Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Cleveland Spiders were a Major League Baseball team which played between 1887 and 1899 in Cleveland, Ohio. The team played at National League Park from 1889 to 1890 and at League Park from 1891 to 1899.

The Spiders began their history in the old American Association (then a major league) in 1887. They were a weak team in their early years, but started to improve in 1891, two years after moving to the National League thanks in large part to their signing future Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Cy Young.

The Spiders had their best season in 1892, when they finished 93-56, good for second in the league. Other than standout second baseman Cupid Childs, the Spiders had an unremarkable offense. Their success in 1892 was built on pitching strength; Young was the NL's most dominant hurler, and 22-year-old Nig Cuppy had an outstanding rookie year. Following the season, a "World's Championship Series" exhibition was played between Cleveland and the first-place Boston Beaneaters, but the Spiders could only muster one tie in six games.

In 1895, the Spiders again finished second, this time to the equally rough-and-tumble Baltimore Orioles. Young again led the league in wins, and speedy left fielder Jesse Burkett won the batting title with a .409 average. The Spiders then won the Temple Cup, an 1890s postseason series between the first- and second-place teams in the NL. Amid fan rowdyism and garbage throwing, the Spiders won four of five games, against Baltimore, including two wins for Cy Young.

The 1895 championship was the high water mark for the franchise. The following season, Baltimore and Cleveland again finished first and second in the NL. But in the battle for the 1896 Temple Cup, the second-place Spiders were swept in four games.

The Cleveland Spiders finished fifth in each of the next two seasons, albeit with a winning record both times. Young threw the first of his three no-hitters for the Spiders on September 18, 1897. Then came 1899.