After we released the second “best of the best” “Famous Fall Classics" collection, we had several fans suggest that it would be fun to have a compilation of the worst teams in baseball history. And--here it is! The "All-Time Losers" card set for HISTORY MAKER BASEBALL lets you experience what real-life fans went through in these legendary awful seasons.
Several folks provided suggestions for which clubs should be included in an “All-Time Losers” set. Many were drawn from baseball’s early history, the late 19th century or very early 20th century. These were good choices, and very bad teams, but we thought it would be more appealing to have at least some clubs and ball players in the mix who were perhaps a bit more familiar.
We also didn’t want to represent the same club more than once in the collection, and wanted a balance of roughly the same number of clubs from each the two big leagues. So, the assortment of nine teams we present here isn’t necessarily the nine worst clubs in the history of baseball—but it’s pretty close. Purists will be happy to know that THE worst team in the history of big league baseball, the 1899 Cleveland Spiders—is included in the set, despite its being from the sepia-toned era of the late 19th century. To counter-balance that, we also included a contemporary entry, 2003A Detroit, a club which made a great run at setting the modern day record for most losses in a season before it inexplicably won five of its last six games to avoid the infamy. In between these two era “outliers” are seven clubs from the heart of baseball history, the 1930s to the 1960s. All of them last-place cellar-dwellers with well over 100 losses in the season, but each with its own unique tale of woe detailing how exactly it got there. Interestingly, the teams from more recent baseball seasons that are commonly thought of as “the worst”—think 1978A Seattle or 1988N Atlanta—were a good ten or so games better than the teams that made our group.
So, without further ado—here are the teams included in HMB’s “All-Time Losers” collection…
1899N Cleveland: When discussion turns to the worst teams in baseball, this 19th century Cleveland team is usually only mentioned by historians. But it was historically bad. The owners of the club had purchased the St. Louis pro team and “traded” their top Cleveland players to their new St. Louis team, leaving the Cleveland roster decimated. A 10-1 loss on opening day hinted at what was to come: Cleveland won consecutive games only once all season, won only 20 games all season, and finished with the worst winning percentage in the history of baseball, .130. The pitching staff allowed over eight runs per game, and the club hit only twelve home runs all year. A masterpiece of bad baseball, inarguably.
1932A Boston: The worst team in the long and storied history of the Fenway franchise, it set club records for fewest wins and most losses, and finished 64 games out of first place. 1B Dale Alexander won the league batting title (depriving Jimmie Foxx of the Triple Crown) with a .372 average, but most of his teammates struggled to get past .250. With tepid pitching and awful fielding, the BoSox were out of the running before the summer even began, closing out the month of June with a 15-4 loss to New York that left their record at 12-55. The final verdict: 43 wins, 111 losses.
1935N Boston: Team owner Emil Fuchs lured an over-the-hill Babe Ruth back to Boston with promises of playing time, team ownership and managerial duties. However, it was really all a just ruse to put a few fans the stands: in fact, Fuchs secretly hoped “The Babe” would contribute some of his own money to keep the club afloat. On May 25th Ruth hit three home runs in an 11-7 loss to Pittsburgh: a week later, he announced his retirement. The rest of the season was a debacle, as Fuchs was stripped of control of the club, and the losses piled up—115 losses in all, against just 38 wins. OF Wally Berger hit 34 homers, but no one else hit more than five. Pitcher Ben Cantwell was another symbol of futility, losing 25 games—the last big league pitcher to lose that many games the rest of the 20th century.
1939A St. Louis: This club featured some of the worst pitching ever seen on a big league diamond, with a team ERA of 6.01 for the year—it would be fifty years until another team posted a worse mark. On the season, the staff gave up over 700 walks, over 100 more than the next-worst team. At bat, the club wasn’t much better, outside of 1B George McQuinn, who hit .318 with 20 HR. St. Louis was at the bottom of the league in batting average and strikeouts, and near-bottom everywhere else. Starting in mid-August, the club fell into a swoon that saw it win just 9 games the rest of the year, finishing a franchise-worst 43-111.
1942N Philadelphia: There’ve been a number of bad Philadelphia baseball teams, but none worse than this one. With their top pitcher (Hugh Mulcahy) and a number of hoped-for starters drafted into wartime service, an already-deficient club was left with a limp roster of “never-weres” and “never would-be’s.” Last in the league in almost every category—offense, defense, base running and pitching—Philadelphia lost games with a vengeance, including a 13-game losing streak and two streaks of nine losses, one of which saw the club get shut out three games in a row. Attendance was horrible, understandably, with an average crowd of 3100 per game watching the club stumble to a 42-109 record.
1948A Chicago: New GM “Frantic” Frank Lane tore apart the Chicago roster in an effort to find a winning combination of players. Over the next seven seasons, he would engineer almost 250 trades. Chicago eventually started winning in ’51 but in ’48 there was a lot of losing. It began with four straight losses to start the season, and by Memorial Day the club had won just 8 games. Forty-one year old Luke Appling created a few thrills with his bat, playing almost the full season and hitting .314. Another highlight was provided in July by OF Pat Seerey, who hit four home runs in an eleven-inning 12-11 win against Philadelphia. But mostly, ’48 was a year devoid of offensive fireworks, and with a pitching staff that was a shade below mediocre, Chicago careened to a 51-101 final record.
1952N Pittsburgh: GM Branch Rickey outlined a plan for a massive youth movement for the club in ’52 and on opening day, thirteen rookies had made Pittsburgh’s roster. From there, the season unraveled in short order, with losses in 16 of 17 games after a 2-2 start. By the end of May, Pittsburgh’s record had sunk to 5-28, with the cadre of “Operation Peach Fuzz” suffering through extended batting slumps and lapses of ability. By August, the only two veterans in the starting lineup were Ralph Kiner and Joe Garagiola, both of whom had respectable seasons. Kiner had been given a new contract that made him the highest-paid player in the league, and he wound up tied for the league in home runs with 37. Garagiola got more playing time than he’d ever had, and finished the season with a career-tops 54 RBI. But with seven of the league’s youngest players learning the ropes and taking their lumps, the result was a franchise-worst 42-112 record. As Garagiola would later say on his TV broadcasts, “in an eight-team league, we should have finished ninth.”
1962N New York: Featuring a patchwork roster stocked with spare parts, failed potential and players past their prime, and guided in good humor by a manager (Casey Stengel) who refused to take things too seriously, this club epitomized the term “lovable losers.” Inept at the plate, and always on the edge of imploding defensively, the New Yorkers rang up an astounding 120 losses in ’62, still a modern-day record. Included in the wreckage was a 17 game losing streak that stretched from May to June, and streaks of 11 losses in July, and 13 straight losses in August. Despite the bumbling performance, fans came out in droves—almost a million attended games at the aging Polo Grounds while the club’s brand new stadium was being built. Seven years later, the team would be world champions.
2003 Detroit: With 106 losses in 2002, most fans figured things had to get better in ’03—but they didn’t. Instead, the club spent the campaign seemingly destined to break the modern-day big league record for most losses in a season set by the afore-mentioned New Yorkers. On September 22nd, Detroit’s record stood at 38-118, but instead of capitulating, the club won five of its last six to avoid the ignominy. Pitcher Mike Maroth became the league’s first 20-game loser in over 20 years, and Jeremy Bonderman nearly joined him (6-19). In fact, Maroth, Bonderman and Nate Cornejo (6-17) were the three losingest pitchers in baseball in 2003, the first time in baseball history that the top three were on the same team. It wasn’t just bad pitching, though: Detroit ranked last in the league in hitting and fielding, too.
With the "All-Time Losers" card set, you can have your own "reverse" tournament, where the loser keeps playing until just one loser is left! Or, play your favorite "lovable loser" against all-time great teams, and see if they can somehow sneak in a win! (It'll be a challenge, but think of the thrill!) The printed card set sells for $18--all 250+ cards printed on micro-perfed card stock for fast and easy separation, plus suggested batting orders and a set of all-time great umpires. Order YOUR copy!