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Good Seats Still Available

256 EpisodesProduced by Tim HanlonWebsite

“Good Seats Still Available” is a curious little podcast devoted to the exploration of what used-to-be in professional sports. Each week, host Tim Hanlon interviews former players, owners, broadcasters, beat reporters, and surprisingly famous "super fans" of teams and leagues that have come and gon… read more

56:51

182: National League Baseball's Cleveland Spiders - With Eric Nusbaum

Writer/author (and Episode 158 guest) Eric Nusbaum ("Stealing Home: Los Angeles, the Dodgers, and the Lives Caught in Between") returns for a second visit, this time to help us obsess about the curious story of the National League's 1899 Cleveland Spiders - the worst major league baseball team of all time.

While today's current generation of baseball fans will swear that the 1962 NL expansion New York Mets (40-120 record; .250 winning percentage), the 2003 AL Detroit Tigers (43–119; .265), or even the 2018 AL Baltimore Orioles (47-115; .290) might each own the record for on-field futility - none come close to the stunningly woeful 20-134 (.130) performance turned in by Cleveland's first major league team, one that preceded and indirectly influenced today's AL Indians.

The Spiders were a consistently competitive team in the 1890s - loaded with eventual Hall of Fame talents like Bobby Wallace, Jesse Burkett and legendary pitching ace Cy Young. Attendance and ticket revenue, however, were terrible - hindered significantly by Ohio blue laws that prohibited lucrative games on Sundays.

So in the 1898 off-season, team owner-brothers Frank & Stanley Robison took advantage of the NL's liberal "syndicate" ownership rules, purchased the financially teetering but far better-drawing St. Louis Browns, and shipped their more talented Spiders roster to the Gateway City as the "Perfectos" - leaving their Cleveland franchise to founder for 1899, all by design.

Nusbaum takes us through the various layers of ignominy that beset the Spiders' last season of existence, including: losing 40 of their last 41 games (and 70 of their last 74); drawing so poorly by June (a mere 179 per game) that all home games were moved to either neutral sites or visiting teams' home parks; and even proffering a local hotel cigar stand clerk to pitch their final game in Cincinnati (a 19-3 loss).

Plus, how the Spiders helped today's Indians get their now increasingly controversial nickname.

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