Cap Anson 1: When Captaining a Team Meant Something Leadership in Baseball's Early Years

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9780972557405: Cap Anson 1: When Captaining a Team Meant Something Leadership in Baseball's Early Years
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(Overall note on the Cap Anson series: Baseball Hall of Famer Cap Anson was the most closely reported professional or amateur team athlete in the United States in the 19th century. After visiting the Library of Congress and seeing its staggering microfilm holdings, author Howard W. Rosenberg decided to write a series of books that features him. Over the resulting four books and supplemented by visits to libraries in other cities (when not able to borrow their holdings), Rosenberg came close to accounting for all reports on major league baseball through 1900 on subjects that his books present.)
 
While Anson's greatest success was in being the lone player before 1900 to reach 3,000 hits, Cap Anson 1: When Captaining Meant Something: Leadership in Baseball's Early Years, examines him through his managerial and captaining roles with Chicago's National League team (the White Stockings, later known better as the Colts, before they became the modern-day Cubs) from 1879 to 1897. The book also compares Anson to other captain-managers of his day, and Chicago to contemporaneous teams with divided management: those with a combination of captains and bench managers. Only after the book's publication did Rosenberg discover that Cap Anson 1's subject matter (especially chapter titles) loosely overlaps with Leonard Koppett's A Thinking Man's Guide to Baseball. Koppett's book surveyed the state of baseball as of the 1960s and 1970s. 
 
Chicago was special in the first decades of major league ball, in projecting itself as a model to other teams, such as in disciplining players for drinking. Presented in minute detail is Anson's enforcement of team rules, as laid down by management. Two of the club's early presidents, William Hulbert and Albert Spalding, are fellow Hall of Famers who tried to "elevate" the sport. Despite the lofty motives of Hulbert and Spalding, baseball writers in their day could be witty in covering player discipline. Writers had yet to adopt a "kill off all the fun" central tenet of today: that baseball players should be concerned about their actions because they are "role models."
 
Also relative to today, labor-management relations in baseball used to be a lot easier to relate to, because of the players' relatively small salaries. And leading a professional team of athletes was something new (1871 was the very first year that all players on a team received a salary). So, a study of managing and captaining in Anson's era lays a lively groundwork for appreciating how labor-management relations evolved in baseball in the 20th and now 21st centuries.
 
As far as Anson, this is the first book (with the exception of his ghostwritten autobiography in the year 1900) in which he is definitively and independently discussed at notable length. The next book in the series, Cap Anson 2: The Theatrical and Kingly Mike Kelly: U.S. Team Sport's First Media Sensation and Baseball's Original Casey at the Bat (2004), features Anson for his 19th-century theatrical career, relationship with Kelly and other off-the-field activities in common with Kelly.

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Review:

Jonathan Leshanski, www.athomeplate.com, July 31, 2004
'. . . actually analyzes the changes [in the roles of captain and manager] from those moments when the evolution was occurring.'

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