Worst Losing Streaks In Sports
The Philadelphia Phillies picked up their second World Series win–and their first in 28 years. Consider the demons exorcised from one of sports’ biggest losers.
The Philadelphia Phillies have ended their 28-year title drought with a defeat of the young, expectation-defying Tampa Bay Rays. The joy will last well into next season, but fans of other franchises can at least rest easy knowing that the Phillies, despite their win, are still some of the biggest losers of all time.
Forget the Cubs–at least their fans have seen the team in the playoffs four times in the past 10 years. The Phillies, throughout their history, have come to define abject failure. The Phils foundered between 1933 and 1948 (though it’s worth noting that this period included World War II and the Great Depression, so Philadelphians likely had more pressing concerns), and have 10,093 losses, with a winning percentage of .407. The Phillies are tied with the Pittsburgh Pirates for the worst losing streak of all time, at 16 consecutive losing seasons.
Granted, it’s easy to forget the Phillies’ dark past–not to mention the heartbreaking 1993 Series loss to the Toronto Blue Jays–since they’re the champions right now, and because the Pirates are right in the midst of their losing ways. The last time the Pirates had a winning season, George H.W. Bush was president, Nirvana was a new band and Barry Bonds was thin.
And other sports teams are hot on the heels of Pennsylvania’s two baseball teams when it comes to long-term losing. There are the Sacramento Kings basketball team, which finished below .500 15 straight times between 1983 and 1998, and the Vancouver Canucks, who redefined failing in hockey by losing 15 straight years from 1976 to 1991.
Suddenly, being a Rays fan or even a Cubs fan doesn’t sound so bad. In fact, the lovable losers don’t even make our list of the teams with the worst losing streaks in sports.
Behind the Numbers To find the longest losing streaks, we looked at every team in Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League and Major League Soccer. The data were provided by league offices or official statistics dating back to the inception of each league. No soccer teams made the list, as the worst losing streak for any team is four consecutive years in the young league’s history. On our list, 13 teams posted 12 or more consecutive losing seasons.
In business, that sort of futility results in shareholder rebellions, deposed leadership and occasionally an indictment or two. But in sports, it often means that fans become even more desperate–and willing to open their wallets wider, usually in the form of funding a new stadium with taxpayer dollars, for promises of victory.
What happens, essentially, is the owner of a struggling team threatens to move the club to a different city or suggests the team can win if the current home city provides money for a new stadium. The stadium then generates more money in ticket sales, which frees up the team to spend more on higher-priced talent. Loyal local fans find the logic hard to argue with.
It works as often as it doesn’t. Pittsburgh gave the Pirates $228 million for a new field even though the team hadn’t posted a winning season since 1992–and still hasn’t. The Phillies, on the other hand, moved into their $324 million ballpark in 2004, and now they’re the champs. Most Phillies fans would call this good bang for the buck.
Planting Roots Keeping the team at home can pay off in the long term too, even if the rewards don’t come in the form of a World Series championship. The Athletics‘ 15-year losing streak started in 1953 when the baseball team was in Philadelphia, extended through a stint as the Kansas City Athletics and only ended once they moved to Oakland, Calif.–where the team remains. It has been competitive for several years running (2008 aside).
Can the Phillies now be considered winners, or are they still among baseball’s worst losers?
Remaining settled seems to work for the Chicago Cubs too. The team draws more than 3.2 million fans per year, well over the league average, while calling the same stadium home since 1916–and no one in Chicago or anywhere else is in a hurry to build a new home for the unlucky franchise. The team is also one of the most valuable in all of sports, and will likely sell to a new owner in the off-season for approximately $1 billion.
That’s roughly the amount the Phillies feel like today, even if they happen to be long-term losers. Let’s hope they enjoy it while it lasts.
The following teams finished the season with a 0.300 record or worse.
|1899 !1899||Cleveland Spiders||National||20||134||.130||84|
|1890 !1890||Pittsburgh Pirates||National||23||113||.169||66.5 !66½|
|1916 !1916||Philadelphia Athletics||American||36||117||.235||54.5 !54½|
|1935 !1935||Boston Braves||National||38||115||.248||61.5 !61½|
|1962 !1962||New York Mets||National||40||120||.250||60.5 !60½|
|1904 !1904||Washington Senators||American||38||113||.252||55.5 !55½|
|1919 !1919||Philadelphia Athletics||American||36||104||.257||52|
|1898 !1898||St. Louis Browns||National||39||111||.260||63.5 !63½|
|2003 !2003||Detroit Tigers||American||43||119||.265||47|
|1952 !1952||Pittsburgh Pirates||National||42||112||.273||54.5 !54½|
|1909 Washington !1909||Washington Senators||American||42||110||.276||56|
|1942 !1942||Philadelphia Phillies||National||42||109||.278||62.5 !62½|
|1932 !1932||Boston Red Sox||American||43||111||.279||64|
|1941 !1941||Philadelphia Phillies||National||43||111||.279||57|
|1928 !1928||Philadelphia Phillies||National||43||109||.283||51|
|1915 !1915||Philadelphia Athletics||American||43||109||.283||58.5 !58½|
|1911 Boston !1911||Boston Rustlers||National||44||107||.291||54|
|1909 Boston !1909||Boston Doves||National||45||108||.294||65.5 !65½|
|1911 St. Louis !1911||St. Louis Browns||American||45||107||.296||56.5 !56½|
|1939 Philadelphia !1939||Philadelphia Phillies||National||45||106||.298||50.5 !50½|
|1937 !1937||St. Louis Browns||American||43||111||.279||56|
|1945 !1945||Philadelphia Phillies||National||46||108||.299||52|
|1938 !1938||Philadelphia Phillies||National||45||105||.300||43|
|1926 !1926||Boston Red Sox||American||46||107||.300||44.5 !44½|
Philadelphia Phillies: Worst Teams in Franchise History
By Adrian Fedkiw (Analyst)
The Pittsburgh Pirates have 18-consecutive losing seasons, an all-time mark.
In those 31 years, the Phillies had just one winning season (1932). And even that year they finished just 78-76.
Just think about that for a second…31 years of consistent awfulness!
They lost 100 games 12 times, and had a five-year stretch of 100-plus defeats from 1938-1942. Remember, they played just 154 games back then.
Their compiled record, 1,752-2,941, was a winning percentage of just .373. In today’s 162-game schedule, that’s an average-record equivalent of approximately 60-102.
At least there were two teams in Philadelphia back then for fans to choose from.