June 22, 2012
You’ll find former Phillies pitcher John Coleman all over the record books, though I doubt he’d be happy to know that he’s still there. Coleman was the loser on opening day of the Phillies very first game, and it was a feeling the 20-year old would get to know quite well. He would march onto the mound as a starter 61 times that season, and take 48 losses, ending the year with a record of 12-48 (despite a bad but not historically awful 4.87 ERA. In other words, he was better than Joe Blanton is this year, at 6-6, 5.04 ERA). When he wasn’t pitching, he was playing the field, doing time at both first base and in the outfield.
Of course, the 1883 Phillies had no other options. Their number two pitcher, Art Hagen, went 1-14 with a 5.45 ERA. Funny story about Hagen: He was from Rhode Island, so when the Phillies travelled up to Rhode Island for a game, the manager decided to pitch Hagan in an effort to increase attendance. He would be facing Hall of Famer Old Hoss Radbourn. The game did draw a crowd, but their native son gave them little to cheer for, as the Phillies lost 28-0, still the most lopsided shutout loss in MLB history.
Back to Coleman: In 1884, he started the year for the Phillies, but switched over to the Athletics of the American Association, aka the “Beer and Whiskey League”, midway through the season (that franchise had no relation to the A’s of Connie Mack). Once in the AA, he was used almost exclusively as a fielder. He actually became a pretty decent hitter in the AA as well, batting .299 with 70 RBIs in 1885. He headed out west to Pittsburgh, where he played for both the AA team and the NL team. He hung up the cleats after an 1890 season with the Pirates, presumably hoping that someday someone would break that awful record. They never did, and barring the advent of the 760 game season, they never will. John Coleman is an eternal record holder. When it comes to pitching, he will always be baseball’s biggest loser. And still better than Joe Blanton.