75 years ago, in May of 1941, “The Yankee Clipper” Joe DiMaggio went one-for-four against the Chicago White Sox. Little did baseball fans know, DiMaggio’s single that day would be the beginning of a 56-game hitting streak that is revered as one of the best records in the history of baseball.
Since DiMaggio’s superb streak, several have come close to the legendary record, but all have fallen short. 26-year-ol, Jackie Bradley Jr. of the Boston Red Sox has made headlines this year as he compiled an impressive hitting streak of his own. Bradley’s streak came to a close at 29 games, just over half of DiMaggio’s record stretch.
Often times throughout the world of baseball, many fans and personalities will utter the cliché, “records are made to be broken.” Baseball, a game whose vernacular is filled with clichés, has often shown this particular saying, to in fact, be true. However, baseball holds some of the most unbreakable records in all of sports. Among them, DiMaggio’s streak that has lasted 75 seasons and has yet to be eclipsed. The recent unsuccessful push of Bradley has left many wondering if DiMaggio’s hit streak is baseball’s most unbreakable record. Here are the 15 most unbreakable records in baseball.
15. Mariano Rivera: 652 Saves
Widely regarded as the best closer of all time, Mariano Rivera holds the record for career saves at 652. Rivera was able to amass this total in large part due to an incredible run of durability and consistency, not to mention, he possessed one of the most devastating cutters in the history of the game. Rivera was also able to cash in on the Yankees’ success in the 1990s which presented him with ample opportunities to collect plenty of saves, but that should not take away from his career at all. Rivera retired in 2013 with a career average of 39 saves per season. In order for someone to approach Rivera’s mark, they would have to possess that same level of consistency and longevity. Jonathan Papelbon (just over 350) and Francisco Rodriguez (just over 400) are the two closers in today’s game that could come close to Rivera’s mark.
14. Ichiro Suzuki: 10 Straight Seasons Of More Than 200 Hits
One of the best pure hitters the game of baseball will ever see, Ichiro Suzuki is quickly approaching 3,000 career hits in the United States. Suzuki debuted in the States in 2001 and quickly left any doubt behind that his game wouldn’t translate over. Ichiro smacked 242 hits his rookie season en route to winning the American League Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year awards. He continued to gather 200 or more hits for the next ten seasons, including a major league record 262 hits in 2004. His remarkable durability and extremely high level of performance over a consecutive ten-year span will likely never be duplicated.
13. Orel Hershiser: 59 Straight Scoreless Innings
In the late summer of 1988, Los Angeles Dodgers ace, Orel Hershiser, finished off a start with four scoreless innings that began his remarkable streak of 59 straight scoreless innings. When it was all said and done, Hershiser allowed just 31 hits and a measly 3 extra-base hits during the streak. Hershiser’s dominant stretch was one inning better than former Dodger legend, Don Drysdale. Over 26 years later, Hershiser’s streak remains unmatched. However, MLB fans may have recently seen the best chance a pitcher had at approaching Hershiser. While pitching for Los Angeles last season, Zack Greinke tossed nearly 46 scoreless innings, the most any pitcher has thrown since Hershiser. Remarkably, Greinke was still well short of surpassing the record.
12. Barry Bonds: 73 Home Runs In A Season
Although the career of Barry Bonds is marred by the suspicion, and very probable use of performance enhancing drugs, Bonds is arguably one of the best overall hitters to ever pick up a bat. Nearly every year Bonds played he did something special, but one of his most prolific years came in 2001 when he cracked 73 home runs in a single season. Baseball purists will argue that the true single season home run record was set by Roger Maris when he broke Babe Ruth’s record and belted 61 homers, but Bonds’ 73 is what stands in the record books. To truly understand how unreal Bonds was in 2001, he homered 1 in every 6.5 at-bats that season. Since setting the record, the closest anyone has come was in 2006 when Ryan Howard hit 58 home runs, still 15 shy of Barry’s 2001 season. This one should be safe for quite some time.
11. Eric Gagne: 84 Straight Saves
Between August 26th, 2002 and July 5th, 2004, nearly a two-year span, Los Angeles Dodgers closer, Eric Gagne converted an astounding 84 straight save attempts. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Gagne pitched to the tune of an 0.82 ERA during that stretch. Perhaps even more stunning, he allowed the tying-run to reach third base just once over the entire span. There are little to no guarantees in the game of baseball, but for a period of time one of them was that when Gagne entered, the game was over. After the stretch ended, Gagne was never able to return to that same form. There is little doubt that anyone will come close to matching this number anytime in the near future.
10. Ted Williams: .482 Career On-Base Percentage
The last man to hit .400 in a season, and probably the last to ever do so, Ted Williams is right in the middle of the discussion for the best player to ever play the game. Perhaps the most impressive career statistics Williams posted was his .482 career on-base percentage. Now, a .482 on-base would be impressive for a single season, but doing so over the course of 19 seasons like Williams did is just other worldly. “Teddy Ballgame’s” career mark does have a very slight chance of being approached by someone in today’s game. Joey Votto, through 10 seasons, has posted a career mark of .419. It is extremely unlikely that Votto could still improve enough, and sustain that can of pace to match Williams’ insane career on-base.
9. Nolan Ryan: 5,714 Career Strikeouts
For most pitchers, 3,000 career strikeouts is the highlight of their careers. For Ryan, it’s just over half of his career total. “The Ryan Express” got on the tracks in 1966 and rolled forward for 27 years after that. Ryan was a strike out machine throughout his entire career, as he punched out over 300 batters in six different seasons and was the youngest ever to reach 3,000 strikeouts as he accomplished the feat in his age 33 season. Ryan holds the lead for this record by nearly 1,000 strikeouts. No pitcher will ever come close to reaching Ryan’s insane career total.
8. Rogers Hornsby: .424 Batting Average In A Single Season
Arguably one of the best single seasons for an individual batter ever, Roger Hornsby capped off his 1924 season with a robust batting average of .424, the highest mark ever for a hitter in the live ball era. Hornsby collected 227 hits that season along with 89 walks. Ted Williams (.407) is the closest any hitter has ever gotten to Hornsby’s 1924 mark. Post Williams, the closest anyone has ever come was when George Brett hit .389 in a full 1980 season, and Tony Gwynn (.393) in a shorten 1994 season. This record does not have the same prestige it once did, as batting average is now viewed as a less accurate statistic to measure the overall performance of a batter.
7. Barry Bonds: .609 On-Base Percentage In A Single Season
The aforementioned Bonds has a spot in several places in the baseball record books, but his most impressive accomplishment was his .609 on-base percentage during the 2004 campaign. For several years, Bonds was the most feared hitter in the game and would often go games, even weeks without seeing a pitch to hit. Add in Bonds’ excellent approach and the result was a staggering .609 on base and 1.422 OPS. The type of prolonged excellence over the course of 162 games that would be needed to come anywhere close to this mark is probably not present in any hitter other than Bonds. Maybe Bryce Harper can get within 50 points of this someday?
6. Rickey Henderson: 1,406 Stolen Bases
The best leadoff hitter to ever play the game, Rickey Henderson is most likely a once in a lifetime kind of player. Henderson holds a couple of MLB records, but his most unbreakable record is his career stolen base total of 1,406. Henderson is no doubt the best base stealer that baseball has ever seen and it would take an extraordinary player to even come close to this. Just to size up Henderson’s accomplishments, he stole over 80 bags in six separate seasons and over 100 three different times. Henderson leads the pack by almost 500 steals. This mark is as close to unbreakable as can be.
5. Pete Rose: 4256 Career Hits
The man nicknamed “Charlie Hustle” amassed his 4256 hits in 24 big league seasons to earn a spot in the record books as the game’s all-time hit leader. Rose smacked over 175 hits in a season a remarkable 16 times throughout the course of his career. Rose surpassed the great Ty Cobb in 1985 to break the record. After his playing days, Rose’s career is marred with the lifetime ban he received from Major League Baseball in 1989 for betting on baseball. Rose’s playing accomplishments on the field should not be discredited though. Rose rode his relentless desire to succeed and durability to 24 big league seasons. Nowadays, playing that long, at that strong of a level is basically unheard. For most players entering today’s game, 3000 hits is a stretch, but 4256 is nothing more than a unrealistic dream.
4. Hack Wilson: 191 RBIs In A Single Season
In 1930, Hack Wilson drove in 191 runners to set what is undoubtedly one of baseball’s most unbreakable records. Wilson’s record-breaking campaign can be explained by a couple of key statistics. Wilson slashed an absurd .356/.454/723 in 1930 largely contributing to his RBI total. Wilson was also helped by the fact that he had two hitters hit in front of him with an on-base percentage of over .400. 1930 was also one of the best run scoring environments the game has ever seen. The initial post dead ball ear saw hitters dominant the early stages before pitchers were able to make an adjustment. Wilson’s record is just about untouchable. For a player to break the record, they would have to average over an RBI per game, which is unheard of in today’s pitching dominant game. Manny Ramirez came the closest to the mark in modern day baseball when he drove in 165 in 1999, still 26 short of Wilson. This record isn’t going anywhere.
3. Joe DiMaggio: 56-Game Hitting Streak
“Joltin” Joe DiMaggio had a summer to remember in 1941. Starting on May 15, and lasting till July 17, DiMaggio collected a hit in 56 straight games, the longest hitting streak baseball has ever seen. DiMaggio hit over .400 throughout the course of the streak and ultimately captured the league’s MVP award that season. Since DiMaggio’s historic 1941, not many have approached his number of 56. The closest anyone has gotten, came in 1978 when Pete Rose reached 44 games. Today’s game has made it much harder for hitters to collect hits due to advance metrics and strategic shifting. 56 in a row is a really long stretch. The Yankee Clipper’s mark isn’t going anywhere.
2. Cy Young: 511 Career Wins
You know you’re a big deal when you get an award rewarding individual excellence named after you. Cy Young was, in fact, a big deal and his career total of 511 wins is an unbreakable record. Young’s career ended in 1911 after 22 seasons in baseball. When it was all said and done, Young placed his name atop baseball’s all-time wins leaderboard and that name is never going to be removed. Young collected more than 20 wins in a season 15 times throughout his career. Today’s game is much different than it was when Young was pitching. Team’s now use five starting pitchers in a rotation and would never allow a starter to accumulate the type of innings Young logged. To put this career number in perspective, to approach Young’s total, a pitcher would have to average 20 wins a season for 25 seasons. Unbreakable.
1. Cal Ripken Jr.: 2,632 Consecutive Games Played
For over 50 years, “The Iron Horse” Lou Gehrig held baseball’s record for consecutive games played. On Sept. 6, 1995, Cal Ripken Jr. laced up his cleats, and took the field for his 2,131st consecutive game, breaking Gehrig’s record. Ripken continued on to play 501 more games in a row before his streak came to an end in 1999. Ripken’s games played streak is simply remarkable and baseball fans will never see anything like this again. Now, playing 162 straight games is an accomplishment for a player. In order to approach Ripken’s streak, a player would have to play every single game in a season for over 16 straight seasons. It can comfortably be said that Ripken’s remarkable run of consecutive games played is baseball’s most unbreakable record. Hats off to the “Iron Man.”
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