How well did Chicago Cubs player-managers perform?

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Chicago Cubs
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Chicago Cubs: The first two names on this list are franchise legends

Cap Anson (1879-97), 1282-932, .579, 5 pennants

Anson has the most wins of any Cubs manager. A dominating figure in every respect, Anson was often Chicago’s best player and always team president Albert Spalding’s chief lieutenant on the field. Anson was something of an innovator, pioneering the idea of spring training and playing an aggressive, hard-running style of baseball that would later come to be associated with John McGraw, though Anson’s 1890 claim to have invented the hit-and-run play must be greeted with skepticism.

Anson was an innovator in another way: like a famous player-manager of more recent vintage, Anson bet on baseball. A lot. Fifty-seven times if you’re keeping score at home. However, he does seem to have bet on his own squad to win, and that they did in abundance for most of his tenure.

Frank Chance (1905-12), 768-389, .664, 4 pennants, 2 World Series crowns

Chance has the highest winning percentage of any Cubs manager with at least 315 games under his belt. He was a big man with a bad temper and no compunction in showing it. In Chance we see a template for the a**-ripping, vein-bulging, drill-sergeant type of manager who would feature prominently in the game until relatively recently. His teams were regularly first or second in the league in runs scored and allowed, though the pitching started slipping a bit toward the end of his tenure.

These were patient squads at the plate, regularly beating the league average walk rate, and often at or the near the top in runs scored percentage. It’s hard to measure manager performance, but these are variables over which the manager has some control, and Chance seems to have exercised it well.

Owner Charles Murphy would fire Chance after the two got into a shouting match in Chance’s hospital room as he recovered from brain surgery.