Monument to Mediocrity
by Michael Aubrecht and Eric Wittenberg (Copyright 2008)

ERIC: I had the misfortune of being born into a family of Philadelphia sports nuts. My father was a dedicated A's fan, until they moved to Kansas City, that is. Up until then, he'd always turned up his nose at the Phillies, but when the A's moved away, it left only the Phillies. And so, he reluctantly became a Phillies fan. I was born in 1961, six years after the A's moved away. By then, my father had been smitten. He was a suffering, die-hard Phillies fan,

rooting for a bad baseball team. The 1961 Phillies went 57-107, and are generally considered to be one of the worst teams in the history of Major League Baseball.

So, against, this backdrop, I was doomed. It was inevitable that I also would be bitten by the Phillies bug, and I was. Some of my earliest memories are of watching Dick ("Don't Call Me Richie") Allen hit long home runs clear out of old Connie Mack Stadium with my father. In 1964, when I was three years old, the Phillies managed one of the greatest collapses in the history of professional sports, losing ten in a row and blowing a six game lead in the process. They finished third. They would not come close again for twelve more long years.

Times were very bad for Philadelphia's professional sports teams. The Eagles, who won the NFL championship in 1960 just a few months before I was born, became one of the league's consistently worst teams. The 76'ers, who won an NBA championship in 1967, posted a record of 9-73 in 1973, the absolute worst record ever in the long history of professional sports. Only the Flyers provided us with some hope, winning the Stanley Cup two years in a row in 1974 and 1975.

And then things changed. The Phils won the National League's Eastern Division in 1976, 1977, and 1978, losing in the divisional playoffs each time. They finished second in 1979, and then a miracle happened-they won the World Series in 1980, the first world championship in the 126 years of the team's existence. They won the Fall Classic again this year, ending a 28 year drought for the Phillies and an overall drought of 100 professional seasons for the City of Brotherly Love (25 years x 4 professional sports=100 seasons; the last world championship was the 76'ers in 1983). That makes two championships in 126 years. They've also lost twice more in the Fall Classic, in 1983 and 1993. In 2007, they finally vanquished the ghosts of 1964 and won the National League East after an even more epic collapse by the New York Mets, who lost 11 of their last 15 games, while the Phils went 12-3 down the stretch, winning the division championship on the final day of the season. However, along the way, in July, 2007, the Phillies became the only professional sports franchise in history to post 10,000 losses.

Therefore, as someone who has avidly rooted for the Phillies for nearly half a century, I know losing. I understand losing. I know what it's like to suffer while watching epic loss after epic loss. I have long understood what it's like to find another team to root for during the postseason because my team hasn't made it there. And along the way, I came up with an idea.

In 1974, as a 13-year-old, I came up with the idea of doing a study of the worst teams in the history of Major League Baseball, which I wanted to call The Losers. I picked out some teams and thought it would be fun to do the research for a project like this. I even wrote a letter to Joe Garagiola, then a star announcer for NBC, asking for permission to quote from his book, Baseball Is a Funny Game. I still have his letter denying me that permission tucked inside an album full of sports autographs I've had since childhood.

I wanted my project to be celebration of the very worst teams in the history of Major League Baseball, a lighthearted look at the worst that the National Pastime has had to offer. Narrowing down the list was a challenge; there have been a lot of really terrible teams in the history of Major League Baseball. However, one entrant in that Hall of Shame was obvious: the all-time worst team in the history of Major League Baseball was the 1899 Cleveland Spiders. They went 20-134 and had to play their last 35 or so games on the road, because no National League team would come to their field to play due to a lack of attendance. The 1899 Spiders are the gold standard against which all other awful teams have to be measured.

Or then, there were the 1930 Phillies, who had a team batting average in excess of .310 and a team ERA well over 6.00, meaning that even with that kind of offense, they finished dead last in the National League, as they had one of the very worst pitching staffs in the history of the game. Or Garagiola's Pittsburgh Pirates teams of the early 1950's, which were consistently atrocious. Or the 1962 New York Mets, the worst team of the modern era, who posted a record of 40-120 in their inaugural season. Or the 1969 Seattle Pilots, who posted a record of 64-98, finishing 33 years out of first place in the only year of the franchise's existence (this team has been called the Milwaukee Brewers since 1970). My problem was that I was only 13 years old when I came up with this concept, and I had absolutely no idea what was involved in researching and writing a book like this.

Consequently, I stored this idea away years ago, never figuring I would ever get a chance to do anything about it. I just didn't have the resources or knowledge how to do that sort of research, and I always had other projects. I continued to harbor the hope that I might someday find a way to bring the project to fruition, but with each passing year, the likelihood of doing so grew less and less.

I met Michael Aubrecht as a consequence of our mutual interest in the American Civil War. I knew that Michael had done a great deal of writing on baseball over the years for Baseball Almanac, and I also knew that he knew how to do this sort of research. In the course of a few exchanges of e-mails some months ago, I mentioned my idea for a study of the worst that Major League Baseball had to offer to Michael, who fell in love with the concept once he learned more about it. That clinched it. After further discussion, we decided to find a way to bring my long-dormant dream to fruition. You are holding the results of that collaboration. I'm just thrilled that this idea I came up with 35 years ago has finally come to fruition. We hope that you enjoy it as much as we have enjoyed telling these stories of monumental failure that have cried out to be told for too long.

Eric J. Wittenberg
Columbus, OH
November, 2008

MICHAEL: Almost a decade ago, a gentleman named Sean Holtz at Baseball-Almanac gave me my first paid writing assignment and a shot at a second career. Over the years I provided BA with complete studies of the World Series, All-Star Game, Regular and Post Seasons, Player, Team and Commissioner Bios, as well as some totally biased editorial pieces on my personal favorites, the New York Yankees. Since then, I have been privileged to write and

publish hundreds of additional studies on the game, along with an online reference book, and multiple magazine and newspaper articles. Although my books today focus almost entirely on the Civil War, baseball remains a mainstay in both my private and professional life. It is the source of both my agony and my ecstasy.

As a lifelong baseball fan, I have always been fascinated with the legacy of America's National Pastime and nothing pleases me more than digging through my library of books or surfing the 'net and learning about teams and individuals who played this wonderful sport decades before my parents were even born. As I continue to study the game's past, the more respect I seem to have for the players of yesterday and the less I have for the players of today.

Ballplayers of the past were nothing like the modern athlete. These were men who played the game simply to escape the harsh realities of the steel mills or the coal mines. There weren't any agents, or endorsements, or trainers, or supplements. There wasn't any drug testing, or labor disputes, or free agency, or no-trade clauses. They didn't need legal representation or negotiation and more importantly, they didn't want it. Just give em' a damn ball and a bat and they'd play. And they'd be thankful for the opportunity and give you 110%. The concept was perfect.

But that was then and this is now. Frankly folks, far too many players today are spoiled rotten, and it's left me and many other die-hards with a bad taste in our mouths. I put it this way… The players of the past played for the name on the FRONT of the uniform. The players of today play for the name on the BACK.

As the state of baseball continues to rock back and forth between the owners and the league and the fans, I'd like to recommend that everyone spend a little time reading about the history of the game, its origins and its originators. Learn about pitchers who'd go 12 complete innings and then pitch again (on NO rest) during a double header the following day. Or other players who were injured (and even struck by lightning!) yet they always returned to finish the game. Never whining, never complaining, and just willing to give it all for the privilege to play.

That's the difference between an "athlete" and a "player" and I'd take the player any day. They were grateful to play the game, and I'm grateful that we still have their history to look back on. That goes for both the winners and losers.

And that is why I was so pleased when Eric Wittenberg, a fellow historian whom I have a great deal of respect and admiration for, pitched the idea of working on a baseball book that would focus on "The Worst."

In a market that is oversaturated with inflated tales of glory, Eric's vision for a book that took the opposite approach to the norm was very inviting. My friend, renowned Civil War painter Mort Künstler once told me that artists always try to be totally original in their work because there won't be anything else out there to compare them to. I agree.

The first half of this book is based on statistical data. The second half is based on our own personal opinions. Readers may or may not agree and we welcome your feedback. We have labored, to the best of our abilities, to accurately research and present what we feel are the worst players, teams, moments, and performances in the history of baseball. You will note that we have chosen to print what we consider to be highly original and/or far too neglected subjects.

However, it is virtually impossible to incorporate everything; therefore, we have included an extensive list of the reference materials used in this project in the Bibliography and recommend each and every one for those who are interested in reading additional information. For additional data, composite statistics, individual box scores, and more information on all things pertaining to baseball, visit

In closing, I would like to add that none of this project has been done in a mean-spirited manner. Even our 'Hall of Shame' segments were intentionally written in a quasi-tribute style. For example, in scolding the 1956 Brooklyn Dodgers' batting performance against Don Larsen in Game 5 of the World Series, we simultaneously recognize their All-Star line-up and give credit to Larsen's arm.

We are after all fans and hope that this book is received in the manner it was intended, an interesting and highly original read.

Michael Aubrecht
Fredericksburg, VA
November, 2008




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