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August 29, 2003

by Bill Hogan


The 1962 New York Mets (40 wins, 120 losses) were – that is, are - the worst team in the history of Major League Baseball. You'd have to have been the world's greatest prognosticator to predict that any modern day ball club would ever come close to losing more games than the Amazin's did in '62.

As summer (all too quickly) turns to fall, you no longer need a crystal ball or ouija board to realize that the near impossible is now probable; that the '62 Mets' reign as baseball's biggest losers may soon be over.


There's a new loser in town – or should I say in MoTown. The Detroit Tigers (33 wins, 98 losses as I write this) are closing in on the all-time futility mark. Readying themselves for that fateful day when they supplant the Mets as baseball's "lovable losers."

For years, the '62 Mets have been described as "lovable losers." Personally, I don't see anything lovable about losing 120 games in a single season. I don't think manager Casey Stengel or the fans of the newly established franchise were feeling too much love at the time, either.

Maybe forty years later it's easy to laugh off that kind of dismal performance, but at the time, it must have been miserable. After all, when the Dodgers and Giants skipped town for the West Coast, they left behind an awful lot of Yankees-haters with no team for which to root. Then along came the Mets, and there was still little – if anything - to get excited about.

In the September 1962 issue of SPORT magazine, a reader asked in a letter to the editor: "Would somebody please tell me what the New York Mets are doing in the major leagues. They have absolutely the worst team I ever saw…New York baseball fans must have been pretty desperate …to want a team like the Mets around."

Sure it's amusing to watch first baseman Marv Throneberry joking about the team's ridiculous on-field follies in a Lite Beer commercial – some time after the Mets won the '69 World Series. But in 1962, these guys were not amusing – or lovable - to anyone who waited five years for National League baseball to return to New York.

And I don't think you'll find too much love in the Detroit area if the Tigers stay true to form and lose 23 more games this season. Couple that with the season the Lions had last year and I'd have to think things are getting pretty ugly in the Motor City.

There are some records that should remain unbroken. Like the guy who set a Guinness World Record for the longest time spent in an attic. He was up there for 57 years. Sure, he was honored by Guinness, but he had to spend 57 years in a freakin' attic! Or the lady whose record breaking sneezing bout lasted 978 days - you'd find me hanging from the ceiling fan by my necktie after two weeks.

Breaking the record for most losses in a single baseball season ranks right up there with the poor sap that spent a record setting six days trapped in an elevator. No glory, no Main Street celebration; just a line in a book documenting the incredible bad luck.

They may, years from now, commemorate the occasion on all-you-can-eat nacho night at the ball park. It might get some of the notable players a spot in a Lite Beer commercial after they retire. But there won't be any champagne in the locker room. Or any fans in the stands showing them any love.

The term "lovable loser" is an oxymoron that has no place in baseball. Unless the team has a blanket-toting catcher named Linus and the shortstop is a Beagle. Charlie Brown has never won a baseball game, but he's the greatest "lovable loser" of all time.

I wish once, just once, he could go and fly a kite without it getting stuck in a tree. And don't you just want to wring Lucy's neck every time she pulls that football away at the moment poor Charlie starts to kick it? You'd think – after so many years of landing flat on his back – he'd ask his parents for a tee for Christmas.

Charlie Brown. There's a guy you can feel sorry for; someone whose athletic foibles are a great source of amusement; a lovable loser.


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