Losing As an Art Form

In a game measured by statistics, at some time one looks toward the Lovable Losers. What teams were so bad that they set a standard for losing?

As a fan of the New York Mets when I was young, I thought their 1962 season when they only won 40 games while losing 120 had to be the benchmark of losing. Two games were not played due to rain so they could have lost 1 or 2 more games had nature cooperated. It seems that God couldn’t see fit to exact any more pain on Mets fans that year.

In 2003, the Detroit Tigers won 43 games and lost 119. That effort rivaled the Mets so much that it motivated me to spend my own money and buy a Detroit Tigers hat. This is the last time I spent my money on a hat. I have to admit that these Tigers deserved my business. It is hard work losing 119 games.

In the year 1899, the owners of the Cleveland Spiders were allowed to buy another team. As irony works out, they bought the St. Louis Browns. They made a decision that they could make more money on the Browns so they took the best players from both teams and put them on the Browns. This included the Hall of Fame pitcher Cy Young. It left the poor Spiders with a terrible roster of very bad players. They were essentially a minor league team in the major leagues.

The owners recognized that nobody in Cleveland would support the Spiders so they scheduled very few home games. On top of being a bad team, the Cleveland Spiders played almost all of their games on the road. When they were home, their average attendance was 199. That is not a typo. Their home attendance was under 4,000 for the whole season.

How did this all work out? The Cleveland Spiders of 1899 set records that are unbreakable.

They lost 101 road games. This included a 50 game road trip. Since teams only play 81 road games now, this is a record that will stand forever. (Take that Lou Gherig!)

They made 388 errors.

The team ERA was 6.37.

They had a 30 game loser, a 22 game loser, another pitcher was 1-18, and another one 2-17.

Their longest winning streak was 2 games.

They once lost 24 games in a row. In the 24th loss, the Spiders scored 7 runs in the second inning and led 8-1. They ended up losing 18-10.

The 1899 season ended and the Spiders won only 20 games. They lost 134. This is a winning percentage of .130, the lowest ever.

This is the most losses, the worst winning percentage and absolutely the worst professional baseball team ever.

After 1899, the team was abolished and removed from the National League. In 1900, under new ownership the Cleveland Lake Shores joined the brand new Western League. Within two years, Cleveland was renamed the Blues and eventually the Indians. The Western League became the American League.

Today at Progressive Field in Cleveland, there is a hidden history of a team, which was so bad, they could only win 20 games in a year and drew less than 200 people to their infrequent home games.

So when I think of Lovable Losers, there are the Mets of 1962, the Tigers of 2003 but they are pretenders to the throne where the 1899 Cleveland Spiders sit.

I may have to buy another hat.