Nicknames of Adrian Constantine Anson and Their Origins

Adrian Constantine Anson was a colorful character, and there were many colorful nicknames applied to him by friends, teammates and sportswriters of the day. Here is a list of his many monikers, in alphabetical order:

Ada (Variations: Ady)
Ada and Ady were shorthand for Adrian, and used most often by family and friends.

Anse (Variations: Ans)
A common shortening of his surname, Anson.

This nickname emerged around 1871, when Anson first began play with the Rockford Forest Cities. Anson was an imposing physical presence as he was 6'2" tall and weighed 190 pounds at the time. He was the largest player on the team. His teammates would rib him in ironic jest by calling him "Baby." In later years, as Anson's penchant for arguing with umpires was widely reported, the nickname gained favor with his detractors.

Cap (Variations: Capt. or Captain)
His most enduring nickname and the one most used in current times when referring to Anson, Cap is short for Captain. This nickname gained popularity after 1878, when Anson took over the duties of a player-captain of the Chicago White Stockings. Newspapers often used the more formal terms "Capt." or "Captain Anson" instead of the more casual "Cap." As the team's official Captain, Anson was the only player on the field who could argue an umpire's decision. He also decided when player substitutions were to be made during the course of a game, a role that in modern times is the responsibility of the team manager.

Anson's imposing physical presence led to this nickname that was applied early in his career - a slang word for "horse." Anson stood 6 foot 2 inches tall and weighed over 200 pounds. At the time, those proportions were considered huge, and Anson was most often the biggest man on the playing field.

The Marshalltown Infant
Scribes used this sobriquet in reference to Anson's origins. Anson was the first white child born in the newly-settled town of Marshalltown, Iowa. As the town's first son, writers would occasionally use this descriptive nickname.

Old Man Anson
By playing into his forties, Anson naturally had to endure taunts of his age. Mostly this nickname was used in derisive tones. But sometimes Anson would be referred to as "The Grand Old Man of Baseball," an enduring term for his lengthy career and the many contributions he made to the game.

Pop (Variations: Papa, Pappy)
Like Willie Stargell of the 1970's, Anson earned the nickname Pop for being a father-figure to younger teammates. After "Cap," "Pop" is the second-most common nickname for Adrian Anson.

The Swede
Anson explains the origins of this nickname in his autobiography: "My mother's maiden name was Jeanette Rice, and she, like my father, was of English decent, so you can see how little Swedish blood there is in my veins, in spite of the nickname of 'the Swede' that was often applied to me during my ball-playing career, and which was, I fancy, given me more because of my light hair and ruddy complexion than because of any Swedish characteristics that I possessed." (A Ball Player's Career, Amerion House, Page 8).

Uncle (Variations: Unk)
Uncle was another nickname, like "Pop" and "Old Man Anson" that related to Anson's longevity. Many fans and teammates felt a deep affection for their hero, and "Uncle" was a term of endearment for the man they regarded as being as close to as a member of their own family.

The following excerpt is from "Cap Anson 1: When Captaining a Team Meant Something: Leadership in Baseball’s Early Years" (Howard Rosenberg, Tile Books, 2003):

"In 1892, Anson would tell George Beachel of the Chicago Daily News, ``I often think of going to some other city to play. A Chicago crowd is the worst in the world. I’ve stood their taunts and hisses for fifteen years, and it’s beginning to weary me. I’ve come to the conclusion that it can’t be deviltry on their part. If it was they would let up once in awhile. It’s nothing more than a lack of brains. They only see a fellow when he `ain’t in it;’ they never see him when he does something that is deserving of credit. I’m not the poorest ball-player in the business. But it isn’t that. `I’m `Papa’ and `Pappy’ and `Uncle’ and `Unk’ and `Anse’ and the old man and I must be roasted. It wouldn’t do to let me go. . ."