Posts Tagged ‘Cleveland Spiders’

Worst. Big League Teams. Ever.

May 28, 2011

The Cleveland Spiders and their rope-providers, Frank & Stanley Robison. This photo actually was taken of the 1895 Spiders in the year they won the Temple Cup. Those better days melted away completely in 1899.

In the history of major league baseball seasons extending to a minimum of 140 games, a few clubs have distinguished themselves to the nth degree of failure and notoriety, but none more so that the 1898 Cleveland Spiders.  Their “Arachnidish” record of 20 wins and 134 losses for a paltry .130 winning percentage and a twelfth place cellar finish in the National League, some 84 games behind the pennant winners is not likely ever to be broken, even if a new horrible club comes along with only eight legs total to stands upon.

The 1898 Spiders brought a new unbreakable shade of bold to the word “bad” also with their 24-game team record consecutive losing streak, their ML record 27 one-month losses in July, and their 6 double-digit losing streaks are hard to top for notoriety, but the Spiders managed to do so by dropping 40 of their final 41 games of the 1898 season.

So, how did so much out-of-the-norm terrible performance happen in 1899? It isn’t hard to  figure – and it’s also the heart, body, and soul reason why the result of this season-long spider stomp led to a change in the ownership rules that should have been obvious from the start. You see, the 1899 Cleveland Spiders and the 1899 St. Louis Perfectos were both owned jointly by two brothers, Frank and Stanley Robison.

Before the 1899 season, the Robison brothers, who already owned the Spiders, also bought the old St. Louis Browns from St. Louis brewer Chris von der Ahe. Then, because they really wanted to succeed in St. Louis and weren’t all that thrilled with fan support in Cleveland, anyway, the Robisons moved all their best players from Cleveland to St. Louis, leaving the Spiders spinning for talent with a few scraps from the bottom of the barrel.

After 1899, the rules changed and ownership of more than one team by the same individual or group became illegal. The SPiders disappeared in 1900, but a new club resurfaced that same season in the American League as the Cleveland Lake Shores under new singular-team ownership. The example of the 1899 season was all the lesson in the primary peril of joint ownership that baseball apparently needed.

The 1899 Perfectos finished in fifth place with an 84-67 record, but these were not the 20th century famous American League losers also known as the St. Louis Browns. These NL Browns were renamed the “Perfectos” for 1899 before moving on in 1900 to the identity that would seal their forthcoming place in baseball history forever as the St. Louis Cardinals. – When the original American League Milwaukee Brewers also moved to St. Louis in 1902 as part of the fledgling-fresh American League,, they picked up the old “St. Louis Browns” moniker for their own taunting new identity. The new AL Browns soon embarked upon a history of losing, over time, that would almost make any old Spider feel un-squashed by comparison.

The rest of the biggest baddies roster follows below. Notice how often the name “Philadelphia” appears on the list. Maybe it’s no wonder that the City of Brotherly Love has mutated over the years into a “culture of contempt” among fans that is unrivaled by any other major league city.

The Worst Single Season Teams of All Time:

Season

Franchise

League

Wins

Losses

Pct.

GB

1899

Cleveland Spiders

National

20

134

.130

84

1890

Pittsburgh Alleghenys

National

23

113

.169

66½

1916

Philadelphia Athletics

American

36

117

.235

54½

1935

Boston Braves

National

38

115

.248

61½

1962

New York Mets

National

40

120

.250

60½

1904

Washington Senators

American

38

113

.252

55½

1919

Philadelphia Athletics

American

36

104

.257

52

1898

St. Louis Browns

National

39

111

.260

63½

2003

Detroit Tigers

American

43

119

.265

47

1952

Pittsburgh Pirates

National

42

112

.273

54½

1909

Washington Senators

American

42

110

.276

56

1942

Philadelphia Phillies

National

42

109

.278

62½

1932

Boston Red Sox

American

43

111

.279

64

1941

Philadelphia Phillies

National

43

111

.279

57

1928

Philadelphia Phillies

National

43

109

.283

51

1915

Philadelphia Athletics

American

43

109

.283

58½

1911

Boston Rustlers

National

44

107

.291

54

1909

Boston Doves

National

45

108

.294

65½

1911

St. Louis Browns

American

45

107

.296

56½

1939

Philadelphia Phillies

National

45

106

.298

50½

1937

St. Louis Browns

American

43

111

.279

56

1945

Philadelphia Phillies

National

46

108

.299

52

1938

Philadelphia Phillies

National

45

105

.300

43

1926

Boston Red Sox

American

46

107

.300

44½

2004

Arizona Diamondbacks

National

51

111

.315

42

Worst. Baseball Team. Forever.

March 7, 2011

Most of you know the story, but it bears repeating for the faint of heart who only now may be digging in to the research feast that is baseball history. The 1899 Cleveland Spiders have almost forever been the worst team of all time – and they likely shall retain that title from here to crack of doom. The reasons for both extreme assignment and prediction is one and the same: The Cleveland Spiders were the unfortunate product of an 1899 condition in baseball that will not (must not) ever occur again,

Here’s how it happened, starting with the bottom line on final results. The 1899 Cleveland Spiders finished their National League season with a record of only 20 wins against 134 losses, bad enough for last place in the 12-club circuit. The Spiders finished the year a full 84 games behind the first place Brooklyn Superbas – and  35 games behind the 11th place Washington Senators. The season was a total waste. Whereas, nearly 389,000 fans showed up to watch the 3rd place Philadelphia Phillies play at home, only 6,088 fans turned out to watch the hapless Spiders play in Cleveland.

Here’s the deal. A fellow named Frank Robison owned the Cleveland Spiders, but then, as the rules of the game then permitted, he also bought the St. Louis Perfectos of the same league. For some reason, the National League could neither spell “conflict of interest” nor foresee the obvious problem coming from this dual ownership situation. All they apparently saw was Robison as the man who would keep the St. Louis franchise from folding.

What they got was deserved.

Robison effectively turned his Spiders club in Cleveland into a farm club of service to the St. Louis Perfectos, almost immediately transferring Cleveland’s biggest stars, including future Hall of Famers Cy Young, Jesse Burkett, and Bobby Wallace, to St. Louis. That pattern was the operative two-way elevator for the balance of the season.  Cleveland players who did well moved up to St. Louis, and vice-versa.

Cleveland rage set in pretty quickly. Fans were so outraged that fear for the safety of available Spider players forced the club to play the balance of their many remaining home games on the road.

Dual franchise ownership was banned after the 1899 season, but that action came too late to alter the role of the Cleveland Spiders as the worst. club. ever.

One Cleveland tradition did take root in 1899 – and it wasn’t losing. In 1899, they signed Chief Sockalexis, the first Native American big leaguer of true big league playing ability and value – and they got keep him in Cleveland beyond their unfortunately unforgettable season. That fact would historical importance for another reason. Once Cleveland got passed naming their new American League club the “Naps” in honor of star player and manager Napoleon Lajoie, they became the Cleveland Indians in 1915, a named adopted in honor of Chief Sockalexis, the only good thing to come out of 1899 in Cleveland beyond the rule against dual team ownership itself.

Spiders may appear sinister, but humans are the really nasty trap-builders. “Oh! What tangled webs we weave!”