In 1894, major leaguer turned sportswriter, Sam Crane wrote about the wealthiest players in baseball in The New York Press:
“(Cap) Anson is probably the wealthiest ball-player on the diamond today. His wealth has been estimated anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000. It is, without doubt, nearer the latter sum than the former.”
Anson’s fortune would be long gone, due to a series of poor investments and other financial setbacks, by the time he died in 1922.
“From the time he joined the Chicago club he has enjoyed a big salary. In his nearly 20 years’ connection with the club he has acted as manager and captain since the retirement as a player of A.G. Spalding in 1877. Anson, of course received extra salary as manager, and has also been a stockholder in the club…He has been fortunate, too, in real estate transactions in the “Windy City,” under the tutelage of Mr. Spalding, and could retire from active participation in the game without worrying as to where his next meal was coming from.”
The men who Crane said were the second and third wealthiest players managed to keep their fortunes.
“Jim O’Rourke is thought to come next to Anson in point of wealth. Jim came out as a professional player about the same time as Anson. He did not get a large salary at first with the Bostons, which club he joined in 1873. He remained with the team until 1878, when he went to Providence. Jim was young and giddy when he came from Bridgeport to Boston, in 1873, and did not settle down into the staid, saving player he now is…He was a ‘sporty’ boy then, and liked to associate with lovers of the manly art. Patsy Sheppard was his particular friend in the ‘Hub,’ and James made the boxer’s hotel his home for some time. When he went to Providence in 1879 Jim began to think of saving his money, and from that time on his ‘roll’ began to increase.
“Dan Brouthers has received big salaries only since 1886, when he, as one of the famous ‘big four,’ was bought by Detroit from Buffalo. But since then he has pulled the magnates’ legs and socked away the ‘stuff.’ He has been situated so that he has been able to make the magnates ‘pony up’ to the limit, and Dan had no mercy. He said he was out for the ‘long green,’ and he got it. When the Boston club bought Brouthers, (Abram “Hardy”) Richardson, (Charlie) Bennett, (Charles “Pretzels”) Getzein and (Charlie) Ganzell, Dan grasped the opportunity and got a big bonus and also a big salary. He made the Detroit club give up a big slice of the purchase money before he would agree to be sold.
“The Brotherhood war, when Dan jumped to the Boston Players league was another favorable opportunity for him, and he grasped it and the boodle with his accustomed avidity. Dan has planted his wealth in brick houses in Wappingers Falls (NY), and can lie back at his ease with his 30,000 ‘plunks’ and laugh at the magnates. It is this feeling of contentment that has made Dan almost too independent and has affected his playing lately (Brouthers appeared in just 77 games in 1893, but hit .337, and hit .347 in 123 games in 1894). Dan is what ballplayers call ‘hard paper,’ which was a most distinguishing characteristic of every one of the ‘big four.’”
“Hardy Richardson was not so awful bad, but Jim White and Jack Rowe took the whole bake shop for being ‘hard papes.’ They have both been known to start on a three weeks’ trip with 80 cents each, and on their return Jim would ask Jack, ‘How much have you spent?’ Jack would reply: “I haven’t kept run of every little thing, but I’ve got 67 cents left.’ Jim would remark gleefully: ‘Why, I’m three cents ahead of you; I’ve got 70 cents.’ And Pullman car porters are blamed for kicking when a ball club boards their car! Jack and Jim would sleep in their shoes for fear they would have to pay for a shine. The only money they spent was for stamps in sending home papers, which they borrowed from the other players. They are both well off now, however, and can afford to laugh at the players who used to guy them.”
“(Charles) Comiskey has been fortunate in getting big money since 1883. (Chris) Von der Ahe appreciated the great Captain’s worth and paid him more and more every year. The Brotherhood business enabled him to make a most advantageous contract, and as manager and Captain of the Chicagos he received $7,000 salary besides a big bonus. His contract with Mr. (John T.) Brush to play and manage in Cincinnati called for $23,000 for three years and $3,000 in cash. This was made in 1891 and runs this year (1894). Comiskey has his money invested in Chicago real estate, which is paying him a good income at the present time.
“(John “Bid”) McPhee, (William “Buck”) Ewing, (Harry) Stovey, (Paul) Radford, (Ned) Hanlon, (Jack) Glasscock, (Tim)Keefe, (Charles “Chief”) Zimmer, (Charlie) Buffington, (Charlie) Bennett, and (Fred) Pfeffer are players who are worth from $10,000 to $15,000, which has all been made by playing ball. There are only a few more players who have much in the ‘stocking.’”