Unbreakable Records

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!

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8 responses to “Unbreakable Records

  1. In the same way that pre-1900 era records are dismissed as being from a different game, I wonder if someday the records of the 1990s and 2000s will be pushed aside as being part of the steroid era. It seems as though the sports writers intend to do just that, with McGwire, Sosa (and soon Bonds) all being denied entry into the Hall of Fame.

    And though this is a pre-modern era record, I’ve got another record that will never be touched: In 1877, Jim Devlin pitched every inning of every one of his team’s games that season. He’s the only guy to ever do that. Small wonder he died at 34 years old.

  2. Jim Devlin certainly simplified the scouting reports for other teams in the league, didn’t he?

    Here’s a modern record that may never be broken: Rickey Henderson was caught stealing 335 times in his career (1979 – 2003). Head-first slides, which have become common in recent seasons, are resulting in injuries that shorten careers. It could be that the next generation of speed guys — base-stealing threats, in other words — aren’t likely to be around long enough to reach Henderson’s marks.

  3. I just heard of a renown base stealer who used the head first slide because he didn’t want to break the little vials of juice he was addicted to and carried in his back pocket. Sorry I can’t remember who.

    But interesting I should read this post today with everyone honoring Jackie Robinson by wearing the venerable 42. Seeing him steal home was for me the most exciting play in baseball.

  4. It’s worth mentioning that Jackie Robinson stole home 19 times in his career, tying him for 9th place on the all-time list.

  5. BTW, the player who slid head first to avoid breaking his vials was Manny Ramirez.

  6. For the reason mentioned above by Brian, I think Manny Ramirez is another player who won’t be welcomed by the Hall of Fame.

  7. How about another record unlikely to be broken. I was at a Dodger-Cardinal game April 23rd, 1999, when this record was set. Cardinal third baseman Fernando Tatis hit two grand slams in the SAME INNING— off the same pitcher, Chan HoPark. It’s hard to believe Park wasn’t pulled, but he was still pitching when Tatis’ came up and hit his second slam.
    Tatis’ is the only player ever to hit two grand slams in one inning . It could happen again—but against the same pitcher ??? Hard to believe that could happen twice.
    I just had to remind you of this unusual record. I’m sorry I didn’t bring you with me. Next time. Bill

  8. You’re right, Bill — two grand slams in the same inning by Fernando Tatis is a record that will never be broken. I think it’s also unlikely that anyone will surpass the achievement of Tony Cloninger of the Atlanta Braves. He hit two grand slams in the same game (not the same inning) in July, 1966. He’s the only PITCHER to ever do that.

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