Baseball in the mid-19th Century was more like the Wild West than the modern-day major leagues in terms of playing conditions, attitudes and, surprisingly, the amount of violence surrounding the game.
It’s a little-known story that, in 1882, Chicago White Stockings (the team that would become the Cubs) owner Albert Spalding, once considered having his manager killed.
Spalding, who had just taken over the team, was looking to slash his payroll and Cap Anson, the team’s manager and star first baseman, made up almost a quarter of Chicago’s wage bill. Spalding had begun to look into trading Anson, but when Anson, who was happy in Chicago, got wind of the news, he threatened to hold out and conduct his contract dispute in the press, where he was immensely popular at the time.
Spalding, losing money and unable to offload his team’s biggest star, began to look into other means of getting Anson off the team.
His first call was to the Market Street Gang, the precursor to Bugsy Moran’s North Side Gang. The Market Street Gang wasn’t particularly steeped in assassinations, so they directed Spalding to David Dillahunt, a hitman who’d worked in northern Illinois for five years. Dillahunt met Spalding and heard him out.
"Any way you want me to do it?" he asked.
"Well, he stays at the stadium well into the night. You’d have no trouble sneaking up on him with the poor lighting. Then you could shoot him and make your escape."
"Seems like kind of a small-time job. Shooting one guy in the back. Not a real challenge."
"So will you do it?" Spalding asked. "I’ll give you seven hundred dollars."
Dillahunt nodded. “This gun’s for hire,” he said. “Even if it’s just Anson in the dark.”