Commentary: Many streaks are hard to forget

Commentary: Matt Calkins




When you’re wriggling in the quicksand of a 17-game losing streak, your self-worth feels like a cockroach under the sole of a Reebok.

You begin to wonder if you’ll ever win again. You start to think that you should have become a dentist like dad. You worry that your wife will notice in your search history.

The one thing that doesn’t cross your mind? That it could be worse.

The Seattle Mariners’ 9-2 win over the Yankees on Wednesday snapped a humiliating skid in which they went more than two weeks without a victory. But while that atrocious stretch may have had everyone in an M’s uniform wanting to disappear, their slide, when compared with other streaks of futility, is already invisible.

So here are 10 streaks that scoff at a mere 17 straight losses. A group of stretches with major stenches.

10) Chris Dudley’s 13 consecutive missed free throws.

Dudley received 47.7 percent of the vote in Oregon’s most recent gubernatorial election. That’s 2.4 points higher than his career free-throw percentage. Only Ben Wallace has been worse from the line among NBA players who have taken at least 1,200 foul shots, but neither he nor Shaquille O’Neal ever threatened Dudley’s baker’s dozen of bricks in 1990.

The record should still be intact by the next governors race in Oregon. And that estimate, as Dudley would prefer, is conservative.

9) The Kansas City Wizards going 637 minutes without a goal.

This, as you might guess, is a Major League soccer record. From September of 1998 to April of 1999, the Wizards failed to put a single ball in the net.

The reason this streak isn’t as prominent as others? Most Americans think 637 minutes is the average amount of time between goals in soccer.

8) The Cleveland Cavaliers’ 26-game losing streak.

The injury was losing LeBron James. The insult was watching him deliver the news via an hour-long television special. The bucket of salt dumped on their wounds was going more than 30 percent of a season without a win. One of those defeats was a 55-point drubbing at the hands of the Lakers.

The Cavs drafted Kyrie Irving of Duke with the first overall pick in June, which means Cleveland will be the second best team Irving has played on.

7) The Pittsburgh Pirates’ 18 consecutive losing seasons.

That’s 18 and counting. Right now, the Pirates are 54-49 and could potentially be the most celebrated 82-80 team in baseball history. The futility began in 1993 when a certain left fielder named Barry Bonds left the five-time champions to play for the Giants. Rumor has it that Bonds was terrified his obstruction of justice conviction might prompt the judge to sentence him to play one more season in Pittsburgh.

6) Anthony Young losing 27 straight games in which he had a decision.

In 1992, the New York Mets pitcher had an earned run average of 4.17. In 1993, it was 3.77. Very respectable. So how in the world did he manage to lose 27 straight over those two seasons? As any cliché-spewing coach would tell you “one game at a time.”

Fourteen of those defeats came as a starter. Thirteen came as a reliever. But hey, sometimes you just need run support. Ask Phil Niekro. For four straight seasons, he led the National League in losses. Now, he is in the Hall of Fame.

5) Northwestern men’s basketball never having gone to the NCAA tournament.

That’s right, the Wildcats are yet to set foot on the Big Dance floor. The tournament, which was founded in 1939, has seen schools such as Bradley make the Elite 8, George Mason reach the Final Four, and Butler play in consecutive championship games.

But no Northwestern — the only school from a BCS conference that’s yet to participate in March Madness.

The big winner in all this? The Wildcats’ football program. Who would have thought that a team that once lost 34 straight games could be overshadowed?

4) Bob Buhl going 0 for 70 in a Major League season.

Buhl was a solid pitcher, finishing his career with a record of 166-132 and an ERA of 3.55. But in 1962, he made every hurler he faced look like Sandy Koufax. Speaking of Koufax, the former Dodger great actually went hitless in his first 12 big-league at-bats. Not as impressive as Buhl, but there is a twist — Koufax struck out each time.

3) Caltech men’s basketball dropping 207 straight games.

The phrase “formula for success” is thrown out there all the time, but you’d figure these guys would literally be able to come up with one. Not so much. From 1996-2007, when it came to wins, these math nerds just couldn’t get their slice of the pi.

But when the Beavers finally broke the spell, they did so mercilessly, pounding Bard College by 29 points.

That was Revenge of the Nerds. Revenge of the Nerds II came three years later, when Caltech snapped its 310-game conference losing streak.

2) Prairie View A&M’s 80 straight losses in Division I-AA.

Not really sure what the recruiting pitch was once the skid hit 50. “We’ve got amazing grief counselors,” maybe?

But the Panthers kept fielding a team, and from 1989 to 1998, became a model of consistency. In 1991, Prairie View managed just 48 points for the season. However, when it finally ended the skein in 1999, it went ballistic — finishing a mesmerizing 2-9 that year.

1) The Chicago Cubs’ 103 years without a World Series.

In 1908, the Cubs won their second championship and were just two years removed from going 116-36 in the regular season. If someone were to ask one of their players at the time “do you think you’ll win another title before the Florida Marlins do?” the answer most likely would have been yes.

But it just hasn’t happened for the Cubbies, and their misery hasn’t been nearly as charming as it was with the Red Sox, who went 86 years without a World Series trophy before winning it in 2004.

There is no Bill Buckner moment with Chicago. There isn’t a Carlton Fisk or Aaron Boone game winner with the Cubs. They haven’t even won the pennant since 1945.

Yep, if you’re a Cubs fan, Chicago isn’t the “windy city”, it’s just the dy city.

Matt Calkins can be reached at 360-735-4528 or email