The Cleveland Spiders of 1899 were certifiably the worst team in baseball history. Wallowing in the basement of the 12-team National League, these laughable losers piled up an amazing 134 losses against only 20 wins for the all-time lowest winning percentage of .130. They finished 84 games out of first, making the rest of history's lousiest teams seem like pennant contenders.
The Spiders were last in runs, doubles, triples, homers, batting average, slugging percentage, and stolen bases. They were outscored by a two-to-one margin, 1,252 runs to 529. Appropriately enough, the Spiders lost the first game of the season 10-1 to start their losing habit. Six different times they recorded losing streaks of eleven or more games. Once, in Brooklyn, they found themselves in an unfamiliar situation -- leading 10-1 after six innings. Refusing to bow to victory, they managed to pull out the defeat by an 11-10 score.
With losses piling up left and right, manager Lave Cross quit in disgust before the end of the first month. Blame the team's abysmal record on the owners, brothers Frank and Matthew Robison, who knew little about baseball. Rather than hire more talent before the season started, they bought a second team, the St. Louis Browns, and then set about dissecting the Spiders. To guarantee failure of the Spiders, the Brothers Robison shipped their best players, including Cy Young, to the Browns. Young won 26 games for St. Louis that season -- six more than his former team won all year .... The two aces on the [Spiders] staff, Charlie Knepper and Jim Hughey, each won a paltry four games and together were responsible for 52 losses.
The Spiders were so bad that even their own loved ones wouldn't come out to watch them. As a result, they played only 41 games of the 154-game schedule in Cleveland .... Fittingly, the Spiders ended their season by dropping 40 of their last 41 games. In their final game they recruited a hotel cigar counter clerk to pitch for them against the Cincinnati Reds. In true Spider tradition, he lost 19-3.
The following year, the league voted to reduce the number of teams, and to no one's surprise, the Spiders were stomped out of existence.
-- Bruce Nash & Allan Zullo
The Baseball Hall of Shame
The Baseball Hall of Shame, Bruce Nash & Allan Zullo
Copyright 1985 by Nash and Zullo Productions, Inc.
Published by Wallaby Books (New York), 1985
available at AMAZON