Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Page 2 [Print without images]

Monday, April 14, 2003
Updated: April 30, 11:05 AM ET
Worst Pro Teams of All-time

Page 2 staff

You know you're in trouble when your team's "Inside the Numbers" blurb consists of a comparison to the 1962-63 New York Mets. We're referring to the Tigers, of course, who got a much-needed off day today (Monday) after starting the season 1-10.

We like doing fun projections this early in the season, and some stathead geek in the office tells us that if Detroit continues at this pace, they'll finish the season with a 15-147 record. But of course, stathead knows nothing about the intangibles. And we think the Tigers have more intangibles than any other team in baseball. Which just might keep them off of the 2004 version of this list, the worst pro teams of all-time:

1. 1976 Tampa Bay Bucanneers (0-14)
John McKay
John McKay had no wins and a bunch of bananas in the Bucs' first year.
Nobody expects an expansion franchise to be good in its first year, but it's hard to imagine just how bad a bunch of pro football players could be -- until the Tampa Bay Bucs were assembled.

Commanded by head coach John McKay, Tampa Bay didn't just lose, they lost bad, getting trampled by an average of 20 points per game. And the Bucs had some serious mo going into 1977, when they'd lose 12 more games before the franchise recorded its first victory.

"Injuries were part of our problem," wrote 1976 Buc Pat Toomay in his Page 2 article. "Talent, of course, was another part, but it was impossible to tell how untalented we were because everybody was already hurt."

2. 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers (9-73)
The 76ers were one streaky team. They began the season with 15 straight losses, and also recorded losing streaks of 20, 14, and finally 13 to end the season. But Philly also proved it could win, taking a remarkable two in row and four of six in February. The Sixers finished 59 games behind the Celtics in the Eastern Division.

Fred Carter was named the 76ers MVP, leading to some mind-bending metaphysical introspection. "I didn't know if it was for leading the team to nine wins or for leading the team to 73 losses," said Carter years later. "I still haven't figured it out."

There was simply no way to sugarcoat the season. Even the Sixers' official Web site says, "The team set the standard by which bad NBA teams would be judged for years to come."

3. 1935 Boston Braves (38-115)
How bad can a team be when Babe Ruth is the second-best slugger on the roster? The Babe, 40, clubbed six dingers in his 28 games with the Braves (he played his last major league game on May 30), but that was 28 fewer than team and league leader Wally Berger, who hit 34 homers and drove in 130 runs, finishing sixth in the voting for MVP. Remarkable, considering that the Braves finished 38-115, 26 games out of seventh place. Their .248 winning percentage is the second-worst in modern history.

The Braves were bad on offense -- the worst team in the AL by far -- and also boasted poor pitching, with the highest ERA. Without Berger, who led the team in almost every offensive category (even his three stolen bases tied for most on the Braves), it's hard to imagine Boston could have won 20. Fans stayed away in droves, with the Braves playing one late-July home game against the Dodgers before only 95 fans.

The team went bankrupt, was taken over by the NL after the season, and was renamed the Boston Bees.

Strangely enough, the Braves had gone 78-73 the season before, finishing fourth in the NL. And in 1936, Boston would finish with a respectable 71-83 record.

4. 1992-93 Dallas Mavericks (11-71)
The Mavs were actually lucky to win 11 games -- statheads will tell you they should only have won seven. Dallas suffered through a 19-game mid-season losing streak (one shy of the 1972-73 Sixers NBA single-season record 20-game streak), and ended the year being outscored by an average of 15 points per game.

But the Mavs had a powerful finish. In early March, they finally signed Jim Jackson, their No. 1 draft pick. The guard had said he'd never play for Dallas, but it probably helped that in addition to his $1 million bonus, the Mavs agreed to pay him a full season's salary, $2.6 million, for just the final 28 games. Jackson finished the season with an average of 16.3 points, 4.7 assists, and 4.4 rebounds per game.

Which was probably why the Mavs managed to avoid being lumped in with the 76ers for the worst season record in NBA history.

When the Mavs won their 10th game, in their final home appearance of the season, fans went wild. "It feels so good to have a win, to have the last game here be a win," said one. "We win! We win! We're successful!"

5. 1916 Philadelphia Athletics (36-117)
In a remarkably balanced AL -- only 14.5 games separated seventh-place Washington from first-place Boston -- Connie Mack's Athletics threw everything out of whack. Mack, thinking he could run a decent club on a tight budget, had unloaded Home Run Baker and others who requested a living wage. The result: Philadelphia finished 54.5 games out of first with a .235 winning percentage. Their longest winning streak: two games. During a two-week period, the Athletics lost a remarkable 19 games, on the way to running up a 20-game losing streak.

The Athletics didn't just do poorly as a team, they did poorly as individuals, too. Third-sacker Charlie Pick set a record by committing 42 errors and finished the season with a .899 fielding percentage. (He wasn't so hot with the stick, either.) Amos Strunk stole 21 bases -- but was caught stealing 23 times. Jack Nabors lost 19 straight games, setting a Major League record. Fellow pitcher Tom Sheehan went 1-16, walking 94 batters while striking out only 54.

6. 1974-75 Washington Capitals (8-67-5)
The expansion Caps first coach, Jim Anderson, remembered the existential pain of goalie Ron Low: "I'd see him with tears in his eyes after games." Anderson lasted only 54 games as coach, before being replaced by Red Sullivan, who had the honor of leading the Caps through a 17-game losing streak before he surrendered the coaching reins. "He suffered from stomach ulcers, and the losing got to him, and he really couldn't take it anymore," remembered former Cap Jack Lynch.

Casey Stengel
The 40-120 Mets of '62 gave manager Stengel a lot of grey hairs.
While the team set all kinds of records for futility, they also set some awful individual ones. Goalie Michel Belhumeur, for example, went 0-24-3 on the season, and combined with Low to surrender an NHL record 446 goals.

The Caps lost 37 straight games on the road, finally defeating the California Golden Seals in Oakland near the end of the season.

7. 1962 Mets (40-120)
Casey Stengel knew what he had to work with.

"When one of them hits a single to you," he advised his outfielders, "throw the ball to third. That way we can hold them to a double."

8. 1952 Pittsburgh Pirates (42-112)
The Pirates, starring Ralph Kiner (who led the league in homers with 37), Joe Garagiola and Gus Bell, never won more than two games in a row, but they did hit their stride in midseason, winning 10 games in July and equaling that double-digit mark in August. Unfortunately, the team slid in September, winning only four of their last 22 games to finish 22.5 games behind the seventh-place Boston Braves. "They finished last -- on merit," said Pirates GM Branch Rickey.

9. 1980-81 Winnipeg Jets (9-57-14)
Two years earlier, the Jets had won the WHA's last championship. But in 1980-81, the team's second NHL season, they set both an NHL and a modern major pro sports record by going 30 games without a win in November and December. Although some hockey fans started to call the team "Lose-ipeg," most hometown rooters were behind the club, even as the team eclipsed the futility of the 1975-76 Kansas City Scouts, who went 27 games without a win.

"The Jets always played just well enough to lose," wrote E.M. Swift in SI. "Night after night they'd go out and scare the daylights out of some team for about two periods, then they'd gracefully give the game away. It wasn't that they'd quit --they just weren't very comfortable with the lead."

The Jets made the playoffs the next season, finishing with a 33-33-14 record.

10. 1936 Philadelphia Eagles (1-11-0)
After winning their opener, 10-7, at home against the Giants, the Eagles lost the next 11 to close out the season. Early in the year, the Eagles were shut out four games in a row, and during the entire season only managed to score 51 points, while surrendering 206.

How'd they do it? Owner and head coach Bert Bell failed to sign any of the Eagles picks from the first NFL draft (and the draft was Bell's idea). QB Dave Smukler completed only 21 of 68 passes, and had a passer rating of 26.9. His main target? Eggs Manske, who managed to catch 17 passes and average 19 yards a catch, without scoring a TD.