eventually retired in 1921, penniless. Cap died in 1922, just short of his 70th birthday. The Veterans Committee elected Adrian Constantine “Cap” Anson to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939.