FanPost

When fan offered cash to play for Cubs

The Cubs, then known as the Colts, were on a downward trajectory in 1892.

Six years removed from their last pennant, by late September they were headed toward their first losing season since 1877.

Going into their game on Wednesday, Sept. 21 --the last of a 3-game series at home against St. Louis -- the Colts had a record of 58-68 and were tied with New York for seventh place in the 12-team National League. A 7-4 loss to the 11th-place Browns the previous day had left them 27 games behind front-running Boston.

...

The Colts bounced back in the rubber game, scoring twice in the first inning, then breaking open a 3-1 game with 3 runs in the seventh. They ultimately won, 6-2.

But that wasn't what the Chicago Tribune wrote about the game. Here are the headlines and the bulk of its story (some paragraph breaks added for clarity):

.........

WAS WILLING TO PAY.

...

ANSON RECEIVES A NOVEL OFFER

FROM A DELUDED CRANK.

...

An Individual Values the Privilege of Ap-

pearing on the Field in a Chicago Uni-

form at $100 -- The Offer Accompanied

with a Proposition to Bet $500 That He

Could Pitch a Winning Game Against

St. Louis

...

ANSON STUMBLES ACROSS A FREAK.

...

The Chicago Club Has an Addition Thrust

Upon It.

...

A game with a feature has been served up at last for the local patrons.

The old man [i.e., Cap Anson] had to go outside for it at that. The feature was extraneous to the game itself, but it drew the undivided attention of the few hundred faithful scattered about inside the inclosure yesterday.

When the Chicagos came on the field there was mixed up in the group as strange a looking makeup as one could wish to see.

It was a man, but such a man as one sees but seldom.

He had broken into the park somehow in the morning, and when Anson showed up presented him with a proposition which fairly staggered him.

He offered Anson $100 to allow him to appear in uniform on the grounds and would be $500 that if allowed to pitch in the afternoon he would win his game.

...

Here was a good thing at last, and the big Captain's eyes fairly glistened. It flashed across his mind that there was a hard winter coming, and he had all but accepted the bet when he remembered that a long suffering public would be out in greater or less numbers during the day. He hesitated for a moment and then shook his head sadly:

"No! The public has had trouble enough this season. I guess I can do without the $600, young man."

...

The other members of the team came straggling in and soon had the phenom rigged out in a suit dirty enough to engender cholera and so big that the seat of the trousers all but swept the earth.

A piece of clothesline did duty for a belt, a pair of ancient stockings, a wretched looking cap, and a huge cottonwood bat completed the attire of Uncle's new find.

He was installed on the bench, gathered his feet up on the seat, and with his face pushed down between his knees, ate peanuts during the afternoon, and was a picture of perfect bliss.

...

[Pitcher] Ad Gumbert was designated to guard him. Once in the eighth inning he broke away when nobody was looking and strode to the plate. Anson spied him in a trice, and led him away again.

The Colts won the game without trouble, [Browns pitcher Theodore] Breitenstein was hit freely, and the Colts had no trouble piling up runs.

[Jimmy] Ryan and [Bill] Dahlen scored half the [12] hits credits to the locals, and Dahlen also purloined three bases.

.........

WORTH OF OFFERS TODAY

The $100 the "crank" offered to Anson in 1892 had the purchasing power of $3,039.44 in 2021.

The $500 he offered to let him pitch was the equivalent of $15,197.20.

Bill Hutchison did just fine as the Colts' actual pitcher, scattering 9 hits, all singles, while walking 3 and striking out 4. Only 1 of the 2 runs against him was earned.

Hutchison, a 32-year-old right hander, finished the season 36-36, as he started 70 games and completed 67 of them. He also relieved 5 times and compiled an earned run average of 2.76 in an astonishing 622 innings.

..........

REST OF SEASON AND BEYOND

After their Sept. 22 win over the Browns, the Colts won only 4 of their next 10 games to fall 11 games below .500, at 64-75.

They won the next 2, lost once, then finished the season with 4 straight wins, the last 2 at St. Louis. But that still left them at 70-76-1, in seventh place, 30 games out of first.

A year later, they tumbled to ninth, winning only 56 games while losing 71. They would not have more wins than losses again until 1895, when they would go 72-58-3.

They finished above .500 again the next season, at 71-57-4, then fell back to ninth once more, at 59-73-6 in 1897, leading to the dismissal of Anson, their player-manager for 19 seasons.

His immediate, successor, Tom Burns, did not allow any "cranks" to appear in a game, nor have any of the Cubs' managers in all the seasons that have followed.

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