Cap Anson's last home game, 125 years ago today

Cap Anson was the face of the Cubs for more than 2 decades during the 19th Century.

He still holds the franchise record for hits in a career, with 3,012 -- 529 more than runnerup Ernie Banks.

529 also happens to be the number of doubles that Anson hit -- 73 more than runnerup Mark Grace.

Anson also is the team leader in runs batted in, with 1,880 -- 244 ahead of Banks.

It was 125 years ago today, on Sunday, Sept. 19, 1897, that Anson played his final home game for the Cubs, then known as the Colts.



Anson had turned 45 in mid-April and was no longer the force at bat that he had been throughout his long career.

He would finish the season with a batting average of .285 and an OPS of .361, both his second lowest since joining the team in 1876.

As player-manager, Anson had guided the team, then known as the White Stockings, to 6 National League pennants. But the last had been in 1886.

They placed second or third in each of the next 5 seasons, then tumbled to seventh, ninth and eighth of 12 teams in 1892-94.

The Colts rebounded to fourth, then fifth, in 1895-96, with nearly identical records of 72-58-3 and 71-57.



They started out 1897 by going 4-12 and occupied last place.

They were sixth, at 43-48, after winning the finale of a 42-game home stand on Aug. 8.

Then they embarked on a road trip that lasted 34 games, including 4 ties.

After the Colts won Game 1 of a doubleheader at Washington on Aug. 20, they were just 2 games under .500, at 49-51.

But they lost Game 2, beginning a stretch in which they went 1-12-3.

Then they won 3 of 4, only to end the trip by going 0-3-1 at Baltimore, with the losses by a combined score of 14-39.

The Colts staggered home with a record of 53-68. By the time they played again, they were in ninth place, 33 games behind first-place Baltimore, 1.5 ahead of 10th-place Philadelphia and 2.5 in front of 11th-place Louisville.

As luck would have it, the Colonels would be the Colts' opponent when they returned to the West Side Grounds for their final 2 home games of the year.


Following are some of the headlines and the start of the story that appeared in the Chicago Tribune after the first of those games, played Saturday, Sept. 18. Paragraph breaks added for easier reading.




Colts Succeed in Taking Game

from Louisville.




Crowd Comes to Seek an Expla-

nation for Former Defeats.






Chicago Players Put up a Wretched

Exhibition on the Pil-



Three thousand of the faithful fans, hungered from their long baseball fast, turned out yesterday afternoon to welcome Anson's hired men back to their home lot.

No salvos of applause greeted the Colts. The crowd had come to seek an explanation for the many defeats.

To reward the faithful the Colts played a brisk, clean game and walloped Senator Pulliam's Colonels by a score of 4 to 2. They played just fast enough to double discount the Colonels, although such playing would have brought defeats at the hands of Baltimore.

At times the play was sprinkled with brilliant individual stops and catches, and again [center fielder Bill] Lange and [shortstop Jimmy] Callahan brought out bursts of real applause by exhibitions of terrific sprinting on the bases, and [Danny] Friend by his clever pitching showed the stuff that is in him.

But at other times the work of the Colts was execrable.

They threw away half a dozen runs by the stupidest of exhibitions on the bases, while in the outer garden [George] Decker lost two flies that should have been handled with ease. Another triple that is charged against Friend would have been an out had not Lange been slow in starting after it.

Your Uncle Anson met with no praise. The crowd for the most part greeted him with silence, but at times the bleachers reminded the Grand Old Man with forceful remarks that the Colts under his leadership have failed.

[end of excerpt]



The Colts went ahead to stay, 3-2, on Lange's 2-run single in the fifth inning. Lange stole second second and went to third on a wild pitch, "but in the critical moment [shortstop James] Stafford by a miraculous catch hauled in Anson's seemingly certain hit and stopped the manufacture of tallies."

Anson ended the day 0 for 4.



Here is some of what the Tribune had to say about the home finale the next day:




Fans Witness the Last Game

on the Home Grounds.




Chicago's Final Appearance

Brings a Loyal Crowd.




Forgetting the past, the finish was brilliant.

A great crowd sat an d cheered and shivered through nine fast innings yesterday afternoon to bid good-bye to Anson's aggregation until next April.

The reward of the faithful was a beautiful exhibition of baseball, a brilliant struggled between two brainy pitchers, and a victory for the Colts over the Colonels by a score of 5 to 2.

The crowd cheered lustily, rooted fervently, went into paroxysms of joy over the errors that gave the Colts the game, sunk to silence and shivered with dread when danger threatened, and when the game was finally closed by one of the most sensational plays of the year the villagers stood upon their seats and poured down roar after roar of applause.

They forgot all the horrors of the season, forgave all the fearful mistakes, and applauded as though they were beholding the opening instead of the final struggle on the home pastures.

The farewell was almost as impressive as the start.

One day when the hawthorn crowned the Queen of May thousands flocked to see the public bow before Anson and give him presents and shower flowers upon him. That day [May 4] a victory was credited the Colts.

Yesterday 6,000 of the faithful came again to testify their loyalty, turned thumbs up, and forgave all, and another victory was won. What happened between those two days had best be forgotten.

May Close Anson's Career.

The end of baseball in Chicago for '97 may close Anson's career, and the crowd that cheered yesterday cheered better than it knew when the Grand Old Man smashed out his two safe hits. . . .

The Colonels filled the bases in the first on a hit by Stafford and two gifts, but [Clark] Griffith struck [Charlie] Dexter out and was never in serious danger again.

Anson singled in the second, but could not make the rounds.

[end of excerpt]



Louisville took the lead in the fifth. A throw by Callahan sailed past Anson at first base and by the time the ball was retrieved, the batter was on third. He scored on a groundout.

Two errors and a wild pitch helped the Colts to tally twice in the bottom of the inning. They had runners on second and third with 2 out, when Anson fouled out.

When he made his second hit, a double, is not reported in any Chicago or Louisville newspaper that is available online.



More from the Tribune:


Trouble brewed in the closing moments.

Dexter was awarded a base for patience at the start.

[Billy] Clingman fouled twice to [catcher Malachi] Kittridge, and Kit finally hugged one to his bosom for the first out.

[George] Smith pushed a hit safe to left.

[Bill] Wilson came to bat for [Win] Clark, but succeeded only in forcing Smith.

Fred Clarke came up. He swung fair at the ball and bounded it over Griffith. Two men tore towards the plate and trouble loomed ominously.

The ball danced over second with [second baseman] Jimmy Connor in frantic pursuit. It bounded high after crossing the bag and Connor hauled it in and, without turning, snapped the ball backwards to Callahan, robbing Clarke of a hit by a miracle and forcing Wilson.

The play set the stands afire and the local season closed with a sputtering volley of cheers.

[end of except]


And with that, Cap Anson headed for the club house, never to play another game in Chicago.

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