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The forgotten story of Harry Colliflower, baseball’s worst ever pitcher


For one magical, notorious, atrocious season in 1899, a 30-year-old carpenter from Washington D.C., with no particular proficiency for the sport of baseball traveled to Cleveland to play within the majors. No person knew it on the time, however what was about to comply with was so monumentally futile that its existence is relegated to stat strains and folklore. That is the story of Harry Colliflower, the worst participant on the worst baseball group in historical past.

Probably the most exceptional factor about Colliflower’s ascent to the main is that there’s no romantic story of overcoming adversity. No heralded starting of the following “nice one.” The truth is, there’s actually no justification for the way anybody would need to signal Harry Colliflower, or why he joined the 1899 Cleveland Spiders.

An on-and-off 5 12 months profession within the minors of no consequence, it’s unquestioned that Colliflower cherished the sport of baseball, however it didn’t love him again. He was not an particularly gifted batter, or fielder, or something actually. Colliflower battled to have a minor league batting average barely over .200, he was a poor fielder, and on the uncommon event somebody determined to place him on the mound, he rewarded them by giving up extra hits than innings pitched.

The one factor that triggered Colliflower to land on the Spiders was circumstance. Beginning the season at 8-30, and just lately firing their player-manager Lave Cross, the group was trying to shake issues up. In dire want of pitching assist throughout a visit to Washington to face the Senators, new supervisor Joe Quinn heard rumors of a good semi-pro pitcher on the town. Sight unseen he discovered and signed Harry Colliflower, instantly placing him on the mound. Colliflower was, towards all odds, respectable in his first outing within the majors. The Washington Post fell in love with the local player, framing him as a future star following the Spiders’ 5-3 win on the town.

“Colliflower possesses each high quality that’s required in a serious league twirler. He has advantageous management of the ball, good velocity, and, the requisite quantity of nerve.”

This could not final.

There’s a usually accepted reply in the case of “Who’s the worst baseball participant of all time?” John Gochnaur, a shortstop who performed from 1901-1903, was so dangerous on the plate that he completed his profession with a battling common of .187, and so terrible within the discipline that he completed with 146 errors in 264 video games. There’s little doubt Gochnaur was terrible, however he was the worst participant on a sequence of respectable groups. Harry Colliflower was the worst participant on the worst group in historical past.

Following a promising exhibiting on the mound in Washington, Colliflower stored getting begins for the Spiders. He by no means, ever managed to be nearly as good as his first outing — however the Spiders have been bamboozled by the mystique that he may truly be good. Quinn stored placing Colliflower into video games, and he failed over, and over, and over once more.

The 1899 Spiders are finest remembered for being the worst group within the historical past of baseball, ending the season with a -723 run differential. Harry Colliflower was a serious contributor to this infamy. He went 1-11, with an 8.17 ERA. Each time Colliflower pitched it was worse than the final.

When the mud settled on the season Colliflower had pitched 98 innings, giving up 152 hits and 122 runs. He solely struck out eight batters on the season, strolling 41 and hitting 11 with pitches. If you happen to stepped to the plate towards Harry Colliflower it was the last word confidence booster. You have been 3 times extra more likely to be walked by him than struck out, and that’s assuming you didn’t simply get successful — which happed continuously.

Regardless of all this, Colliflower had one main cheerleader again house: The Washington Publish, who first wrote about his astounding potential. Avidly following the home-town “star,” Colliflower continued to get written about within the paper, although any point out of his atrocious pitching was scrubbed from the document. The Publish by no means, ever wrote about his horrible outings on the mound — as a substitute specializing in his batting, which, to be honest wasn’t dangerous. Colliflower was a significantly better batter than he was a pitcher, averaging .303 and recording 23 hits in as many video games. If you happen to lived in Washington on the time and solely knew of Harry Colliflower from the paper, it’s totally possible you thought he was a star.

As an alternative he was a good hitter and the worst pitcher in historical past, a shitty nineteenth century Shohei Ohtani.

There was no long-term historical past for Harry Colliflower. The 30-year-old rookie was minimize following the 1899 season, transferring on to develop into an umpire within the main leagues and a giant league scout. He went on to astonishingly develop into some of the essential males in Washington D.C. Colliflower spent the rest of his skilled life as a clerk for his nephew’s coal and oil firm, however was recognized for his utilitarian way of living. Keen to do something his metropolis wanted, Colliflower assisted the federal authorities, helped at Georgetown College, and was even enshrined into the Georgetown Athletics Corridor of Fame.

The worst participant on the worst group in historical past of baseball went on to have a full, wealthy and beloved life. Colliflower’s legacy isn’t actually that of a foul participant, it’s that of a person so cherished by these round him that everybody needed to fake he wasn’t terrible on the sport. That may be a stage of appreciation we’ll by no means, ever see in sports activities once more — and it’s why Harry Colliflower is perhaps the worst baseball participant in historical past, but additionally one of many sport’s most fascinating forgotten characters.

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