Craig: A game with the 1890s Cubs

From Mary Craig at Baseball Prospectus on January 2, 2018:

On January 31st, 1898, writing about Cap Anson’s retirement from baseball, the Chicago Tribune declared, “an epoc of baseball is finished,” and, like the great prophets, Anson was “left without honor in his own land.” Though the decade obviously continued for another two years, the 1890s Chicago baseball team was, in the eyes of the newspapers, almost wholly defined by Cap Anson and thus ended with Anson’s departure. As a whole, the decade was mired by a downturn in baseball’s popularity, largely attributed to the NL’s schism and the sport’s lack of a clear identity. Anson and his band of youthful players, named the Chicago Colts from the nickname “Cap’s Colts,” hoped to re-energize Chicago fans and continue the success for which the team had become known.


By the end of the decade, the youth of the team had been replaced with weariness and disappointment as Anson’s staunch traditionalism and racism prevented it from matching the rapidly evolving game. He demanded loyalty from his players and held grudges against all those who had migrated to the Players’ League, particularly the Irish Jimmy Ryan, who drew much of Anson’s ire with fellow Irishman Malachi Kittredge. The longer Chicago went without winning, the more paranoid Anson became, and by his final season, he began to suspect that his players were conspiring to oust him. He set out to retaliate.

His prime target was Fred Pfeffer, who, in addition to playing in the Players’ League, had tried to resurrect the American Association in 1895 and subsequently received a lifetime ban that was overturned by a 10,000-signature fan petition. Anson had initially seen his sale to the Louisville Colonels in 1892, but Pfeffer returned to Chicago in 1896 due to a rash of injuries, sowing the seeds for the final battle between the two longtime teammates. Pfeffer, resenting Anson’s strict managing, and Anson, resenting Pfeffer’s existence, battled each other throughout much of the season. Pfeffer, by then 37, underproduced just enough to give Anson the opportunity to release the second baseman. Anson did just that following a 36-7 trouncing of the Colonels on June 29th. Many writers sided with Pfeffer, calling him the “king of second basemen” and “the greatest second baseman the game has ever known,” while suggesting Anson had reached his limit with the team.

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Originally published: January 3, 2018. Last Updated: January 3, 2018.