Thanks to the passage of time, there are lots of guys in baseball’s Hall of Fame who are no longer particularly famous.
This is the situation for former players Cap Anson, Ned Hanlon, and Addie Joss, who were stars in the game’s early days, and in addition to being enshrined in Cooperstown, all have the common trait of having died on April 14.
Of the three, Adrian “Cap” Anson is still the most well-known today.
Anson was born in Iowa corn country in 1852, and later spent time at Notre Dame and the University of Iowa before his rowdiness got him expelled from both institutions.
He began playing ball professionally in 1872, and became one of the era’s superstars playing for the Chicago White Stockings. As the first baseman and captain of the team (thereby earning his nickname), he led the Stockings to five pennants during the 1880s.
Anson played for an astonishing 27 seasons, often serving in dual roles as player-manager, becoming the first man to collect 3000 hits along the way.
Today Anson is remembered less for his play on the field than for his racial intolerance. He often refused to play in exhibition games against dark-skinned teams and is often cited as one of the major figures responsible for forcing African-Americans out of professional baseball.
Retirement was not kind to Anson, who failed in several business ventures, including with a professional football team. He served a term as city clerk in Chicago before unsuccessfully running for sheriff.
To make ends meet, he performed on the vaudeville circuit for several years, before dying on this date in 1922.
After a ho-hum twelve-year career as a player, Ned Hanlon successful led several teams as a manager until his retirement in 1907, winning 1313 games along the way.
He died on this date in 1937 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame nearly 60 years later.
100 years ago today, Hall of Fame hurler Adrian “Addie” Joss died suddenly from tubercular meningitis at the start of the 1911 season.
Born in Wisconsin in 1880, Joss began playing pro ball for Cleveland in 1902 and stayed with the team for his entire nine-year career.
Joss was so well regarded by both teammates and opposing players, that after he died, an exhibition game was staged between his former team and a collection of American League All Stars that raised $13,000 to benefit Joss’s widow. The game is often credited as being the first “All Star” game in history.
Despite pitching two no-hitters (including a perfect game in 1908), and chalking up a 160-97 record with an exceptional 1.89 ERA, Joss was barred from Cooperstown for many years because he didn’t play the required ten seasons in the Bigs.
A special exception to the rule was later granted, and he was inducted into the Hall in 1978, thereby earning the distinction of having the shortest career of anyone in Cooperstown.
Although they may no longer be considered famous, these three men have been awarded baseball’s highest honor for all time.
The way things are going these days, the truly famous players of modern times – those with names like McGwire, Sosa, Bonds, and Clemens – may never make it into the Hall of Fame.
THIS JUST IN: Thanks to advances in modern medicine, I believed we would never again hear of a baseball player dying suddenly from meningitis like Addie Joss. Sadly, the day this post was published, April 14, 2011, 18-year-old Dominican shortstop Yewri Guillen died from the same disease, only days after first showing symptoms. Guillen was in the Washington Nationals system, and his death comes 100 years to the day after the passing of Joss.