Recently, Babe Ruth's daughter suggested that segregation in baseball would have ended sooner if her father would have been allowed to manage a big league team. I'm not here to argue that point one way or the other. But it does bring to mind another interesting point.
Baseball's segregation might not have had to happen at all. It's origins are unfortunately and acutely tied to Chicago baseball in the 1880's and '90's.
On June 12th, 1939 the Baseball Hall Of Fame officially opened it's doors by inducting 26 former players. One of these "original 26 " was known as the greatest player and manager of the 19th century. That man was Adrian Constantine "Cap" Anson.
Anson was born on April 17, 1852 in the town of Marshalltown, Iowa. At the time slavery was still allowed in Iowa, even though the state would later side with the north during the Civil War. It is generally surmised that Cap learned his blatant racism growing up around the slave owning adults in his hometown.
That he has Hall Of Fame playing credentials is beyond dispute. After joining the Chicago White Stockings for the 1876 season Anson played his first game for Chicago on May 6th of that same year. And while he was a solid player he did not become a superstar until 1879. That was the first year that Cap became Chicago's player/manager.
From 1879 through 1897 Anson's White Stockings had only three losing seasons. He quickly became the most innovative and successful manager in baseball. Also during this time Cap the player began to come into his own.
Anson hit .339 over his 22 year major league career, including 20 straight years hitting over .300. He was a 4-time batting champion and twice hit over .400. He was also the first player in history to have over 3000 hits. But the racism Anson displayed on and off the field is enough to erase all of these incredible stats.
The first incident on the field occurred during an exhibition game in 1883 against the Toledo Mud Hens. The Hens had a black catcher named Moses Fleetwood Walker who was scheduled to play against Chicago. But Anson refused to take the field against a black player. Cap later reluctantly played the game after he was told he would have to forfeit the White Stockings half of the gate receipts.
Four years later Anson was at it again. In an exhibition game against the Newark Little Giants, on July 14, 1887, Anson refused to play against George Stovey, Newark's black pitcher. This time the histrionics worked. By the next day the owners had voted 6-4 to begin a "gentleman's agreement" to disallow black players from all major baseball leagues.
That decision would shamefully last for the next 60 years. Over the years Cap Anson's role in this segregation has been downplayed by many. But it can never be reversed. While he shouldn't be shouldered with all the responsibility, he must share in it.
So, Cooperstown, if you are going to deny the Hall Of Fame to the eight members of the Black Sox scandal, and to Pete Rose, and to players who have only been accused of taking PED's, then you need to rescind Anson's induction. It is wrong to celebrate Jackie Robinson's career in the same building with Adrian Anson's. It is very wrong.
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