The story of the worst baseball teams ever starts in the 1800’s, with the Cleveland Spiders, and ends just 7 years ago with the Detroit Spiders. In between them somewhere there was another shocking team – the New York Mets. All of these teams displayed a distinguished ability to flop. Their performances were not only bad, they were quite simply woeful. The only small cloud in the silver lining for these teams is that we get to commemorate them all this time later, and for the Detroit Spiders, specifically, that they, due to an interesting turn of events, actually received a standing ovation when they left the field on their last game, despite having the worse record of any team for two generations.
A full 111 years ago, in 1899, the Cleveland Spiders delivered the worst season long performance of all time. It is quite a feat considering how many years have passed since then and how many opportunities there were for subsequent teams to beat their record. They finished with a miserable 20 wins, and a whopping 134 defeats (.130 percentage). The Spiders smashed a whole range of unfortunate records. One of them was a 24 game losing steak! Also they had the most losses in any one month – 27. The begging of the season was poor, the middle ever worse, and at the end of the season they out did themselves and managed to lose 40 of the last 41 games.
What some people don’t know, is that the Cleveland Spiders had plenty of success in the 1890s. Between 1892 and 1898 they had seven straight winning seasons. At the same time, the St. Louis Browns had dropped to what was then a record low of 39-111 in 1898. The big change came on the eve of the 1899 season, when the Spiders ownership purchased the Browns, and transferred the majority of the Spider’s good players to St. Louis. St. Louis suddenly started performing very well, and Cleveland terribly!
A relatively modern woeful team was the 1962 New York Mets. The Mets was filled with untalented rookies, castoffs and ageing players. They finished the season with the third-worst winning percentage since 1900, and the modern era record for the most losses. For seven long years, the Mets finished last or second to last, before, in the most dramatic turn of events possible, they won the 1969 World Series.
The worst team of this era is of course the Detroit Tigers in 2003. After 156 games, they stood at 38-118, and it seemed odds on that they would break the New York Mets record for losses. However, they saved face by surprisingly winning 5 out of the last 6 games. In their second to last game, they recovered from an 8-0 deficit, and won 9-8 against the Minnesota Twins. They then won the last game of the season and in doing so avoided tying the record. As a result, after having the worse season of any team in this generation, they left the field on the last game to a standing ovation from the crowd!
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