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The 1899 Cleveland Spiders vs. 2008 Detroit Lions: What Makes Both Teams Notoriously Awful?

From the worst trades to weird moments—these two teams knew defeat.

The Duel: May 2021 Cleveland Spiders/Associated Press

In the wise words of Journey: Some will win, some will lose. What the rock band forgot to mention is that some will lose a lot. When it comes to sports, two notoriously bad teams stand out from the rest: For baseball, it’s the 1899 Cleveland Spiders, and for football, it’s the 2008 Detroit Lions. What’s behind these epic, pro-level fails?

Cleveland Spiders

Detroit Lions

WHAT HAPPENED?

Owner Frank Robison also owned the St. Louis Perfectos and transferred all the Spiders’ best players there.

The Duel: May 2021

Owner Frank Robison  Photo Courtesy: Cleveland Spiders

WHAT HAPPENED?

The team had one of the worst defenses of all time, allowing 517 points across the season.

HOW MANY GAMES DID THEY LOSE?

(out of 154) 134

HOW MANY GAMES DID THEY LOSE?

16 (out of 16)

YOU’RE FIRED!

The team was disbanded after the season, so technically everybody got the boot.

YOU’RE FIRED!

Head coach Rod Marinelli, plus three other coaches, were sent packing.

The Duel: May 2021

Ex-head coach of the Detroit Lions, Rod Marinelli  Duane Burleson/Associated Press

WORST TRADE

All of them? Trading future Hall of Famer CY Young to St. Louis probably hurt the most, though.

The Duel: May 2021

Hall of Famer, Cy Young  Photo Courtesy: Cleveland Spiders

WORST TRADE

Defensive tackle Shaun Rogers to the Cleveland Browns, because, according to Sports Illustrated, the team “didn’t like this attitude.”

WELL, THAT WAS WEIRD

The team let a shop clerk pitch in exchange for a box of cigars on the last day of the season.

WELL, THAT WAS WEIRD

Quarterback Dan Orlovsky accidentally ran out of bounds in his own end zone, giving the Minnesota Vikings two points. The Lions lost 12-10 pounds.

WORST PLAYER

Pitcher Frank Bates. According to The Cleveland Press he succeeded only in “turning almost every game into a howling farce.”

The Duel: May 2021

Cleveland Spiders pitcher, Frank Bates  Photo Courtesy: Cleveland Spiders

WORST PLAYER

Dan Olovsky (see above).

The Duel: May 2021

Former Detroit Lions QB, Dan Orlovsky  Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

WORST BLOWOUT

In a doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles, they didn’t score a single run, losing 10–0 and 5–0.

The Duel: May 2021

The Baltimore Orioles logo.  Photo Courtesy: Baltimore Orioles

WORST BLOWOUT

They lost 42-7 to the New Orleans Saints in the last home game of the season.

The Duel: May 2021

The New Orleans Saints logo.  Photo Courtesy: New Orleans Saints

TOUGH CROWD

Total attendance was only 3,179 after their first 16 home games. They played almost all matches on the road after that. Sportswriters referred to them as “the Wanderers” or “the Exiles.”

TOUGH CROWD

Center Dominic Raiola flipped off heckling fans and challenged them to a fight, later saying he would them his address so they could go at it face-to-face. He was fined $7,500. Nobody took him up on it.

The Duel: May 2021

Former Detroit Lions center, Dominic Raiola  Scott Boehm/Associated Press

FINAL THOUGHTS

At the end of the season, the Spiders gave a diamond locket to George Muir, the team’s traveling secretary, because, as per the dedication, he “had the misfortune to watch us in all our games.”

FINAL THOUGHTS

“I’ve got to live with this. This is on my resume.”

-Dominic Raiola after the Lions officially went 0-16.

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