Untouchable: The Greatest Streaks in Sports
Before you read this article, be aware that this list is comprised of individuals. Hence, I am allowed to exclude the Celtics that won 8 straight NBA titles and the John Wooden Bruins. I'm planning to do a team streaks list soon- and that one may surprise you. Hopefully you have a good time reading this one, then bashing it. And perhaps most importantly, please enlighten me if I've missed something glaring (and no, Marciano's streak isn't as impressive as Robinson's). Thanks, and enjoy! :)
1. Cal Ripken, Jr.- 2,632 consecutive games played
The most impressive streak in sports, bar none, despite my bias (he was my first sports hero- I cannot remember a time when he wasn't my favorite player). In baseball, there are 162 games in a season; players occasionally need to go 3 full weeks without a day off. Cal Ripken never took a day off for more than 15 years- and produced at a Hall of Fame level, hitting more than 400 career home runs and 3,000 career base hits- not to mention some outstanding plays on defense.
2. Edwin Moses- 122 consecutive 400m hurdle wins
The only possible competitor to Ripken. Over a span of 9 years, 9 months, and 9 days, Edwin Moses did not lose a single race in the 400m hurdles, winning two gold medals- it is likely that he would have won three, but the US boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Moses's dominance of the event led many others to quit, believing that they could not possibly beat him. In honor of his great accomplishments, he was selected to say the Olympic Oath.
3. Wayne Gretzky- 51 consecutive games with a point
The Great One was the only player who never seemed to hit a hot goalie with a good team- every other player has, and in my opinion always will. For the record, Gretzky owns the second-best streak as well- 30 games with a point. A truly dominant player with many records to match, this might be his greatest accomplishment. As far as game-by-game streaks go, some, including me, prefer Dimaggio's record, below- but there's no denying that Gretzky's is more impressive because no one else has even come close.
4. Joe Dimaggio- 56 consecutive games with a hit
Ripken's is more impressive, in my opinion, but this might be the most celebrated record in baseball and perhaps even all of sports- baseball isn't called "America's pastime" for nothing; I freely admit that I'd never heard of Moses before I did some research for this article. The closest to him is Pete Rose, at 44 games (which is the NL record; Dimaggio played for the Yankees). Chase Utley's recent hitting streak was a thing of beauty; he'd hit safely in 32 straight games. But all it takes is ONE game... and Dimaggio never seemed to have one.
5. Byron Nelson- 11 consecutive PGA tour wins
I grant that this record was set "way back when" as it were. This prevents it from being higher in the rankings- even Tiger probably won't get more than 6 or, at best, 8 in a row. The field is too strong now. But it isn't like Nelson was the only golfer on the tour, either- he possessed truly exceptional skill with the clubs.
6. Johnny Unitas- 47 consecutive games with a TD pass
Some people feel like this is living on borrowed time- lots of people seem to be betting that Brady or Manning will break this record. But every time they get going, a defense keeps their passes out of the end zone. Even "the greatest pure passer in history," as some annoint Dan Marino, "only" got to 30 games in a row. Now THAT's impressive.
7. Steven Redgrave- 5 consecutive Olympics with a gold medal
The only person ever to perform this feat in any sport in either the Summer or Winter games, Steven Redgrave is a monster even by the standards of rowers. Though he's slimmed down since Sydney, his last gold, he's still, and forever will be, a legend among rowers. Redgrave is also noteworthy for winning gold medals on both sides of a sweep boat- not the only one to do it, but in rare company. (For informative purposes to those of you who aren't rowers, it's completely back-asswards to try and switch sides- I'm a pretty technically sound starboard rower, but when I row on port it isn't pretty.) This man had the ability to singlehandedly turn a boat that wouldn't make the finals without him into gold medalists.
8. Lance Armstrong- 7 consecutive Tour de France wins
One of the heroes of today's sports scene, Lance Armstrong overcame testicular cancer and won no fewer than seven Tours in a row, which is also the record for most tours ever won by one person. While some believe he *had* to have used steroids or doped to perform so well, biking is famous for busting its athletes; indeed, many of the top contenders are not riding in this year's Tour (presently taking place) for drug or doping related violations. In my estimation, Lance Armstrong is one of the truly exceptional athletes in the history of sports. Unfortunately, in the time of the steroid era, few seem to agree with me.
9. Orel Hershiser- 59 straight scoreless innings
It is very impressive when a pitcher throws 9 straight scoreless innings; that's a complete-game shutout. Orel Hershiser threw the equivalent of more than 6.5 straight shutouts enroute to 59 straight scoreless innings. A truly remarkable feat, the fact that the second-best streak is 58 2/3 innings (Don Drysdale) takes away from this streak's ability to crack the top 5. Nevertheless, it took some truly phenomenal pitching- and also a great manager, who knew exactly when to take Hershiser out when it was time for him to be pulled.
10. Steffi Graf- The "Golden" Grand Slam
In tennis, it takes exceptional talent and skill to win even one of the four Grand Slam titles throughout the year- the Austrailian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon, and the US Open. Steffi Graf won 22 career grand slam titles. A Calendar Grand Slam (winning all 4 of those titles in the same year) is one of the most elusive feats in sports- today, a player needs to win the 4 tournaments on 3 different surfaces, which all play very differently. Steffi Graf is the only player, man or woman, to win a Calendar Grand Slam AND win the Olympic Gold Medal in the same year (hence why it is the "Golden" Grand Slam; she won all 5 major titles when there are usually only 4). It is true that 1988 was the first year tennis was played at the Olympics since the early 20th century after a long absence, but Graf was a phenomenal talent who methodically took her opponents apart on a whim.
Notables (no particular order):
-Martina Navritalova, 6 consecutive Wimbledon titles.
-Cy Young, 24 straight innings without a hit
-Ted Williams, reached base 16 times in a row
-Sugar Ray Robinson, 91 straight boxing victories
-Tiger Woods, 142 straight PGA cuts made
-Alexander Karelin, 3 Olympic Gold Medals & 9 World Championships w/o giving up a point
-Cael Sanderson, 159 straight wrestling wins @ Iowa State
-Micheal Williams, 97 straight free throws made (NBA)
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