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Tuesday, July 17, 2012
50 years ago today, the last man standing from the worst team ever fielded finally passed on.
It was July 17, 1962 when Sport McAllister passed away at the ripe old age of 87 in Wyandotte, Michigan. 63 years previously, he’d been a young outfielder for the Cleveland Spiders, a team famous for finishing the season with an impossibly bad record of 20-134.
They weren’t that bad by accident. In the 1898-99 off-season, the owners of the Spiders purchased the St. Louis franchise, and decided to move all their best players, including a star pitcher named Cy Young to St. Louis. Cleveland got the dregs. Cy Young would win more games that year than all his former teammates put together. McAllister, a part-time player in years past, played in 113 teams for Cleveland’s castoffs, more than he would play in any other season. At the end of 1899, the Spiders were contracted out of existence.
The Spiders were so bad that midway through the year they opted to play all their remaining games on the road. Hey – they weren’t even drawing flies at home, so they’d take the bigger gate elsewhere. As the season wore on, their spirits dipped ever further. They dropped 40 of their last 41, including a 24 game losing streak. In their season ending doubleheader, they had a clerk from the hotel they were starting at pitch one of their games.
Technically speaking McAllister may not have been the last surviving member. Of the 31 men who played for the 1899 Spiders, we know the death dates for 30 – but not for pitcher Frank Bates. He would’ve been 85 when McAllister passed away so its possible he was still alive and kicking, but odds are against it.
Of the other 30, the first to pass away was utility infielder Jim Duncan, who died at age 30 in 1901. Three years later backup infielder Charlie Ziegler became the only one to die before his 30th birthday, at age 29.
They fell off slowly. Three died in the 1900s, three more in the 1910s, and a pair more in the 1920s. In the mid-1930s, more started to pass away, and by 1940 they reached the tipping point. With the 15th and 16th deaths, pitcher Crazy Schmidt and second baseman Joe Quinn respectively, more were dead than alive.
Only nine made it to the 1950s, and of those just five were alive by the end of 1953. But those five all held on for several more years.
The next to die was Joe Sudgen, the team’s starting catcher, who slipped away at age 88 on June 28, 1959. The next year Kid Carsey, a pitcher who won 116 games in his career, became the next man to die.
That only left three. In 1961, two more moved on: infielder Otto Krueger and the unfortunately named starting pitcher Harry Colliflower. The latter died at age 92, the only man from the team to make it into the 90s.
When Colliflower died on Aug. 12, 1961, McAllister was the only one left. And so he remained for 11 more months, before dying 50 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that occurred X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim over things.
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Twins 19, Orioles 7: This was a multifaceted butt-whupping, but it got started with Chris Tillman's butt. Which is a shame considering that five short months ago he was in the Best Shape of His Life. All of those runs for the Twins despite hitting only one homer. It was a Gashouse Gorillas-style conga line around the base paths. I wish Ron Gardehire had kept Anthony Swarzak in the game for a third inning of relief, however, because this game really needed a save.
Red Sox 5, White Sox 1: Did you know that Kevin Youkilis was the first player who was ever traded by a team to then face his old team in a baseball game? It's true! At least if you read the stuff in the Boston papers over the past couple of days. Youk was good enough -- he went 3 for 4 -- but Adrian Gonzalez drove in four, including a three-run homer. Aaron Cook allowed zero earned runs over seven innings.
Marlins 5, Nationals 3: Well, we missed out on any Ozzie Guillen-Bryce Harper fights, so it sort of feels like a letdown. But Hanley Ramirez hit a two-run homer and Carlos Lee drove in two.
Indians 3, Rays 2: The teams used 11 pitchers in a nine-inning game. A ball that was initially called a homer was changed to a double after a replay review revealed the initial call to be incorrect. If Bud Selig had his way the latter would never happen because it screws up the pace of the game. Sometimes you just have to laugh so you don't cry.
Diamondbacks 5, Reds 3: The Reds announce that Joey Votto is going to have surgery and then they go out and find themselves down 4-0 in the first inning, effectively ending things before they start. There have been better nights in Cincinnati.
Mariners 9, Royals 4: Gonna go out on a limb and say that the Royals did not win the Jonathan Sanchez-Melky Cabrera trade. Sanchez: 1.1 IP, 7 H, 7 R. His ERA balloons to 7.76. Casper Wells drove in five with a three-run homer and a two-run triple.
Yankees 6, Blues Jays 3: Raul Ibanez hit a grand slam, but that was the least of the Blue Jays' worries last night, as they lost Jose Bautista for what will likely be an extended period. Tendon problems on power hitters = potential ugliness.
Tigers 8, Angels 6: Quintin Berry had three hits, two stolen bases and scored twice. Brennan Boesch had a two-run homer. Detroit has won 11 of 15 and now is two and a half behind the White Sox. I called Detroit a sleeping giant before the All-Star break. The giant stirs.
Cardinals 3, Brewers 2: A nice duel between Lance Lynn and Mike Fiers, but neither figured in the decision thanks to John Axford giving up three runs on three hits and two walks while blowing a 2-0 lead in the ninth.
Phillies 3, Dodgers 2: Ryan Howard hit his first homer and, in doing so, picked up his first RBI of 2012. And tonight: Roy Halladay comes back. Slowly but surely the Phillies are becoming the Phillies again. But I strongly suspect it's too late.
Astros 2, Padres 0: The Astros vs. the Padres had an official attendance of 26,000+. I assume the promotion was "free money night" or something. Houston finally wins one on the road.
Rockies 5, Pirates 4: This one went into a rain delay in the top of the ninth with the Rockies up by three. I was tempted, before I went to sleep, to simply write it up, figuring that it was over. Then I thought "eh, Coors Field, anything can happen." Wise choice, as the Pirates tied it up after the grounds crew dried it up when Pedro Alvarez hit a three-run bomb. Dexter Fowler won it on a sac fly in the bottom of the ninth. I wonder how many actually stuck around for that.