Baseball's 10 Most Unbreakable Records
Baseball records are like those treats at the bottom of a box of cereal. Some are unexpected. Some are weird. Some are funny.
Then there are some records that are just plain unbreakable. Over the course of the sport's history there have been thousands of memorable moments, hundreds of great players, and a handful of incredible accomplishments.
Here's the 10 most unbreakable records in the history of the game. Share your thoughts below.
10. Consecutive Hits (56): Joe DiMaggio
It's one of baseball's most popular records, and also one of its most unbreakable. In 1941, while with the New York Yankees, DiMaggio had a base hit in 56 consecutive games.
He hit .403 and slugged .717 during the streak, anchoring the Yankees lineup from mid-May to mid-July for an incredible two months of historic baseball.
Every year some player goes on a hitting streak of 20 or 30 games and analysts everywhere bring up DiMaggio's fabled record. But the reality is that in over 60 years nobody has ever really come close.
Pete Rose hit in 44 straight in in 1978, and Paul Molitor hit in 39 straight in 1987. These were the greatest attempts at the record. But even those two Hall-of-Famers fell far short.
The modern game, with its heavy use of relief pitchers and specialists, makes challenges to the record more difficult than ever. It may fall one day, but don't hold your breath.
9. Career No-Hitters (7): Nolan Ryan
Johnny Vander Meer's record of consecutive no-hitters in 1938 might be the more popular record, but Ryan's is the more impressive.
There are an average of three no-hitters every year in baseball (five so far in 2010), but it's not often that you see many pitchers repeat the feat.
For perspective there have been 26 pitchers in the history of baseball, not including Ryan, who have ever thrown multiple no-hitters (the most recent being Mark Buerhle in 2009). Here is the list of pitchers who have done it at least three times: Larry Corcoran (1880, 1882, 1884), Cy Young (1897, 1904, 1908), Bob Feller (1940, 1946, 1951), and Sandy Koufax (1962, 1963, 1964, 1965).
Ryan did it seven times (1973—twice, 1974, 1975, 1981, 1990, 1991). In 1991 Ryan became the oldest pitcher to ever throw a no-hitter. He was 44 years old. Try beating that one, Jamie Moyer.
With hitters having access to advancing scouting reports, it's borderline impossible to see this feat ever equaled.
8. Single Season Home Runs (73): Barry Bonds
Unlike Bonds' career home run record, which will likely be broken first by Alex Rodriguez and then by Albert Pujols, his single season record is just about untouchable.
Regardless of whether you think the record is legitimate, its place in the record books is undeniable. With 73 home runs in in 2001, Bonds overcame Mark McGwire's record of 70 in 1998.
Prior to McGwire (and Sammy Sosa), the long-standing record was 61 by Roger Maris in 1961. Nobody outside of the steroid era has ever approached that number.
Ryan Howard (58 home runs in 2006) is the closest. It's not inconceivable for Howard to get to 61, but 73? Not a chance. Barry Bonds may forever live in infamy, but his record will not go away.
7. Career Stolen Bases (1,406): Rickey Henderson
Everyone knows this record belongs to Henderson, the best baserunner in baseball history. What's incredible is just by how much Henderson is in first on the all-time list.
In second place is Hall-of-Famer Lou Brock with 938 career steals, almost 500 behind Henderson. Only two modern players figure to have an outside shot at catching Brock (Juan Pierre—507 career steals, Carl Crawford—402 career steals). Ichiro Suzuki, by the way, has 570 career steals between Japan and MLB.
Henderson averaged 74 steals over a 25 season career. He stole over 100 three times, including a career high 130 in 1982 while with the Oakland Athletics.
Nobody's topped 100 steals in a season since Vince Coleman in 1987 (109). So safe to say that nobody's ever going to catch Ricky. Nobody ever could anyway.
6. Single Season Batting Average (.440): Hugh Duffy
No, that's not Hugh Duffy. That's Ichiro Suzuki, the only player in baseball who can threaten Duffy's batting record that has stood since 1987.
But Ichiro's career high is only .372. That's still almost 70 points behind Duffy, the 5' 7" outfielder from Cranston, RI who shattered his previous high of .408 by pounding 237 hits in only 539 at-bats. He also drove in 145 runs that year and scored 160. Oh yea, he also won the Triple Crown.
Baseball analysts love to argue about who will be the next player to hit .400 (Ted Williams being the most recent when he hit .406 in 1941). But nobody talks about Duffy, a career .326 hitter who was also one of the fastest players in the game (574 career steals).
Ichiro owns the single season record for hits in a single season with 262 in 2004. It took him 762 at-bats to get there though. That's almost 200 more outs recorded than Duffy had during his historic seasons.
Translation: Duffy's record is safe.
5. Single Season Strikeouts for a Pitcher (513): Matt Kilroy
OK, so pictures of Matt Kilroy are hard to come by. He's not a Hall-of-Famer, nor was he one of the best pitchers of his era. But he did accomplish something so astounding that his name will never be forgotten.
As a 20-year old rookie for the Baltimore Orioles in 1886 Kilroy struck out 513 batters in 583 innings. He made 68 starts for the last place Orioles and, despite walking 182 batters that year, still earned a respectable 3.37 ERA and 1.13 WHIP.
His sophomore campaign featured a severe drop off. Kilroy threw 589.1 innings, but struck out only 217 batters. Apparently, the Orioles pitching staff never figured out that Kilroy's arm couldn't handle that kind of abuse. He was out of the league by 1894.
The only modern players to challenge this record have been Nolan Ryan (383 strikeouts in 1973) and Randy Johnson (372 strikeouts in 2001). For the sake of the argument let's see what it would take for strikeout king Stephen Stasburg (pictured above) to get to 519.
In limited action in 2010 Strasburg sported a SO/9 IP ratio of 12.6 (Kilroy's was only 7.9 during his record season). For Strasburg to get to 519 at that ratio he would have to pitch 371 innings. Can't see the Nationals trotting out their franchise pitcher for that much punishment.
4. Career Strikeouts (5,714): Nolan Ryan
What's more impressive than striking out 513 batters in a single season? How about striking out over 10 times that number over the course of a remarkable career?
Ryan is undoubtedly the greatest strikeout pitcher of all time. With 5,714 career punchouts he stands atop the record books by a massive margin.
In second place is the great Randy Johnson with 4,875. Roger Clemens is third with 4,672. There are only 16 pitchers who have recorded 3,000 strikeouts. Ryan threw almost twice as many.
The Ryan Express threw over 300 strikeouts six times during his 27-season major league career, including a career high 383 in 1973. He averaged 262 strikeouts per season and, considering he pitched into his late 40's, it should come as no surprise that the record belongs to Ryan.
Even Johan Santana, with 1861 strikeouts through 11 seasons, can't sniff this record.
3. Career Shutouts (110): Walter Johnson
At 6' 1" and 200 pounds, Johnson was one of the most formidable pitchers to ever play the game. His Hall-of-Fame resume includes 417 wins, 3,509 strikeouts, and a career 2.17 ERA. But of all his accomplishments, the most unbelievable one is his 110 career shutouts.
If that seems like an impossibly large number, that's because it is. In second place is Pete Alexander with 90. The great Christy Mathewson is third with 79. Among recent players only Roger Clemens appears on the top 50 list with 46 career shutouts.
The Big Train threw at least one shutout every year of his 21 season career, including a career high 11 shutouts in 1913 (the single season record is 16 by Pete Alexander and George Bradley). He also threw 531 complete games over the course of his career.
Roy Halladay, shown above, is the active leader with 18 career shutouts. But even pitching to National League lineups won't help him get anywhere near Johnson's mark.
2. Consecutive Games Played (2,632): Cal Ripken, Jr.
The Iron Man. What makes this record so impressive is just not the sheer magnitude of the number, it's the willpower of a baseball great to refuse to ever take a day off.
From a late May game in 1982 through mid-September in 1998, Ripken played 2,632 consecutive games. Over the course of that period Ripken was elected to 15 All-Star teams, won two MVP awards and eight Silver Slugger awards, and gained the adoration of millions of Baltimore Orioles fans.
Ripken shattered the previous record of 2,130 held by Lou Gehrig. But besides those two nobody else has ever made it to 1,400 consecutive games played. Of active players fellow Oriole Miguel Tejada was the closest. He played in 1,152 consecutive games (fifth all time), before breaking the streak in 2007.
Managers today are so careful about getting their star players proper rest that it's inconceivable for anyone to ever challenge Ripken. Even if a player got their manager's approval (you know Dustin Pedroia would play every day if he could), he would still have to stay healthy pretty much his entire career.
Of all the modern records on this list, Ripken's is undoubtedly the most unbreakable.
1. Career Wins (511): Cy Young
The top spot on our list belongs to none other than the immortal Cy Young. With 511 wins Young isn't just first in the record books, he's the runaway leader.
Walter Johnson stands in second place with 417 wins, almost 100 behind Young. Pete Alexander and Christy Mathewson are tied for third with 373 wins. The active leader is Jamie Moyer with 267 wins, and at 47 years old it's unlikely he has another 20 seasons in him (though with Moyer you can never really rule that out).
So how did Cy do it?
Well, for starters, he pitched in a completely different era (1890—1911). Back then it was customary for pitchers to finish the games they started, since relief pitchers were rarely used. It was also normal for pitchers to throw upwards of 300 innings each year. Young topped the 300 mark in all but six of his 22 major league seasons, and pitched over 400 innings five times.
He was pretty good during those seasons too. His career ERA and WHIP is 2.63 and 1.13, respectively. So there's a reason there's an annual pitching award named after the guy.
Young holds several other major league records, including innings pitched (7356), starts (815), and complete games (749). None of his records will ever be broken, but it's his 511 wins that will forever signify a mark of true baseball excellence.