Wednesday night, the Warriors beat the Hornets to move to 20-0. They became the first NBA team ever to win the first 20 games of their regular season.
There's never been an NFL team that won the first 20 games of their regular season, because the regular season isn't 20 games long. There's never been an MLB team that won the first 20 games of its regular season. There's never been an NHL team that's won the first 20 games of its regular season -- the Blackhawks had a 24-game points streak to start the 2012-13 season with 21 wins and three shootout losses, but, well, that includes three shootout losses.
Only one pro team in any major American sport has ever won 20 straight games to start the season. The 1884 St. Louis Maroons of the Union Association, an early pro baseball league.
20-0! Warriors tie baseball's 1884 St. Louis Maroons for consecutive wins to start a reg. season in U.S pro sports. pic.twitter.com/Z7qKYlnEEv— ESPN (@espn) December 3, 2015
The Maroons' 20-0 start was not a fluke, as they'd win the Union Association that year. But they moved to Indianapolis in 1886 and folded in 1888, vanishing into history until we started talking about them now.
The Maroons were a strange team in a strange league, and their story leads me to one conclusion about this year's Warriors: The NBA is absolutely screwed.
The Maroons played baseball in 1884, which is 131 freakin' years ago
Back then, it was perfectly normal for a person's first name to be a noun.
The 1884 St. Louis Maroons had some incredible names. Shoutout to Buttercup Dickerson and Milt Whitehead. pic.twitter.com/cfDoYS9ecv— Taco Trey Kerby (@treykerby) December 2, 2015
They had players named "Buttercup," "Sleeper" and "Orator." Their opponents had such silly names as the "Wilmington Quicksteps," the "Pittsburgh Stogies," the "Baltimore Monumentals" and -- perhaps most hilariously outdated of all -- the "Milwaukee Brewers."
Long story short: It has been 131 years since a team was this good.
The Maroons were so good because the owner rigged the league so his hometown team would win
The Union Association was in its first year in 1884. It was founded the year before by 26-year-old Henry Lucas, whose father James had been one of the wealthiest, if not the wealthiest, man in St. Louis. He left all his children millions, and Lucas decided to use some of his money to start a league to combat the already-in-existence National League and American Association. Lucas would be the league's president, as well as the owner of the Maroons.
Lucas hoped to attract talent from the two existing major leagues. Whether he did is a matter of debate. In "The New Bill James Baseball Historical Abstract," James argues that the league attracted so little major talent that it's dishonest for us to include its records amongst those of other major professional leagues.
But what major league-caliber talent the league did attract, Lucas brought to St. Louis. He got brought in Fred Dunlap, who led the league in batting average, home runs and hits. The team had three of the league's top four hitters in terms of batting average and five of the top seven pitchers in terms of ERA.
The Maroons were so good that the league folded
The Maroons finished the season 94-19. Translated to a 162-game season, that's a record of 135-27. That's good.
Back then, there were no playoffs, so the league's champion was decided by the regular season champion. In a season of just over 100 games, the Maroons won the league by 21 games. I imagine everybody knew they would be the league's champions by around the end of their season-opening 20-game win streak.
In James' abstract, he cites a 1885 publication which states that "The St. Louis member had a walk over from the start, owing to the relative weakness of the other teams."
The league did not last long. While the Maroons rolled over everybody, their opponents failed to put together working rosters. Four teams folded within the first year, and at the 1885 meeting of teams, only St. Louis and Milwaukee showed up. The 1884 season was the first and last of the Union Association.
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This is how good the Warriors are.
The last time a team was as good as the Warriors, it was because they were unfairly hand-crafted into a juggernaut by a league owner who seemed to want a successful team more than a successful league. The last time a team was as good as the Warriors, that team's unstoppable nature proved to be a death knell for its league. The last time a team was as good as the Warriors was 131 freakin' years ago.
The scary thing is that the Warriors did this normally. They were subject to the same rules and regulations with regards to roster formation as everybody else in the league. And they did this with a team stocked with young talent that probably isn't going to get significantly worse very soon.
I'm not telling other NBA teams to fold and cancel the league. But eventually that's what the Maroons' opponents had to do. That might be the best option for everybody else.
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