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, being disbanded along with three other teams after a travesty of a season in which the team had a horrific 20-134 won-lost record most closely approached by the 1962 New York Mets.

Cleveland Spiders
Years 18871899
Based in Cleveland, Ohio
Major league affiliations
Past names
  • Cleveland Forest Citys/Blues (1887–1888)
  • Cleveland Spiders (1889–1899)
Major league titles
  • Temple Cups: 1 (1895)
  • National League pennants: 0
  • American Association pennants 0


The Spiders first fielded a team in the American Association (then a major league) in 1887. At the time, they were known as the Cleveland Forest Citys[1] or Cleveland Blues. The team was organized by Frank Robison, who eventually brought his brother Stanley aboard to help run the club.

The Forest Citys were a weak team in their early years. In 1889, they moved to the National League and became known as the Spiders. They started to improve in 1891, largely due to the signing of future Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Cy Young.


The Spiders had their first taste of success in 1892 when they finished 93–56 overall; winning the second half by three games over Boston with a 53–23 record. 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.

Cleveland Spiders
1895 Cleveland Spiders

Following the season, a "World's Championship Series" exhibition was played between Cleveland and the first-half winner 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 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. In 1897, despite a winning record, the franchise finished fifth, a season highlighted by Young throwing the first of three career no-hitters on September 18. The Spiders again finished fifth in 1898.

1899: the debacle

In 1899, the Spiders' owners, the Robison brothers, bought the St. Louis Browns out of bankruptcy and changed their name to the Perfectos. However, they kept the Spiders as well—a blatant conflict of interest. Believing the Perfectos would draw greater attendance in more densely populated St. Louis, the Robisons transferred most of the Cleveland stars, including future Baseball Hall of Famers Cy Young, Jesse Burkett, and Bobby Wallace to St. Louis. They also shifted a large number of Cleveland home games to the road (for instance, the original Opening Day game was shifted to St. Louis).

With a decimated roster, the Spiders made a wretched showing. They finished with a dismal won-lost record of 20–134 (.130), the worst in MLB history, 84 games behind the pennant-winning Brooklyn Superbas and 35 games behind the next-to-last (11th) place Washington Senators. Their batting records were the worst in the league in runs, hits, doubles, triples, home runs, walks, stolen bases, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage.[2]

1898 Cleveland Spiders
1898 Cleveland Spiders

The Robisons announced after buying the Perfectos that they intended to run the Spiders as a "sideshow", and Cleveland fans apparently took them at their word. The Spiders' first 16 home games drew a total of 3,179 fans, or an average of 199 fans per game. Due to these meager attendance figures, the other 11 NL teams refused to come to League Park, as their cut of the revenue from ticket sales did not even begin to cover their hotel and travel expenses. The Spiders were thus forced to play 85 of their remaining 93 games on the road. Counting the large number of home games that had been shifted to the road earlier in the season, they only played 42 home games during the season, including only eight after July 1, and finished 9–33 (.214) at home and 11–101 (.098) on the road. Only 6,088 fans paid to attend Spiders home games in 1899, for a pitiful average of a mere 145 spectators per game in 9,000-seat League Park.

The 101 road losses is a major-league record that will never be threatened, as current scheduling practices have teams play a maximum of 81 away games (excluding one- or three-game playoffs). The team's longest winning streak of the season was two games, which they accomplished once: on May 20–21. 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.

The 1962 New York Mets, 40–120 (.250), and 2003 Detroit Tigers, 43–119 (.265), own the modern records in their respective leagues for the most losses, and thus draw frequent comparisons to the 1899 Spiders for futility.


The Robisons' decision to effectively reduce the Spiders to minor league status, along with other intra-league raiding such as that conducted by the Dodgers and to a lesser extent the Pittsburgh Pirates, 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 Colonels and the bankrupt fourth-place Baltimore Orioles). The 1899 fiasco played a role in the major leagues passing a rule which barred one person from owning controlling interest in two clubs.

The Robisons sold the assets of the Spiders team to Charles Somers and John Kilfoyle in 1900.[3] In 1900, the then-minor American League (previously the Western League) fielded a team called the Cleveland Lake Shores. In 1901, after the American League declared major league status, the team was called the Cleveland Blues, and eventually the Cleveland Indians.

See also


  1. ^ Encyclopedia of Cleveland History entry for the Cleveland Spiders
  2. ^
  3. ^ Encyclopedia of Cleveland History entry for Frank Robison


  • J. Thomas Hetrick. Misfits! The Cleveland Spiders in 1899. Jefferson, N.C..: McFarland and Co., 1991. ISBN 0-89950-608-9

External links

1890 Cleveland Spiders season

The 1890 Cleveland Spiders finished with a 44–88 record and a seventh-place finish in the National League.

1892 Cleveland Spiders season

The 1892 Cleveland Spiders, led by star pitcher Cy Young, finished with a 92–56 overall record, second-best in the National League. In the first split season in Major League Baseball history, the Spiders finished in fifth place during the first half of the season, and in first place during the second half. After the season, they played against the first half champions, the Boston Beaneaters in the "World's Championship Series" which they lost (5–0–1).

1899 Cleveland Spiders season

The 1899 Cleveland Spiders season was the team's 13th and final season in Major League Baseball, and their 11th season in the National League.

In 1899, the owners of the Spiders, the Robison brothers, Frank and Stanley, bought the St. Louis Browns baseball club from Chris von der Ahe, renaming it the Perfectos. However, they continued to retain ownership of the Cleveland club, an obvious conflict of interest that was later outlawed.

Stanley Robison publicly announced his intention to run the Spiders "as a sideshow", and fans apparently took him at his word. After the first 16 home games, Cleveland's total attendance was 3,179 for a trifling average of 199 people per game. As a result, other NL teams refused to travel to Cleveland's League Park, as their cut of the ticket revenue would not come close to covering their travel and hotel expenses. The Spiders only played 26 more home games for the rest of the season, including only eight after July 1. In so doing, they set a number of negative records, including one, 101 road losses, that is unbreakable under MLB's current schedule. Sportswriters of the day began referring to the team as the "Exiles" and "Wanderers." Their final record for the season was 20–134 for a win ratio of .130, still the worst in Major League Baseball history.

Bobby Wallace (baseball)

Roderick John "Bobby" Wallace (November 4, 1873 – November 3, 1960) was a Major League Baseball infielder, pitcher, manager, umpire, and scout.

Buck Ewing

William "Buck" Ewing (October 17, 1859 – October 20, 1906) was an American Major League Baseball player and manager. He was the first 19th-century catcher elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame and was named one of the top five 19th-century players in a 1999 poll by the Society for American Baseball Research.

Cleveland Spiders all-time roster

The following is a list of players and who appeared in at least one game for the Cleveland Spiders franchise of Major League Baseball from 1887 through 1899. This includes both the Cleveland Blues of the American Association and the Cleveland Spiders of the National League. Players in bold are in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Cy Young

Denton True "Cy" Young (March 29, 1867 – November 4, 1955) was an American Major League Baseball (MLB) pitcher. Born in Gilmore, Ohio, he worked on his family's farm as a youth before starting his professional baseball career. Young entered the major leagues in 1890 with the National League's Cleveland Spiders and pitched for them until 1898. He was then transferred to the St. Louis Cardinals franchise. In 1901, Young jumped to the American League and played for the Boston Red Sox franchise until 1908, helping them win the 1903 World Series. He finished his career with the Cleveland Naps and Boston Rustlers, retiring in 1911.

Young was one of the hardest-throwing pitchers in the game early in his career. After his speed diminished, he relied more on his control and remained effective into his forties. By the time Young retired, he had established numerous pitching records, some of which have stood for over a century. He holds MLB records for the most career wins, with 511, along with most career innings pitched, games started, and complete games. He led his league in wins during five seasons and pitched three no-hitters, including a perfect game.

Young was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1937. In 1956, one year after his death, the Cy Young Award was created to honor the best pitcher in Major League Baseball for each season.

Gus Schmelz

Gustavus Heinrich Schmelz (September 26, 1850 – October 14, 1925) was an American manager in Major League Baseball for the Columbus Buckeyes (1884), Cincinnati Red Stockings (1887–89), and Columbus Solons (1890–91) of the American Association, and for the St. Louis Maroons (1886), Cleveland Spiders (1890) and Washington Senators (1894–97) of the National League. He was regarded as a player's manager, but his camaraderie with his players did not translate to pennants, as he never finished higher than second place. His lifetime managerial record was 624–703 (.470).

Schmelz died in his birthplace of Columbus, Ohio at age 75 and is buried at Green Lawn Cemetery.

Jack Harper (1900s pitcher)

Charles William "Jack" Harper (April 2, 1878 – September 30, 1950) was a pitcher in Major League Baseball. He pitched eight seasons in the majors, from 1899 to 1906.

Harper started his professional baseball career in 1898. After a short stint with the Cleveland Spiders, he had a good season with the Fort Wayne Indians of the Interstate League in 1900 (going 20-15). This got him into the majors for good.

Over the next few seasons, Harper jumped from league to league, finally settling in with the Cincinnati Reds. He had his best season in 1904, when he went 23–9 with a 2.30 earned run average.

On May 30, 1904, Harper hit Chicago Cubs first baseman Frank Chance three times in one game, the last of which knocked Chance out cold. By 1906, Chance had become the manager of the Cubs, and Harper was struggling on the mound. Chance traded for Harper, cut his salary by two-thirds, and sat him on the bench for the entire season.At that time, organized baseball had the reserve clause; Harper had to pitch for the Cubs or no team at all. He never played professional baseball again.

Jesse Burkett

Jesse Cail Burkett (December 4, 1868 – May 27, 1953), nicknamed "Crab", was an American left fielder in Major League Baseball from 1890 to 1905. He batted over .400 twice. After his playing career, Burkett managed in the minor leagues. He was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1946.

Jimmy Burke (baseball)

James Timothy Burke (October 12, 1874 – March 26, 1942) was a Major League Baseball third baseman, coach, and manager. He played for the Cleveland Spiders, St. Louis Perfectos, Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago White Stockings, Pittsburgh Pirates, and St. Louis Cardinals.

Burke was the regular third baseman for the Cardinals from 1903 to 1905. He was named player-manager in the middle of the 1905, season but was replaced by Stanley Robison after amassing a record of 34–56.

From 1914 through 1917, Burke was a coach for the Detroit Tigers. He then served as manager for the St. Louis Browns from 1918 through 1920. In 1921, he became a coach for the Boston Red Sox, a position he held for three seasons. Burke later was a coach for the Chicago Cubs from 1926 through 1930, and was last a coach with the New York Yankees from 1931 through 1933.

Joe Quinn (second baseman)

Joseph "Joe" James Quinn (December 25, 1864 – November 12, 1940) was an Australian second baseman who played 17 seasons in Major League Baseball. Born in Ipswich, Queensland, to Patrick Quinn and Catherine, née McAfee, both from Ireland, he was the only Australian-born player to reach the major leagues until Craig Shipley in 1986.

John Clarkson

John Gibson Clarkson (July 1, 1861 – February 4, 1909) was a Major League Baseball right-handed pitcher. He played from 1882 to 1894. Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Clarkson played for the Worcester Ruby Legs (1882), Chicago White Stockings (1884–1887), Boston Beaneaters (1888–1892), and Cleveland Spiders (1892–1894).

He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1963.

List of Cleveland Spiders Opening Day starting pitchers

The Cleveland Spiders were a Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise that were based in Cleveland, Ohio and played from 1887 to 1899. The team played in the American Association as the Cleveland Blues in 1887 and 1888, and in the National League as the Cleveland Spiders from 1889 to 1899. The Spiders used eight Opening Day starting pitchers in their 13 years as a Major League franchise. The first game of the new baseball season is played on Opening Day, and being named the starter that day is an honor, which is often given to the player who is expected to lead the pitching staff that season, though there are various strategic reasons why a team's best pitcher might not start on Opening Day. The Spiders had a record of 2 wins and 11 losses in their Opening Day games. They never played an Opening Day game at home.

The first game in franchise history was played on April 16, 1887 against the Cincinnati Reds at League Park in Cincinnati. George Pechiney was the team's Opening Day starting pitcher that day, against the team he played for the previous two years. The team, then known as the Blues, lost the game 16–6. The team's first game in the National League was played on April 24, 1889 against the Indianapolis Hoosiers at Seventh Street Park in Indianapolis. Jersey Bakley was the Spiders' Opening Day starting pitcher for that game, which the Spiders lost 10–3. The last Opening Day game for the Spiders was played on April 15, 1899 against the St. Louis Perfectos at Robison Field in St. Louis. Willie Sudhoff was the team's Opening Day starting pitcher for that game, which the Spiders lost 10–1.Baseball Hall of Famer Cy Young was the Spiders' Opening Day starting pitcher six times – in 1891, 1893, 1894, 1896, 1897 and 1898. He was the only pitcher to have more than one Opening Day start for the franchise. Young, who is the Major League Baseball record holder for most career wins, is the only Opening Day starting pitcher to start a game in which they won, in both 1891 and 1893. The Spiders lost Young's other four Opening Day starts, as well as every Opening Day game started by other pitchers.

List of Cleveland Spiders managers

The Cleveland Spiders were a Major League Baseball team that played in Cleveland, Ohio. They played in the American Association when it was considered a major league from 1887 through 1888 and in the National League from 1889 through 1899. From 1887 through 1888 the team was named the Cleveland Blues. During their time as a Major League team, the Spiders employed 7 managers. The duties of the team manager include team strategy and leadership on and off the field.The Spiders' first manager was Jimmy Williams, who managed the team as the Cleveland Blues in 1887 and the beginning of the 1888 season. Williams managed a total of 197 games for the team, winning just 59 against 136 losses for a winning percentage of .303. This low winning percentage would prove one of the best in team history.

After Tom Loftus, Gus Schmelz and Robert Leadley handled the managerial duties from the middle of the 1888 season though the middle of the 1891 season, first baseman Patsy Tebeau became the Spiders' player-manager 69 games into the 1891 season. Tebeau would manage the Spiders through the end of the 1898 season. Tebeau holds the Spiders' records for most games managed, with 1040, most wins as manager, with 579, most losses as manager, with 436, and highest winning percentage, with .570. Tebeau is in fact the only Spiders' manager to have won more games than he lost. In 1894 and 1895, Tebeau had the distinction of managing his brother George Tebeau, who played outfield and first base for the team.In 1899, third baseman Lave Cross became the Spiders' player-manager. The Spiders won just 8 of 38 games under Cross, for a winning percentage of just .211, before Cross was replaced as player-manager by second baseman Joe Quinn. The Spiders performed even more poorly under Quinn, winning just 12 games and losing 104, for a winning percentage of .103. The Spiders' 1899 record of 20 wins and 134 losses under Cross and Quinn is the worst in professional baseball history, and the team was dropped from the Major Leagues after the season.

Patsy Tebeau

Oliver Wendell "Patsy" Tebeau (December 5, 1864 – May 16, 1918) was an American first baseman, third baseman, and manager in Major League Baseball.

Pop Snyder

Charles N. "Pop" Snyder (October 6, 1854 – October 29, 1924) was an American catcher, manager, and umpire in Major League Baseball.

Tom Loftus

Thomas Joseph Loftus (November 15, 1856 – April 16, 1910) was a manager in the American Association, the National League, and the American League. His playing career began in 1877 with the St. Louis Brown Stockings of the National League, but he only played in nine career games in 1877 and 1883 as an outfielder. His first managerial job came in 1884 with the Milwaukee Brewers of the short-lived Union Association (it only lasted one year), in which he only managed 12 games (going 8–4).

Loftus took over as manager of the Cleveland Spiders, then known as the Blues, partway through the 1888 season after Jimmy Williams resigned. In 1890, he was hired to manage the Cincinnati Reds, who had recently made the jump from the American Association to the National League. He left the game after the 1891 season, but he came back to manage the Chicago Orphans and the Washington Senators, and in each of his managerial stops, he would have part ownership of the team.

Loftus died in Dubuque, Iowa at the age of 53.

Tony Mullane

Anthony John "Tony" Mullane (January 20, 1859 – April 25, 1944), nicknamed "Count" and "The Apollo of the Box", was an Irish Major League Baseball player who pitched for seven teams during his 13-season career. He is best known as a pitcher that could throw left-handed and right-handed, and for having one of the highest career win totals of pitchers not in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Cleveland Spiders
Histories of teams in Major League Baseball


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