Hall of Famer Roy Campanella once said, “You gotta be a man to play baseball for a living, but you gotta have a lot of little boy in you, too.” It seems to me that to be a baseball fan, you gotta have a lot of accountant in you.
For some reason, statistics and record-keeping are important to an appreciation of the game. If you say “Roger Maris” to a diehard fan, the fan will instantly respond “Sixty-one”. (In case you’ve forgotten, that was the number of home runs Maris hit when he broke Babe Ruth’s record — Maris did it in ’61, by the way.)
That record has been broken a couple of times since, and the current home run mark will be surpassed again someday. There are a few baseball records, though, that I’m pretty sure will last forever…
Every fan is certain that pitcher Cy Young’s 511 career victories will never be topped, nor will his 749 career complete games. Here’s a record that is more obscure, but no less remarkable. In 1904, Jack Taylor of the St. Louis Cardinals set the mark for consecutive complete games: 39. Yes –consecutive! By comparison, baseball’s current best pitcher, Roy Halladay of Philadelphia, has a total of 58 complete games, spread across a 14-year career.
With today’s inflated salaries, pitchers’ arms are treated by management as if they are made of porcelain and held in place with cotton candy. Can you imagine any current pitcher being allowed to stay in a game for 26 innings? That’s the record for longest complete game; it is jointly held by Leon Cadore (Brooklyn) and Joe Oeschger (Boston Braves), who went the distance against each other on May 1, 1920. Incidentally, the entire contest lasted only 3 hours and 50 minutes, which in modern-day games is around the time when fans rise for the traditional 7th-inning stretch.
The shortest nine-inning game was played on September 28, 1919, between the New York Giants and Philadelphia Phillies. It went 51 minutes. Had it been played in Los Angeles, spectators would have been leaving after 45 minutes to beat the traffic.
It doesn’t seem possible that Walter Johnson’s record of 110 career shutouts will fall — Halladay currently has 19 — but that isn’t even Johnson’s most remarkable record. “Big Train” set the mark for highest batting average by a pitcher (season), hitting a cool .433 in 1925. OK, that was only 42 hits in 98 at bats, but he was 38 years old when he did it.
Stealing home has become so rare that many avid baseball fans probably can’t tell you Ty Cobb holds the career record with 54. No active player even has 10. There was a brief eruption back in 1996, when there were 38 steals of home — by all major league teams combined. Lou Brock, second on the all-time list for stolen bases had a total of 938, but not one of them was stealing home. You get the idea: Cobb’s record will not be broken.
Well, that’s what I think, but I’ve been wrong before — for over 60 consecutive years, in fact, and I’m going for the record!