By: Tom Cloutier
Something we thought may never happen for the rest of eternity has finally occurred. The Cleveland Indians lost a baseball game. The Major League record win streak lives on and we examine some of baseball's other most unbreakable records
Cleveland's 22 game streak is a new American League record and the longest behind the 1916 New York Giants’ run of 26 games. There is, however, some contention in that record as that team won 12 in a row, tied one game, then proceeded to win 14 more. Win Cleveland’s streak coming to a halt at 22, it appears the Giant’s record is cemented and will likely not be challenged for a long time.
26 wins in a row is one of several. records in baseball that many would consider “unbreakable”. They are considered unbreakable for different reasons. Rule changes and strategy evolution are the most common reasons. While they are equally impressive, records set in the pre-modern/deadball era will be passed on in this article. We will look back on records of skill and might, some of the greatest accomplishments by man on a baseball diamond.
Most consecutive games played – 2,632 games
Set by the aptly-monikered “Iron Man”, Cal Ripken, Jr. His streak spanned 16 MLB season from 1982–98. He broke Lou Gherig’s 56 year old record on September 6th, 1995 and went on to play in 502 more games before deciding to sit out the final home game of the 1998 season. Prior to Ripken’s unprecedented streak, it was Gherig’s whose record was considered unbreakable.
In his 1988 edition of "The Baseball Abstract", author Bill James stated that "...Gehrig's record is vulnerable precisely because human characteristics such as determination and the ability to play with pain can be applied to breaking it... I expect Gehrig's (2,130) record to be broken in my lifetime". James, clearly, was right. There is a limit to how far determination can drive a man, and it 2,632 games in a row may be it.
Longest Hit Streak - 56 games
There are 7 ways to reach base safely during a game: hit, walk, hit by pitch, error, fielder’s choice, dropped third strike, and defensive interference. There's only on of those options that is fully in the batter's control, the hit. On May 15th, 1941, Joe DiMaggio got a hit, like the former MVP had many times before, and finished the day 1 for 4 at the plate. Nobody knew this was the unceremonious beginning to, as sabermetrician Stephen Jay Gould said “the most extraordinary thing that ever happened in American sports”. DiMaggio would go on to record a hit in 56 straight games until he was finally held hit-less by the Cleveland Indians on July 17th. He didn’t spend much time mourning the end of his incredible run and began another 16 game streak the next day to hit safely in 72 of 73 games, another record. Since then, there has only been one streak of 40+ games when Pete Rose got a hit in 45 straight games, still 11 shy of DiMaggio’s record.
Single Season Home Run Record - 73
This record, along with his career home runs record, is the most contentious of all accomplishments in baseball history. Bonds was the most talented hitter of his generation, possibly of all-time, but his use of performance enhancing drugs will forever tarnish his and many other players of baseball’s steroid-era. PEDs or not, it is still the official Major League record, as he did officially wallop 73 baseballs over the fences of ballparks across the country. During his historic 2001 season, Bonds also set new records for slugging percentage (.863), walks (171), RBIs (131) and home runs per at bat (6.52). There have only been nine 60+ home run seasons in MLB history, and Bonds is the only player to top 70. Stanton is currently on pace to be the first player since Bonds to hit 60 home runs in a season, but he’s a long way from 73. The single season home run record will forever have an asterisk in the mind of many baseball fans, as it is unlikely to ever be broken.
Most career stolen bases – 1,406
Ricky Henderson’s speed and skill on the basepath were unmatched. Over the course of his lengthy career, Henderson compiled 1,406 stolen bases with three 100-stolen-base seasons, thirteen 50-stolen-base seasons, and lead the league in stolen bases 12 times. The next closest player is Lou Brock, who has 468 fewer stolen bases at 938. In order for any player to break Henderson’s record he would need to average 70 stolen bases for 20 seasons, and then find some time to steal another 7. Since Henderson’s retirement after the 2003 season, the MLB leader has stolen an average of only 63 bases. Henderson’s steals total looks to be cemented in the record books.
Most Career No-Hitters - 7
The Ryan Express delivered fear into the hearts of hitters for nearly 3 decades. He struckout 5,714 batter over the course of his career, leading the Randy Johnson in the number 2 spot by 839 K’s. He pitched in the Major Leagues for so long, he punched out 7 pairs of fathers and sons. Remember that tid bit for your next trivia night at the bar. As impressive as his career K tally is, Ryan is the holder of an even more remarkable total: 7 no hitters. This leads the next highest total by 3 (Sandy Koufax, 4) and only three other pitchers have ever thrown 3 no hitters. He’s also tied with Bob Feller for the major league record if one-hitters with 12, and holds the record for two-hitters with 18. Despite his dominant career, Ryan never managed to throw a perfect game nor did he ever win a Cy Young award.
These records represented greatness, not just for one moment, but sustained over a period never before seen. They say only two things in life are certain, death and taxes, but I believe you can add these records to that list as well.
Image Source: (NPR), (Baltimore Sun), (ESPN), (Sports Illustrated), (NBC Sports) (Dallas-Fort Worth Telegram)