In its infancy, baseball was quite different from what we know today. Crappy fields. Irregular schedules. Same dude pitching every game. Loud Guy on your team and Other Loud Guy on the other team berating each other, usually verbally but sometimes physically, leaving the rest to wonder whether this was really the best way to spend a warm Saturday afternoon. And, most importantly for our purposes here, player-managers.
In 1880, Cap Anson’s first full year as a major league manager, the National League consisted of eight teams. Seven had player-managers. (The only team that didn’t was the ill-starred Worcester Ruby Legs, who would last just two more seasons and never finish over .500. However, they are in the top 20 on the all-time Names Above Average list.) The practice made sense: owners saved a salary and it was a relatively cheap way to give additional recognition to star players. But the increasing complexity of the game and specialization of roles led to the concept’s demise.
The Chicago Cubs have had 12 player-managers in their long history, starting of course with Anson, and ending with … well, you’ll have to read the next post in this series to find out. The history of Cubs’ player-managers parallels that of the player-manager job itself: beginning with a bang and ending with a whimper. In this post we’ll look at the Cubs’ player-managers through 1916, and the next will examine the rest. In the stat lines, the range of years refers to the years the player both played and managed for the Cubs.