MICHAEL: Welcome to the new blog for our new book. Unlike a static webpage, this blog will be an evolving site providing the updates on the book’s release, press events, book reviews, speaking engagements and other related information. We will also be posting extensive bonus material that we chose not to include in the final book.
Although You Stink! doesn’t officially hit the book shelves until May, you can pre-order your own copy online at The Kent State University Press, Amazon.com, or Barnes & Noble. Autographed and Review Copies will also be made available.
In 1974, a 13-year-old boy named Eric Wittenberg came up with the idea of doing a study of the worst teams in the history of Major League Baseball, which he wanted to call “The Losers.” Eric picked out some teams and thought it would be fun to do the research for a project like this. He 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.” Unfortunately Eric’s request was denied. No deterred, Eric pressed on with his vision to produce a lighthearted look at the worst that our National Pastime has had to offer.
In 2005, he met fellow writer and historian Michael Aubrecht as a consequence of their mutual interest in the American Civil War. Both were rabid baseball fans, with Aubrecht being a former contributing historian for Baseball-Almanac. Over the course of a few email exchanges Michael embraced Eric’s concept and began working with him to bring this long-dormant dream to life…and that brings us to where we are today…thrilled that this 35 year-old idea has finally come to fruition.
Over the years, there have been countless studies published celebrating the best teams in professional baseball. These include the stories of franchises such as the 1906 Chicago Cubs who won 116 games; the 1929 Philadelphia A’s, who showcased one of the best pitching staffs ever to share a mound; the 1975 “Big Red Machine” Cincinnati Reds; the 1902 Pittsburgh Pirates, who won the National League crown by 27 1/2 games, the widest margin of victory in league history; the 1912 Boston Red Sox; the 1942 St. Louis Cardinals; the 1927, 1939, 1961 and 1998 New York Yankees; the 1970 Baltimore Orioles; the 1986 New York Mets; and the 1995 Cleveland Indians. All of these teams have the distinction of standing far above their competition.
Unfortunately, winning represents only one side of the game. For every champion’s record-setting season, there has been an equally memorable loser’s defeat. These teams and their shameful contributions to America’s national pastime have been a neglected topic in the annals of baseball history. What follows is a far overdue look at the worst teams ever to set foot on a diamond. The criteria for selecting the featured franchises were based on a variety of factors including their win-loss record and standing compared to rest of the league (at the time). There are other organizations that certainly fit within our criteria, but were left out in order to have a variety of teams represented in this book. Here are the losing franchises we selected:
- 1889 Louisville Colonels: 27-111
- 1898 St. Louis Browns: 39-111
- 1899 Cleveland Spiders: 20-134
- 1904 Washington Senators: 38-114
- 1932 Boston Red Sox: 43-111
- 1935 Boston Braves: 38-115
- 1916 Philadelphia Athletics: 36-117
- 1942 Philadelphia Phillies: 55-99 and 1961 Philadelphia Phillies: 47-107
- 1950 Pittsburgh Pirates: 57-96,1951 Pittsburgh Pirates: 64-90,1952 Pittsburgh Pirates: 42-112,1953 Pittsburgh Pirates: 50-104,1954 Pittsburgh Pirates: 53-101
- 1962 New York Mets: 40-120
- 1969 Seattle Pilots: 64-98
- 1973 San Diego Padres: 60-102
- 1988 Baltimore Orioles: 54-107
- 1991 Cleveland Indians: 57-105
- 2003 Detroit Tigers: 43-119
The debate over baseball’s most shameful team continues to resonate today. Of course, each contender for the “worst of the worst” must be examined and critiqued within the confines of its own era. FORBES magazine once attempted to assemble a list of the all-time terrible teams, but they were warned by experts not to judge franchises based upon today’s standards. Each team must be weighed against its own competitors within the confines of its own era. Columnist Tom Van Riper wrote:
To select our best and worst teams of all time, we opted for a more mathematical approach. To equalize the measurement of team performance across eras, we’ve created the G-score (as in “greatness”), basically a zippy name for what statistical connoisseurs call standard deviation. The score measures how teams stack up against their peers in a given year.
Standard deviation also adjusts for periodic changes in scheduling balance over the years, such as the breakdown of each league into two (and then three) divisions, and interleague play. It covers the modern era of 1901 to 2005; omitting the World War II years of 1942 to 1945, when many star players served in the military, as well as the strike years of 1981 and 1994. For example, two of eight American League clubs in 1927 posted winning percentages below .400, leading to a league-wide standard deviation of .123 percentage points above and below the average .500 record. The Yankees’ .714 winning percentage that year was .214 above the average, while a “standard” club was no more than .123 over. In other words, the Yankees were 1.74 times better than a “typical club,” or a little less than twice as good (hence a 1.74 G-score).
The concept also works in reverse. As bad as the 1962 Mets were, the team’s G-score of -2.014 places them just 18th on the all-time futility list. That’s mainly due to a trio of National League clubs (San Francisco, Los Angeles and Cincinnati) winning 98 or more games that year, making for a widely unbalanced league. The Mets weren’t even the worst team of 1962; that honor belongs to the American League’s Washington Senators, who compiled a -2.033 G-score by losing 101 times in a season when no AL team won more than 96 games.
Although our selections for this study were not based on any specific algorithm, we do include some related-statistics for each and every featured team and player, including a myriad of schedules, as well as batting, pitching, and fielding statistics, player rosters, individual stats, box scores (where applicable), and division and/or league standings. By providing these numbers, we invite the reader to make his/her own judgments as to THE worst team of all-time.
Several teams who did not make our cut are certainly worth a mention. In no particular order, they include the: 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys (23-113), 1972 Texas Rangers (54-100), 1996 Detroit Tigers (53-109), 1973 Texas Rangers (57-105), 1938 Philadelphia Phillies (45-105), and the 2004 Arizona Diamondbacks (51-111).
In addition to the Terrible Teams, we also have a Hall of Shame that includes:
Worst Season: 1884 Wilmington Quicksteps
Worst Investment: $100M 2008 Seattle Mariners
Worst Collapse: 2007 New York Mets
Worst Pitching Staff: 1930 Philadelphia Phillies
Worst Scandal: 1919 “Black Sox” Scandal
Worst Call: *61 IN ’61: Maris Gets the Asterisk
Worst Team Year in and Year Out: Pittsburgh Pirates and 19+ Straight Losing Seasons
Top 10 Worst Plays/Moments:
1. Buckner’s Blooper
2. Fred Merkle’s Boner
3. Pete Rose Ruins Ray Fosse
4. George Brett’s Pine Tar Incident
5. Cap Anson’s Racist Reluctance
6. Players’ Strikes (’72, ’81, ‘94)
7. Mickey Owen’s Passed Ball
8. Babe Slugs Umpire Brick Owens
9. Disco Demolition Debacle
10. Brooklyn Dodgers Go West
Batter: Bill Bergen
Pitcher: Jim Hughey
Catcher: John Humphries
Fielder: Tony Suck
Grand Champion: Clarence “Choo Choo” Coleman
Owners: The Not-So-Mighty Quinns
Disappointment on the Diamond: A Timeline of Terribleness (1877-2011)
Notable Quotables: Lines about Losing…