Baseball's most unbreakable records
Baseball's most unbreakable records
Baseball’s record book is the thickest in sports. Some records, like Lou Gehrig‘s consecutive games played streak and Lou Brock‘s career stolen base mark, were thought to be unbreakable. Cal Ripken Jr. and Rickey Henderson proved those assumptions to be false. Which of the records still on the books will stand the test of time and prove to be truly unbreakable? Here are nine records we think will never be surpassed.
Chief Wilson’s 36 triples in a single season
The triple is hailed as the most exciting play in baseball, and deservedly so. Last season, Detroit’s Curtis Granderson smacked 23 triples, the highest total in decades. The triple is a dying art, and with the era of the home run firmly established, Owen “Chief” Wilson‘s amazing record seems unbreakable. His 36 triples, which were helped by the quirky dimensions of old Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, are five more than anyone else has ever hit.
Ray Chapman’s single-season sacrifice bunt record
When Jay Bell dropped down 39 sacrifices in 1990, he was the first player to approach 40 since Bert Campaneris in 1977. No one has come close since, and unless we resurrect Billy Martin or Gene Mauch (two managers who loved the sacrifice), no one will. The game has changed to the point where few batters even know how to put down a good sacrifice. But back in 1917, when Cleveland shortstop Ray Chapman put down 67 sacrifices, it was a much more common practice for hitters low in the batting order (and pitchers) to drop down a bunt to advance their teammates on the bases. Chapman’s total was seven more than anyone had ever logged before, and given the changing trends in the game, will probably always remain at the top.
75 complete games in one season, by Will White
Okay, the game was quite different in 1879 when little Willie White completed all those games. But it was still major league baseball. White was a dynamo on the rubber, and though you’ve never heard of him, his name will forever be etched in the record books for those 75 complete games because no one, not anytime, anywhere, will ever do that again.
Ty Cobb’s career batting average
Whether the record book you subscribe to has Ty Cobb down for .367 or .366, it doesn’t matter. The career batting mark of “The Georgia Peach” is safe from all challengers. Currently, no major league player who has more than five seasons in the big leagues has a career mark that’s even within 40 points of Cobb’s batting average (which Ty accumulated in 24 seasons). In fact, in the expansion era (1961-to present), the closest any batter has come is Wade Boggs at .328. Even with an impressive Hall of Fame-worthy mark like that, Boggs was 20 hits per seasonshort of reaching Cobb’s level. With modern pitching specialized as it is, and with everyone swinging for the fences, batting averages will never again reach heights that will allow a batter to approach the stratosphere that Cobb attained.
Nolan Ryan’s seven career no-hitters
Nolan Ryan fired his sixth no-hitter 19 years ago this month. He was 43 years old, and the flamethrowing right-hander still had one more no-no in his arm. To eclipse Nolan Ryan’s mark, a pitcher will have to throw eight no-hitters. Enough said.
New York Yankees five straight World Series titles
From 1921 to 1964, the Yankees won 29 pennants in 44 years. They won four World Series titles from 1936-1939 with probably their most dominant team. Those were the Yankees of Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig. But from 1949-1953, the Yanks did the unbelievable - they won the World Series in five straight seasons. Every fall, when the leaves changed, the Yankees were there in the Fall Classic, and they did it with precision, winning 20 of 28 World Series games over that stretch. Given that there are now three layers of post-season play, requiring 11 victories to garner a World Series crown, it is highly unlikely that a team can navigate those tricky waters and win six straight to break the Yankees record. In fact, the recent Yankee dynasty illustrates the point. Despite a record payroll and one of the best rosters of talent ever seen, the Yankees managed to win just three World Series titles in a row and four in five seasons. After their 2000 world championsip, they’ve been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs four times despite being favored in every series. Through 2007, the Yankees have made the playoffs 13 straight seasons, but only managed to get to as many as four World Series in a row. The Braves strung together a playoff streak of 14 seasons but only won one World Series title, and reached the World Series in back-to-back seasons just twice. It’s harder to win the whole enchilada now, and unless the powers-that-be in MLB remove two levels of the post-season (not bloody likely), no team will eclipse the 1949-1953 Yankees roll.
Cy Young’s 511 victories and 749 complete games
When he emerged from the corn fields of Ohio and started his career in professional baseball, Cy Young, like other hurlers in the game, was expected to start every second or third day. He did that year after year, eventually settling into a four-man rotation, but still starting 40+ games well into his mid-30s. By the time he hung up his glove, Young had those 511 victories and 749 complete games, which still stand as the record after nearly 100 years. The four-man rotation was abandoned 25 years ago, and today the best pitchers are lucky to get a sniff of 300 wins, let alone 400 or 500. A hurler would have to average 26 wins and 38 complete games a year for two decades to surpass Young. There’s a reason the best pitcher in baseball wins the Cy Young Award, and that’s it.
Cal Ripken’s 2,632 conseuctive-games played streak
File this one under “no one will be crazy enough to try it” and leave it at that. Ripken had an obsessive, some might say, egomaniacal need to play every single game. We can argue the merits of that, but whether you see the streak as heroic or self-serving, it’s likely never to be broken. To reach 2,632 games, a player would have to play 16+ seasons without taking a day off. It’s important to note that in the entire history of the game, only about 30 guys have ever played that many games in their careers.
Johnny Vander Meer’s two consecutive no-hitters
Someday, somewhere, someone may toss back-to-back no-hitters again. It’s not very likely, but it’s possible. But we’re willing to bet anything that three in a row will happen. It’s been four years since a pitcher even tossed three straight complete games, and 15 years since a pitcher fired three straight shutouts. Recently, two seasons nearly passed between no-hitters. There have been less than 250 no-hitters in the 130+ seasons of major league baseball. Johnny Vander Meer caught lightning in a bottle twice in 1938. His feat remains one of the most underrated and underappreciated in all of sports, and it will never be broken.
A few words about some other records that receive a lot of attention. It’s been 69 years since DiMaggio hit in 56 straight games. The closest challenge fell 12 games short (Pete Rose in 1978), and few players, no matter how good they are with the stick, ever get to 30 games. But Rose showed that the record can be challenged, and in more recent seasons a few players who fit the profile to set a new mark (leadoff hitters who make contact, run well, and strike out infrequently) have posted streaks in the 30-game range. Some season, someone (Ichiro?) will make a run at Joltin’ Joe’s impressive 56-gamer.
As for the home run records, both single-season and career are held by Mr. Bonds, thank you very much. Just because we’re on the other side of the steroids era, 73 and 762 are not safe. Alex Rodriguez is better than even money to shatter Bonds’ career homer mark, and with the tiny bandbox ballparks all the rage, a player will likely come along who will take advantage of the homer-friendly atmosphere and launch 74 and beyond.
The other side of the current home run barrage is the whiff. Batters are fanning in record numbers. That means some pitcher will eventually pitch long enough to eclipse Ryan’s career strikeout record. In fact, Randy Johnson has shown that even with injuries, it’s possible.By The Baseball Page