Friday, May 21, 2010

Favorite Cards: Cleveland Spiders

1893 Just So Tobacco #13 - Cy Young

The Cleveland Spiders are best known today as the worst team in professional baseball (sorry Mets fans). Their 1899 season is legendary in its awfulness. It wasn't always that way.

For a good portion of their existence, the Spiders were great. They even battled for the Temple Cup twice out of the four years that it was offered. What led to the quick demise of the team? The owners.

In what I can only describe as Wirtzian behavior, the Robisons (the Cleveland owners) decided to punish fans for low attendance by moving a good chunk of the Spiders home games to other cities, thus ensuring a record for most road losses that cannot possibly be duplicated. The reasons behind that decision was two-fold. The low attendance caused other teams to refuse to play in Cleveland. The other teams refusal to play in Cleveland forced the situation of playing home games in other cities.

The final straw for the Spiders was the sale of the St. Louis Browns to the Robisons. They renamed the Browns to the Perfectos (the modern day Cardinals) and moved all of the star Cleveland players to St. Louis, thus improving the odds that the 1899 season would be the worst ever seen.

Back in the glory days of the franchise, the Just So tobacco company put out a set featuring Cleveland Spiders personnel. The card that stands out the most to me is the card of D. T. Young, better known as Cy Young.

It still amazes me that Cy Young would be associated with a team that wrote the book on futility. Under the circumstances, I can see how it happened. The 1899 record of 20-134 was displayed by a minor league team masquerading as a Major League team. It's a shame that all the previous teams' efforts are erased in the minds of most baseball fans because of that one team.

This card of Cy Young symbolizes those other Spiders teams that get lost in the gloss over of history. Plus, it's not every day that you see a portrait of Cy Young in his mid-twenties.

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