Cleveland Spiders

The Cleveland Spiders were a Major League Baseball team which played between 1887 and 1899 in Cleveland, Ohio. The team played at National League Park from 1889 to 1890 and at League Park from 1891 to 1899.

The Spiders began their history in the old American Association (then a major league) in 1887. They were a weak team in their early years, but started to improve in 1891, two years after moving to the National League thanks in large part to their signing future Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Cy Young.

The Spiders had their best season in 1892, when they finished 93-56, good for second in the league. Other than standout second baseman Cupid Childs, the Spiders had an unremarkable offense. Their success in 1892 was built on pitching strength; Young was the NL's most dominant hurler, and 22-year-old Nig Cuppy had an outstanding rookie year. Following the season, a "World's Championship Series" exhibition was played between Cleveland and the first-place Boston Beaneaters, but the Spiders could only muster one tie in six games.

In 1895, the Spiders again finished second, this time to the equally rough-and-tumble Baltimore Orioles. Young again led the league in wins, and speedy left fielder Jesse Burkett won the batting title with a .409 average. The Spiders then won the Temple Cup, an 1890s postseason series between the first- and second-place teams in the NL. Amid fan rowdyism and garbage throwing, the Spiders won four of five games, against Baltimore, including two wins for Cy Young.

The 1895 championship was the high water mark for the franchise. The following season, Baltimore and Cleveland again finished first and second in the NL. But in the battle for the 1896 Temple Cup, the second-place Spiders were swept in four games.

The Cleveland Spiders finished fifth in each of the next two seasons, albeit with a winning record both times. Young threw the first of his three no-hitters for the Spiders on September 18, 1897. Then came 1899.

1899: the debacle

In 1899, the Cleveland Spiders' owners, the Robison brothers, bought the St. Louis Perfectos baseball club and proceeded to transfer most of the Cleveland stars, including future Baseball Hall of Famers Cy Young, Jesse Burkett, and Bobby Wallace to St. Louis. Deprived of its talent, the last year of the Spiders team was the worst in major league history, as the club finished 20-134 (.130) and lost 40 of their last 41 games of the season. The 1899 Cleveland team finished 84 games behind the pennant-winning Brooklyn Superbas and 35 games behind the next-to-last (11th) place Washington club.

Due to lackluster attendance, other NL teams refused to travel to Cleveland's park. The Spiders were thus forced to play the final 36 games of the season on the road, of which they lost 35. In so doing, they set a number of negative records, including one that is truly unbreakable due to baseball's schedule: 109 road losses.

The 1899 Spiders were 11-109 (.092) on the road, and 9-25 (.265) at home. The team's longest winning streak of the season was two games, which they accomplished once: on May 20 and May 21. Spiders opponents scored ten or more runs 49 times in 154 games. Pitchers Jim Hughey (4-30) and Charlie Knepper (4-22) tied for the team lead in wins. 6,088 fans paid for Spider home games in 1899, an average attendance of 179 per game.

The 1962 New York Mets (40-120) and 2003 Detroit Tigers (43-119) have the modern-era worst records in their respective leagues, and thus draw frequent comparisons to the Spiders for futility.


The Robisons' decision to reduce Cleveland to minor league standards, along with other intra-league raiding such as that conducted by the Dodgers, unwittingly helped pave the way to the National League's loss of its major league monopoly. The 12th-place Spiders were one of four teams contracted out of the National League at the end of the 1899 season. The others were the 11th-place Senators, the ninth-place Louisville club and, surprisingly, the fourth-place Baltimore club. The very next year, the then-minor American League fielded a team in Cleveland, as well as Chicago. By 1901, Cleveland and Chicago were joined by replacement clubs in Washington and Baltimore, as well as further direct competition to the Senior Circuit in Boston and Philadelphia, beginning a reshaping of the major league baseball map that would last for five decades.

See also


  • J. Thomas Hetrick. Misfits! The Cleveland Spiders in 1899. Jefferson, N.C..: McFarland and Co., 1991. ISBN 0899506089

External links

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