Chicago [White Stockings] manager and star player, Cap Anson, ran his club -- and played for it -- until 1897, when he was forty-five. When he finally retired, he continued for ten years to oil and dust every one of the 400 bats he kept in his basement, just in case some team should call in need of his services. He was one of the era's titanic figures, at once a brilliant businessman, a great player, and an imposing figure in the game's inner circles. But Anson also was responsible for one of the saddest events in the history of baseball, an occurrence that would retard the game's progress for more than half a century.
Moses Fleetwood Walker, the son of a physician, had been an outstanding athlete at Oberlin College, and while there he attracted the attention of the Toledo team in the Northwestern League, which signed him in 1883. The very next year Toledo was invited to join the American Association, and Walker was one of the few players the club retained. A catcher for Tony Mullane, he batted .263 in 152 at bats and was quite popular both in Toledo and in such road cities as Baltimore and Washington. His brother, Welday Wilberforce Walker, also played in five games for Toledo that season as an outfielder, going 4-for-18.
But when the White Stockings came to Toledo for an exhibition [game] that year, Anson threatened to pull his team off the field if Fleet Walker played. Charley Morton, the Toledo manager, refused to comply with the demand. "The joke of the affair," according to one account, "was that up to the time Anson made his 'bluff,' the Toledo people had no intention of catching Walker, who was laid up with a sore hand, but when Anson said he wouldn't play with Walker, the Toledo people made up their minds that Walker would catch or there wouldn't be any game."
Anson's position soon took root. On July 14, 1887, the International League instituted an unofficial color line, and that same day Anson succeeded in getting the Newark "Little Giants" to remove their black battery of pitcher George Stovey and Fleet Walker from an exhibition game with the White Stockings. Later in the year, all but two of the St. Louis Browns refused to take the field against the Cuban Giants. "Dear Sir," read their letter to club owner Chris Von der Ahe, "We the undersigned members of the St. Louis Base Ball Club do not agree to play against negroes tomorrow. We will cheerfully play against white people any time, and think by refusing to play, we are only doing what is right." Von der Ahe informed the New York crowd of 7,000 that his team was too crippled to play, and in way, he was right.
-- Daniel Okrent & Steve Wulf
Baseball Anecdotes, Daniel Okrent & Steve Wulf
Copyright 1989 by Daniel Okrent
Published by Oxford University Press (New York), 1989
available at ABEBOOKS