Misfits Will Fit On Your Shelf!!
In 1899 the National League's Cleveland Spiders established a baseball record that may be as safe from being broken as Cy Young's career victories and Cal Ripken Jr.'s iron man heroics. It is a record so mired in futility that even today's downtrodden Detroit Tigers would have trouble approaching it. In reality the 1899 Spiders made the 1962 New York Mets look down right respectable.
The book Misfits! Baseball's Worst Ever Team by J. Thomas Hetrick takes a long hard look at how it all happened and how it all ended. Hetrick begins with the wealthy Robison brothers, Frank and Stanley owning both the St. Louis and Cleveland teams. Frank Robison took charge of the operations in St. Louis. He also took some key players from Cleveland with him leaving brother Stanley with a second hand club. From there it only gets worse. The Spiders fed the St. Louis club talent in much the way the Kansas City A's were accused of "farming" players to the Yankees in late 50's and early 60's.
The day-to-day trials and tribulations of the club grew from bad to pathetic. The team was so horrible that crowds of 300 or less would attend their home games at League Park. Eventually the Spiders could not afford to play at home. They took to road and became better known as the "Wanderers". Fueled by sporadic hitting, inept fielding and a ghastly pitching staff, the Spiders became the laughing stock of baseball.
The author puts the season in perspective as he follows the daily account of the team's fortunes and excessive misfortunes. The Spiders ended their last season of existence with a dismal 20-134 won-lost record. They were 34 games shy in the win column to the eleventh place Washington Senators. Unbelievable but sadly true. Hetrick does a fine job profiling the players. In all honesty there were some quality players who suited up for the Spiders in 1899. Lave Cross, Joe Quinn, Ossee Shreckengost, Tommy Dowd, Suter Sullivan and Chief Zimmer at one point or another graced the roster.
Their contributions were offset by 30 game loser, Jim Hughey and 22 game loser, Charlie Knepper. Throw in Frank Bates with a 1-18 ledger and "Crazy" Schmit's 2-17 mark and I doubt if they will ever make Clevelanders forget the "Big Four" of Garcia, Feller, Lemon and Wynn.
This book is a train ride into baseball history. It was well researched and well told. Hats off to Hetrick on his fine work. The Spiders may have been losers but his book was a winner!
I give this book a rating of 2 of 4 balls.