As the ever so affectionate Tyrion Lannister once said, “Turns out far too much has been written about great men and not nearly enough about morons.” Now, the Cleveland Spiders weren’t necessarily morons, but you get the quote.

On April 5th 2015, opening day, we will undertake upon a common ritual: to root for our teams to be the best. This is a ritual we undertake every year; we celebrate the winners and the best, yet never take time to acknowledge the worst. Often times they are lost to history. They are the unremarkable product of the world, but as Tyrion once said, not nearly enough is written about them so here I am writing about the 1899 Cleveland Spiders, the most unremarkable team in the history of baseball.

The 1899 Cleveland Spiders finished the season with a 20-134 record giving them the worst winning percentage in baseball history (.130).

The Spiders entered professional baseball in 1887, as part of the American Association, which later became the American League. When the Spiders first entered, they were called the Cleveland Forest Citys. It’s only in 1889, when the team moved to the National League, that they became known as the Spiders.

The Spiders actually enjoyed some success from 1892 to 1898. In fact, in 1895, the Spiders won the Temple Cup, a Cup that was awarded to the winner of a seven game post-season series between the two best teams of the National League. This award was given during the years 1894-1897. The team even had future Hall of Famer and legend Cy Young, who would become one of the greatest pitchers of all time, and record holder of the most wins of all time, 511.

In 1889, however, the owners of the team, known as the Robison brothers (Frank and Stanley) bought the St. Louis Browns. They saw that the Browns were going up for sale, as the owner could no longer afford the team. They changed the teams name to the Perfectos, after purchase. The Robison brothers, however, also kept ownership of the Spiders, and since they thought the Perfectos would make more money, they transferred all the quality players of the Spiders to the Perfectos. In result creating the worst team in the history of baseball.

The manager therefore had around two months to come up with a team, before opening day. The results of course were not pretty. That manager, Lave Cross, was fired after 38 games for going 8 and 30. His replacement Joe Quinn went 12 for 104. It in fact got so bad that the Spiders fans would no longer show up to the games and therefore the Spiders had to play almost all the second half of the season on the road. The Spiders lost 101 games on the road, which is also a major league record. Going by the regulations of the present game it is impossible to fathom that record ever being broken.

The Spiders, that year, gave up 1252 runs and only scored 529. They finished 84 games behind the Brooklyn Superbas, who ended up winning the pennant. The team’s OPS was .605 and their ERA was 6.37. In fact not a single pitcher that year finished with an above-average ERA. The team’s best ERA- was by Jack Harper at 101 (with a 3.89 ERA). The worst, and brace yourself, was Harry Maupin at 327 ERA- (with ERA-, the lower the better).

The 1899 season was the last in the team’s existence. So here they are — the Cleveland Spiders — and I guess if there’s a moral to the story, it’s this: if ever your team is having a bad season, just be thankful they weren’t the 1899 Cleveland Spiders.

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4 Responses to “The 1899 Cleveland Spiders”

  1. Tom Lasko

    The 1899 Cleveland Spiders were also responsible for a few of the coolest names in baseball history: Chief Sockalexis, Harry Colliflower, Crazy Schmit, Ossee Schrecongost, Sport McAllister, and Highball Wilson. They are in the Hall of Fame in my heart, even if they were inept on the field.

    • Julien Assouline

      Thans for the comment Tom! Ya those names are pretty cool. There a pretty fun team to look at, although there fun because of how terrible they were.

  2. J. Thomas Hetrick

    The full story of the 1899 Cleveland Spiders is contained in the book “MISFITS! Baseball’s Worst Ever Team” by J. Thomas Hetrick. It’s historical and hysterical.


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