Records that Stand the test of time
In sports, everything pertaining to performance can be measured by statistics. The success of every player and team can be broken down into columns of numbers denoted just by a few letters, allowing a hardcore statistical enthusiast to crunch numbers with the best minds pro sports has to offer. Was Dennis Rodman as good a rebounder as Bill Russell or Wilt Chamberlain? Was Rogers Hornsby really a more proficient hitter than the Yankee Clipper or the Splendid Splinter? Did the innovation of the three point shot change college basketball’s scoring?
All those questions and more are always up for debate. People stand with their team, their alliances, and steadfastly, staunchly defend their teams and their players against any and all criticism from others. While those things are always a matter of public opinion, the cold, hard statistics aren’t. There are records that get broken, chased, pursued, and every time one comes up, the media is all over it, speculating as to if it may fall. These are some records that have been around a while, and may never be broken for all we know…take a look and enjoy…
1. Joe Dimaggio’s 56 game hit streak: Dimaggio spent his entire career in Yankee pinstripes, spanning from 1936-1951. A three time MVP and 13 time All Star, Dimaggio put together a streak for the ages in 1941. While Ted Williams was the last player to hit over .400, also in that same season of 1941, Dimaggio ran off 56 straight games with a hit. Every game from May 15th to July 16th, Dimaggio had at least one base hit to his credit. The streak ended on July 17th, when he was 0 for 4 against Cleveland, robbed twice by Ken Keltner at third base. During the streak, Dimaggio collected 91 hits in 223 at bats, for an average of .409 during the run. Ironically, after going 0 for 4 that night, Dimaggio promptly ripped off another 16 game hit streak, giving him a base hit in 72 of 73 games. The longest streak since then? Pete Rose’s NL record tying 44 game run in 1978, which left him knotted with Hall of Famer Wee Willie Keeler (Hit ‘Em where they ain’t) for the mark in the National League.
2. Nolan Ryan’s 5,714 career strikeouts, 383 strikeout season, seven no hitters: Obviously these could have been laid out in three separate spots, but it is just as easy to compact them to one. Ryan’s career strikeout total is astonishing. He still leads number two on the list, Randy Johnson, by 839. Roger Clemens is third, 1,042 behind the Ryan Express. Clemens is retired and Johnson doesn’t have enough left in the tank to catch him.
Ryan’s 383 strikeout campaign in 1973 broke the record of 382 set by the Dodgers’ Sandy Koufax. Rich Reese was the record setting victim for all you trivia buffs out there. When hearing of Ryan breaking the mark, Koufax said: “Yeah, and he also surpassed my total for bases on balls in a single season by 91. I suspect half of those guys he struck out swung rather than get hit.” The three highest totals for single season strikeouts since also belong to Ryan: 367 (1974), 341 (1977) and 327 (1976).
Ryan also logged seven no hitters in his career: May 15, 1973 at Kansas City, July 15, 1973 at Detroit, September 28, 1974 at home vs. Minnesota, June 1, 1975 at home against Baltimore, September 26th, 1981 at home against the Dodgers, June 11th, 1990 at Oakland, and May 1st, 1991 at home vs. Toronto. Koufax is next in line with four.
3. Wayne Gretzky’s 92 goal season, 163 assist season, 215 point season, 50 goals in 39 games and 2,857 career points: What else can be said about The Great One that would not bog down in cliches and excessive platitudes that would fail to measure up to the man and what he did on the ice?
He set forty regular-season records, fifteen playoff records, six All-Star records, won four Stanley Cups with the Edmonton Oilers, and won nine MVP awards and ten scoring titles. He is the only player to total over 200 points in a season — a feat that he accomplished four times. In addition, he tallied over 100 points a season for 15 NHL seasons, 13 of them consecutively. He is the only player to have his number (99) officially retired by the National Hockey League for all teams.
Only three other seasons of at least 80 goals have been recorded in the history of the league: Gretzky’s 87 in 1984, Brett Hull’s 86 in 1991, and Mario Lemieux tallied 85 in the 1989 campaign. Gretzky is the only man to break the 200 point plateau in a season, and shattered Gordie Howe’s previous record of 1,850 career points.
4. George Hainsworth’s 22 shutout season: Hainsworth had the unenviable task of stepping in the skates and the crease following Georges Vezina, the beloved goaltender of the Canadiens. Vezina had played every game in the franchise’s existence, dating back to 1910-11 through the opening game of 1925-26, when the effects of tuberculosis were too much for him to continue, prompting the formation of the Vezina Trophy, given annually to the league’s best netminder.
Hainsworth would go on to win three straight Vezina trophies in 1926-27, 1927-28, and 1928-29. In 1928-29, he set an NHL record with an astounding 22 shutouts in just a 44 game season, while recording a record GAA of 0.98. In 1929-30, he set another record that may never be broken, going 270:08 without allowing a goal in the postseason. That’s four and a half full games folks.
5. Cal Ripken’s Ironman streak: There is no superlative that can be attributed to Cal Ripken Jr. that would be unjustified. He was a 19 time All Star, a two time All Star MVP, a two time AL MVP, two time Gold Glove winner, Rookie of the Year, eight time Silver Slugger winner and even won a home run derby in 1991 at the All Star Game.
Ripken racked up 3189 career hits, 431 homers, and yet he is best known for the streak that defined his career, and major league baseball. From May 30, 1982 through September 20, 1998, a span of 2,632 games, Oriole and baseball fans alike would see number eight in an O’s uniform on the diamond. He broke Lou Gehrig, the Iron Horse’s, mark, by 502 games. The record breaking game took place September 6th, 1995, against the California Angels, and homered in both the record tying and record breaking games.
Fans voted that record breaking game as the most memorable moment in Major League Baseball history.
6. Jerry Rice’s 1549 career receptions, 22,895 receiving yards and 197 receiving touchdowns: Rice was one of those once in a lifetime performers: one who could change the course of the game with a single, spectacular play.
His 1549 receptions are over 400 more than second place Cris Carter, who reeled in 1101 passes in his illustrious career. He had 11 straight 1000 yard campaigns, including a record 1848 yard season in 1995. His receiving yardage total blows the competition away: Tim Brown is second with 14,934 yards, or nearly five miles less than what Rice racked up in his career.
Number 80 also scored 197 touchdowns through the air, 67 more than second place Carter with 130. In 1987, he doubled the second place receiver in receiving scores, the only time in NFL history that has happened, reeling in 22 touchdowns. Mike Quick of the Eagles was second with 11.
7. Glenn Hall’s consecutive start streak: Mr. Goalie, as he is known today, set a record that will never be touched again. He was called up in 1952 by Detroit but never played, yet the Wings put his name on the Stanley Cup anyway when they won. He took over the starting job in 1954-55, displacing the legendary Terry Sawchuk, and played in every game, racking up twelve shutouts and the Calder Memorial Trophy for rookie of the year.
He played every game in his second season in Detroit, then was dealt to Chicago. Hall continued to play every regular season and playoff contest each season for the Hawks. In 1961, he backstopped Chicago to their first Cup since 1938. On November 8th, 1962, suffering from back problems, the venerable netminder couldn’t go. Dennis DeJordy replaced him in that game against the Bruins. That ended a streak of 502 consecutive complete games played by Hall.
8. Rocky Marciano’s 49-0: Marciano was the heavyweight champion of boxing from 1952 to 1956, and is the only heavyweight champion in the history of the sport to retire without losing or drawing a fight in his career. He was 49-0 with 43 knockouts.
He won the title by defeating Jersey Joe Walcott in September 1952 on a thirteenth round knockout, then retained in May 1953 with a first round knockout of Walcott, again in September 1953 with an eleventh round TKO of Roland la Starza. In June of 1954, he would defeat Ezzard Charles by unanimous decision, then knocked Charles out in the eighth round three months later, TKO’d Don Cockell in May 1955, then stopped Archie Moore in September 1955.
Marciano retired on April 27, 1956, his perfect record and his legacy, intact.
9. Oscar Robertson’s triple double season: The “Big O” as he is known, was a two time college player of the year, 12 time All Star, 3 time All Star MVP, the 1964 MVP, a 9 time All NBA First Team selection, 1961 Rookie of the Year and a gold medalist on the 1960 Olympic team.
However, the 1961-62 season was a season that will be remembered in basketball lore forever. Robertson became the only player in NBA history to average a triple double over the entire season, posting totals of 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists, breaking Bob Cousy’s record of 715 assists by racking up 899 of his own. He had a near miss of repeating the next season, when he posted 28.3 points, 10.4 rebounds and 9.5 assists.
10. Ty Cobb’s career batting average: The Georgia Peach was one of the greatest offensive players in the history of baseball. He racked up 892 stolen bases, 4,191 hits, a dozen batting titles, 1937 RBI, a stunning fifty four swipes of home, a Triple Crown in 1909, and hit over .300 in 22 straight seasons.
His career mark of .366 is a major league record, and considering that Ichiro is the highest ranking active player at number 25 on the list, at .3335, it is unlikely that the record gets broken. While Cobb may be criticized for his racist stance and other problems, his on field performance is unparalleled.
11. Cy Young’s 511 career victories: There is not much that can be disputed about Cy Young. He won 30 or more games five times, twenty or more ten other occasions and owns the major league record for innings pitched with 7354.2 and 749 complete games.
He is best known for winning the 1901 Triple Crown for pitchers, leading the league in wins, strikeouts and earned run average. Young retired with an unbreakable 511 victories to his credit, as his final record was 511-316 with an ERA of 2.63. The next in line for career wins? Walter “Big Train” Johnson with 417, though his career ended some eighty years ago. The leader in active wins is Roger Clemens with 354, though at 44, and with the Mitchell Report, his career may be over.
12. Wilt Chamberlain’s record shattering season: In 1961-62, Wilt Chamberlain set major numbers that will never be met again. Chamberlain is the only player in NBA history to have a season averaging at least forty points a contest, but in 61/62, he went even further.
For the season, Chamberlain averaged 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds a game. He is the only player to score at least 4,000 points a season when he racked up 4,029 and totaled over 2000 rebounds again. For that season, he also only missed 8 of the 3890 minutes that his team played, and those coming when he was ejected for picking up two technicals with eight minutes remaining in that contest. The only other player besides Chamberlain to even crack the 3,000 point barrier in a season is Michael Jordan.
In that 61/62 season, on March 8th, 1962, Chamberlain had his record setting 100 point contest in a 169-147 win over the New York Knickerbockers. He also scored 42 points and pulled down 24 rebounds in the All Star Game that year.
13. John Wooden’s run: “The Wizard of Westwood” had an unprecedented run at UCLA, winning seven straight NCAA tournament titles from 1967 to 1973, four 30-0 seasons, a 38 game win streak in the NCAA tournament, and was a six time NCAA College Basketball Coach of the Year. He was a three time All American as a player from 1930-1932, and was the first player inducted in the College Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach.
After losing on January 23rd, 1971 to Notre Dame by a score of 89-82, Wooden and the Bruins would go on to win 88 straight contests, not losing again for nearly three years, when Notre Dame again stopped the Bruins, 71-70, rallying for the final twelve points of the contest in the last 3:30 after trailing 70-59.
Wooden would lead the Bruins to 19 Pac-8 (now Pac-10) Conference titles in his tenure with UCLA, winning 620 games in his 27 years at UCLA, while losing just 147. He racked up ten NCAA titles in his final twelve seasons on the bench before retiring in 1975.
The next time you’re sitting around with your buddies talking about sports, or in a sports bar, hearing a bunch of blowhards talk about how so and so pulled off the greatest feat ever…feel free to pull out some of these gems and watch the conversation die down.