Written By: James Kirby
In 1899, the Cleveland Spiders pulled off one of the most pathetic seasons in professional sports history. Baseball historian Lee Allen called them, “The sorriest shell of a team I have ever seen in the major leagues.” Before the season started, the Spiders’ owner Frank Robison greedily sent all of the Spiders’ best players to the other team he owned, the St. Louis Perfectos. Robison believed he could build a super team in St. Louis, which would draw bigger crowds and better ticket sales. The St. Louis Perfectos had a good season with their new players, but this decision left the Spiders stuck with a team full of scrubs, and the results were not pretty. The Spiders finished the season with a record of 20-134, which is the worst record ever for an MLB team. The Spiders lost 24 games in a row, had six streaks of 11 or more losses, and finished 84 games out of first place. The embarrassing statistics do not end there. The Spiders’ best pitcher had a record of 4-30, their longest winning streak was two (which they only accomplished once), and they hit 12 total home runs as a team. In fact, one of the former Spiders they sent to St. Louis hit more home runs by himself in 1899 than the Spiders hit as a TEAM. Perhaps the Spiders’ worst statistic was that they only won 12 of their last 116 games, which is absolutely horrendous.
With a .130 winning percentage, nobody wanted to attend the Spiders’ home games. They had a record-low 500 fan attendance on Opening Day and were then forced to play on the road nearly every week. There’s also a funny story for the Spiders’ final game. The Spiders said, “What the heck,” and decided to call on a local cigar-stand clerk to pitch for them. They lost 19-3. After the game, the Spiders gathered at the hotel and presented the team’s traveling secretary a diamond locket, for “having the misfortune of watching us in all our games.”
While there have been many horrific teams in the history of professional sports, there has never been a team as fascinating and embarrassing as the 1899 Cleveland Spiders.
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