1899 Cleveland Spiders
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1899 Cleveland Spiders / Franchise: Cleveland Spiders / BR Team Page
History, Comments, Contributions
This 1899 Cleveland Spiders, with a 20-134 record, are generally considered the worst team in baseball history. One look at the statistics will show you why. The team had a batting average of .253, which could not be described as mediocre, as it was 19 points worse than the next team. Their 3.44 runs per game were 1.8 less than league average in the fairly high-scoring 1899 NL. Ah yes, the pitching. This is where the team really, ahem, made their mark.
Their "ace", "Coldwater" Jim Hughey, led the team with a solid 4-30 record, 5.41 ERA, and allowed an amazing 403 hits in 283 innings. Charlie Knepper went 4-22. Harry Colliflower was perhaps the worst of the bunch going 1-11 with a 8.17 ERA! You can see where this is going. Things got so bad, that a hotel cigar boy, Eddie Kolb, took the mound and was shelled. The team ERA was 6.37, compared to a league average of 3.85.
It wasn't all the players' fault: the Robison Brothers also owned the St. Louis Perfectos and all of Cleveland's marquee players, including future Hall of Famers Cy Young, Bobby Wallace, and Jesse Burkett, Cupid Childs, and manager Patsy Tebeau, were shuffled off to the Perfectos. This left the tattered remains of the Spiders to fend for themselves. Attendance was horrible (they drew about 6,000 fans for the season) and the team played many of its home games on the road. They were then, consequently, known as the "Wanderers", "Exiles", and "Waifs". Syndicate ball (an owner controlling two franchises) was later banned due to the excesses of the Robisons; they weren't the only practitioners in the 1890s, only the most blatant.
- J. Thomas Hetrick: Misfits! Baseball's Worst Ever Team, Pocol Press, Clifton, VA, 1999.
- Jonathan Weeks: Cellar Dwellers: The Worst Teams in Baseball History, Scarecrow Press, Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Lanham, MD, 2012. ISBN 978-0-8108-8532-5