Today is the birthday of Adrian Constantine “Cap” Anson (1852-1922). Anson was one of the first Major League Baseball stars, achieving greatest fame as first baseman and manager of the Chicago Cubs back when they were known as the White Stockings and then the Colts. Over the course of his 27 year professional career he also played for the Philadelphia Athletics, and managed the New York Giants for one season.
While many professional athletes trod the stage during the off seasons, Anson was one of the most successful at that secondary career. In 1888, he appeared in Charles Hoyt’s play A Parlor Match. In 1895, near the end of his pro baseball career, he played himself in a play called The Runaway Colt (a play on the name of the team he was playing for). Later, he toured the vaudeville circuits every year from 1913 until his death in 1922. Not only did Anson deliver monologues as most athletes did in vaudeville, he also sang and danced, and had acts written for him by George M. Cohan, Ring Lardner and Herman Timberg. In later years, his two daughters appeared with him, and he would hit paper-mache souvenir baseballs into the audience, specially made by the Spalding Sporting Goods Company.
To learn more about vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.