50th anniversary: the last survivor from baseball’s worst team diesby Chris Jaffe
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.
3,000 days since Scott Rolen lays down the first and still only sacrifice bunt of his career.
5,000 days since the Mets announce GM Steve Phillips will take a paid leave of absence while a threatened sex harassment suit against him gets resolved.
8,000 days since the Twins sign amateur free agent Cory Lidle.
15,000 days since Rick Wise has the most dominant game ever by a pitcher, belting two home runs while tossing a no-hitter.
15,000 days since Bob Miller of the Padres wins two games in relief for the Padres.
1880 Harry Stovey, at one point the game’s all-time home run king, hits the first of his 27 inside the park home runs.
1891 Cy Young hits a home run off of Tony Mullane.
1900 Christy Mathewson makes his major league debut.
1902 The AL’s Baltimore squad releases a slew of players, including Hall of Famers Joe Kelley, Roger Bresnahan, Joe McGinnity. AL president Ban Johnson announces that unless Baltimore fields a team, its stockholders would forfeit its franchise.
1902 Dummy Hoy appears in his last game.
1903 Dan McClellen of the Cuban X-Giants tosses the first perfect game in black baseball history.
1903 Rube Waddell is arrested for assaulting a fan who criticized his pitching. Connie Mack bails him out.
1908 Mordecai Brown beats the Christy Mathewson 1-0 on a fifth inning inside-the-park home run by Joe Tinker.
1908 Pittsburgh has Honus Wagner Day, giving the star shortstop a $700 gold watch.
1909 Smokey Joe Wood becomes the first man to reach double-digit Ks in a relief stint, fanning 10 in four innings.
1911 Jack Coombs, a pitcher, this a home run in the 14th inning off of 200-game winner Jack Powell.
1914 Babe Adams of the Pirates pitches 21 innings only to lose 3-1 to Rube Marquard and the Giants. Always the control artist, Adams walks none in the game.
1914 Washington outfielders Clyde Milan and Danny Moeller collide in the outfield, breaking Milan’s jaw. He’ll miss 40 games.
1917 Lou Boudreau is born.
1918 Cub pitcher Lefty Tyler defeats the Phillies 2-1 in 21 innings.
1920 Outfielder Bibb Falk makes his big league debut.
1924 Pie Traynor hits an inside the park walk-off homer in the bottom of the 13th inning.
1924 Jesse Haines no-hits the Braves, walking three in a 5-0 win for the Cardinals.
1928 Ty Cobb plays his last complete game. He’ll have 10 more pinch-hit appearances and three more times he starts but is pulled during the game.
1929 Roy McMillan, shortstop, is born.
1932 Hall of Famer Joe Sewell gets his 2,000th career hit.
1934 Babe Ruth draws his 2,000th career walk.
1935 In a doubleheader against Cleveland, Billy Werber of the Red Sox gets seven doubles.
1936 Carl Hubbell begins his 24 game winning streak. He’s 10-6 when this day begins and will end the season 26-6. He'll then start the following campaign 8-0.
1936 Jimmie Foxx hits one over the upper deck roof in Comiskey Park’s left field roof and onto the street.
1936 Goose Goslin enjoys the last of his 14 multi-home run games.
1937 Luke Appling gets his 1,000th career hit.
1939 Chuck Klein gets his 28th and final career multi-home run game.
1939 Earl Averill has his 19th and final career multi-home run game.
1941 It’s over—Cleveland holds Joe DiMaggio hitless, ending his streak at 56 games.
1942 Don Kessinger, longtime Cubs shortstop, is born.
1947 Bobo Newsom wins his 200th game. His record: 200-208.
1947 The Browns sign Negro Leaguers Hank Thompson and Willard Brown. Hank Thompson makes his big league debut, helping to integrate the St. Louis Browns. It’s purely a stunt for attendance. When it doesn’t lead to a big boom in fans in the seats, the Browns release both.
1947 The Yankees win their 19th consecutive game, tying an AL record set by the 1906 Yankees. It will be a jointly held record until the 2002 A’s win 20 straight.
1948 Leo Durocher makes his debut as Giants manager.
1950 Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Gordon goes 5-for-5 for the only time in his career. He homers and drives in four.
1952 Ralph Kiner hits the sixth of eight career walk-off homers. He also gets his 1,000th hit.
1954 For the first time in history, Brooklyn fields a majority-black team. I think it’s the first time any team has done it. On the field is Jim Gilliam at second base, Jackie Robinson at third, Roy Campanella behind the plate, Don Newcombe on the mound, and Sandy Amoros in the outfield. The Dodgers top the Braves, 2-1.
1954 The Giants overcome an 9-0 deficit only to lose anyway in 11 innings.
1955 Earl Torgeson steals home in the 10th inning for a 6-5 Tigers win over the Yankees.
1955 Starting pitcher Roger Craig makes his big league debut.
1956 Ted Williams hits his 400th home run and spits at the press box when he crosses the plate.
1956 Turk Lown enjoys the best known relief stint in Cubs history according to WPA. He throws seven innings of shutout ball for a 0.922 WPA.
1959 Chicago’s Early Wynn and New York’s Ralph Terry have a 0-0 duel after eight innings, with Terry tossing a no-hitter. Then in the ninth he allows a hit to Jim McAnnay and then a Jim Landis home run for a 2-0 White Sox win.
1959 Cleveland’s Minnie Minoso strikes out from the on deck circle. He refuses to come to the plate due to an argument with the umpire, and so the umpire orders the pitcher to throw the ball anyway.
1960 Al Kaline draws four walks in four PA. Not bad.
1960 Bobby Thomson, famous for the 1951 pennant-winning home run, plays in his final game.
1961 St. Louis Cardinal Bill White goes 8-for-10 in a doubleheader sweep of the Cubs.
1961 Former deadball star pitcher Ed Reulbach dies.
1961 Ty Cobb dies, inspiring Lawrence Ritter to do his oral interviews for The Glory of Their Times.
1961 Ford Frick makes his asterisk declaration on the home run chase for Babe Ruth’s single season record.
1962 Sandy Koufax experiences numbness in his pitching hand and is replaced after one inning in the Dodgers-Reds game.
1963 Bobby Thigpen, at one point the all-time single season saves record, is born.
1965 The Mets release what’s left of Warren Spahn.
1966 Pete Rose has the first of five career multi-home run games.
1966 Billy Williams hits for the cycle.
1970 Current Texas manager Ron Washington signs with the Royals as an amateur free agent.
1971 For the first time in his career, Juan Marichal walks in a run. He’s thrown 2,954.1 IP up to this point.
1971 The now-dormant Forbes Field is damaged by the fire.
1971 The Yankees sign free agent Bobby Cox.
1974 Bob Gibson becomes the second pitcher to ever fan 3,000 batters, joining Walter Johnson. Gibson’s milestone victim is Cesar Geronimo, who will later become Nolan Ryan’s 3,000th strikeout victim.
1974 Dizzy Dean dies.
1974 Tommy John blows out his arm, seemingly ending his career. Of course he comes back after an experimental surgery works great for him.
1976 George Brett hits a walk-off home run against Luis Tiant.
1978 Texas pitcher Doc Medich saves the life of a 61-year-old fan having a heart attack. Medich, an actual medical student, does a heart massage until paramedics arrive. Doc isn’t just a nickname for him.
1978 Joe Niekro has his longest outing, 11 innings for a complete game win. His Game Score of 88 is also his best ever.
1982 Andy Hawkins makes his big league debut.
1986 Pete Rose, at age 45 years, three months, and three days, triples. It’s his second triple of the year.
1986 Jim Presley of the Mariners hits a walk-off grand slam for a 5-1 win in 11 innings over the Red sox.
1987 Dale Sveum of the Mariners hits three homers in one game.
1987 Dave Winfield suffers through his worst day at the plate, going 0-for-5 with four Ks.
1987 Hal McRae plays in his last game.
1989 Carlton Fisk catches his 2,000th game.
1989 Longtime relief pitcher Kent Tekulve retires.
1989 David Wells wins both game of a doubleheader. It’s the first doubleheader in the Skydome.
1990 Carlton Fisk, at age 42, steals two bases in one game.
1990 Bo Jackson of the Royals hits three homers in one game and separates his shoulder trying to catch a ball that goes for an inside-the-park homer. The man legging out that blast is Bo’s fellow two-sport star, Deion Sanders.
1990 The Twins pull off two triple plays in one game against the Red Sox, but lose 1-0 anyway.
1990 For the fifth and last time in his career, Roberto Alomar plays shortstop. I was at this game—it was the first time I ever saw a game at Wrigley Field.
1991 Randy Johnson walks 10 batters, tying his personal career high.
1993 Tim Raines legs out his 100th career triple. He hit No. 99 yesterday and will get four all month—and those are his only four on the year.
1993 The A’s sign amateur free agent Miguel Tejada.
1993 Aging Mets pitcher Frank Tanana makes trivia history when he surrenders a home run to Barry Bonds. Many moons before, Tanana surrendered a home run to Hank Aaron, and today’s blast makes Tanana one of only two pitchers to allow homers to both Aaron and Bonds. The other pitcher is Rick Reuschel.
1993 Minor league pitcher Glenn Dishman loses a perfect game in frustrating fashion. He’s one out from a perfecto when a batter grounds to second, who flips to first for the out—but the first baseman takes his foot off the bag early in celebration, and the batter is safe.
1993 Texas trades reliever Robb Nen to the Marlins.
1995 The White Sox release relief pitcher Rob Dibble.
1995 Dave Stewart plays in his last game.
1995 Jason Isringhausen makes his big league debut.
1995 Jeff Suppan makes his big league debut.
1998 Albert Belle hits his 300th home run.
1998 Jorge Posada experiences the first of his 17 multi-home run games.
1998 Rafael Palmeiro smashes his 300th career home run.
1998 Pittsburgh trades pitcher Esteban Loaiza to the Rangers for reliever Todd Van Poppel and second baseman Warren Morris.
2001 Jim Edmonds cracks out his 1,000th hit.
2001 Atlanta signs free agent reliever Chris Hammond.
2002 Bartolo Colon is ejected for throwing the ball over the head of Houston’s Scott Servais. The league will suspend Colon six games for this.
2001 Mike Mussina has his last successful pick-off. He’ll play over seven more years without another one.
2001 Umpire Greg Gibson ejects Expos coach Ozzie Guillen before the game for continuing an argument for the previous day’s game.
2002 Nomar Garciaparra hits the 10,000th home run in the history of the Red Sox franchise.
2002 Frank Thomas enjoys the only three double game of his career. He’s 4-for-5 overall on the day.
2002 Torii Hunter of the Twins fires the ball at Indians pitcher Danys Baez after a HBP. After the game, Baez apologies to the Minnesota clubhouse.
2004 Rey Ordonez appears in his last game.
2004 Jorge Cantu makes his big league debut.
2008 Oakland trades Joe Blanton to the Phillies for three players.
2009 Atlanta retires Greg Maddux’s number.
2009 Jim Thome gets a personal best seven RBIs in one game. He’s 2-for-4 with a home run, walk, and K.
2010 A.J. Burnett is upset with his pitching and so slams the clubhouse door—and slices both of his hands on the lineup cards holders mounted on the door. Uh, OK.
2011 Boston 1, Tampa 0 (16). Dustin Pedroia gets an RBI single in the 16th inning—and it’s only the eighth hit in the game for either team (five for Boston, three for Tampa). The hits for Tampa came in the first, ninth, and 11th innings.
History instructor by day, statnerd by night, Chris Jaffe leads one of the most exciting double lives imaginable; with the exception of every other double life possible to imagine. Despite his lack of comic-book-hero-worthiness, Chris enjoys farting around with this stuff. His new book, Evaluating Baseball's Managers is available for order. Chris welcomes responses to his articles via e-mail. Oh, and now he's on twitter.