Top Unbreakable Streaks and Records in MLB History

Peter Panacy@@PeterPanacyCorrespondent IApril 27, 2011

Top Unbreakable Streaks and Records in MLB History

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    No other professional sport in America cherishes its records more than Major League Baseball.  Be it home run records, stolen bases, career batting average or strikeouts, baseball celebrates those who have immortalized themselves in the record books. 

    Many of these records may never be broken, leaving the men who established them idolized by baseball fans for generations to come.

    Here is a look at 10 records that we may never see broken.

No. 10: Barry Bonds' 73 Home Runs in a Single Season

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    Before the start of the 2001 season, Barry Bonds told teammate Shawn Dunston that he was going to break Mark McGwire's single season record of 70 home runs.  What he didn't tell Dunston was exactly how he was going to do it.

    Bonds breaking and then establishing the single season home run record at 73 round trippers may stand as the most controversial of any single season record in baseball to date.  Regardless of Bonds' own knowledge of having used the "cream and clear," these substances certainly provided him with the pop to drive the ball farther than anyone else at the time. 

    However, we can't all jump on Bonds for being the sole offender during the steroid era.  Both McGwire and Sammy Sosa were also listed as having used steroids when they both surpassed the previous record established by Roger Maris in 1961.  Perhaps Major League Baseball is to bear some of the blame for turning its back on the steroid problem that plagued the game for the better part of two decades.

    Baseball has finally put a stop to the use of such steroids and since then, no player has seriously threatened Bonds' record.

    Unless baseball decides to legalize the substances that gave players like Bonds, McGwire and Sosa the inflated muscle to hit home runs at will, 73 should last but it will not be the most revered.  Maybe 61 seems to be more sacred to fans, but the record still belongs to Bonds*.

    Let it stand that 73 home runs in a single season will never be surpassed and it is for all the right reasons.

No. 9: Ty Cobb's Career .367 Batting Average

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    Ty Cobb was a racist and a bigot.  His opponents hated him and his teammates could hardly stand him.  He was also one of the best hitters in the game.  Having amassed a total of 4,191 hits over a career that spanned 23 seasons, what makes Cobb even more spectacular was his career .367 batting average over that time-frame. 

    In his first season with the Detroit Tigers, Cobb batted .240.  For the rest of his playing career, he would never bat below .300.  Cobb was never a power hitter even in the era of the Dead Ball.  He could, however, place the ball anywhere in the field with a unique grip on the bat which saw his hands spread apart at the handle.

    During this era, players could still hit above .400 but nobody could hit with as much regularity and for their entire career span.

    To put Cobb's record into a more modern perspective, Tony Gwynn, one of baseball's most respected hitters of recent years, amassed a respectable .338 batting average over his remarkable career. 

    With Major League Baseball being more specialized, and pitchers having specific roles within the game, it is safe to say that no professional ball player will ever come close to hitting .367 over an entire career.

No. 8: Rickey Henderson's 1,406 Career Stolen Bases

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    Rickey Henderson was one of the most dynamic players in recent years.  Not only could he steal bases almost at will, but also he could hit and hit with power.  As perhaps the most dominant lead off hitters of his time, Henderson's career spanned 24 years with nine teams. 

    What made Henderson extremely special though was his ability to steal bases almost every moment he reached base.  He would routinely get aboard at first base, steal second and often steal third.  In 1982, Henderson broke Lou Brock's single season stolen base record with 130 steals, a record that has not even been approached since.

    Henderson attributed his ability to steal bases to his ability to determine whether or not the opposing pitcher was going home with his motion.  Speed and technique were merely additional attributes.

    Henderson broke Lou Brock's career record on May 1, 1991 with his 939th career stolen base.  After passing the previous record, Henderson continued to run the bases with his talent amassing 1,406 total steals before playing in his final game in 2003.

    Since then, even the best base stealers such as Juan Pierre or Rafael Furcal have not even come close to the stolen base totals that Henderson had during his fabled career.  With stolen bases becoming less and less an asset in today's game, it is nearly impossible that Henderson's record will ever be broken, let alone approached.

No. 7: Cal Ripken Jr.'s 2,632 Consecutive Games Played

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    Baseball's Iron Man award once held by the immortal Lou Gehrig at 2,130 consecutive games played was finally surpassed by Cal Ripken Jr. on September 6, 1995 before a sellout crowd at Baltimore's Camden Yards. 

    Before Ripken Jr. made his incredible run, Gehrig's record was once thought to be unreachable and probably would have been included in this list.  Gehrig played with all types of injuries and Ripken Jr. was able to maintain the same consistency that earned him a place in baseball immortality.  When he finally passed Gehrig, Ripken Jr.'s record breaking moment was recognized by fans as the most memorable moment in Major League History.

    Ripken Jr. was not only special for having played in so many games in a row, but also as being one of the best shortstops in baseball history.  A 19-time All-Star and member of the 3,000 club, Ripken Jr.'s personality was also one that fans of all clubs admired. 

    On September 20, 1998, Ripken Jr. removed himself from the lineup ending his consecutive games played at 2,632 in a row.

    With baseball players today regarded as investments by their respective teams, it is extremely unlikely that managers or owners would allow their players to not receive regular days off when needed.  With that in mind, the Iron Man record should always remain in Cal Ripken Jr.'s hands.

No. 6: Nolan Ryan's 7 No Hitters

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    Nolan Ryan is ageless.  His record seven no-hitters aside, Ryan was able to produce one of the most remarkable careers in all professional sports.  He played a phenomenal 27 years at the big league level and could still throw pitches above 100 miles per hour well over the age of 40.  He also holds the Major League record for strikeouts at 5,714 which could also be included in this list.  Yet despite these amazing statistics, Ryan never pitched a perfect game nor did he ever receive a Cy Young award.

    Ryan pitched his first no hitter in 1973 and followed up with a second one the same year.  He added two more in 1974 and 1975 respectively.  He enjoyed his fifth in 1981 and sixth in 1990.  In 1991, Ryan pitched his seventh no hitter at the age of 44.

    Ryan finally retired in 1993 after suffering from an irrecoverable arm injury ending a storied career that will be impossible to match.

    However, Ryan stayed involved in the game and currently is the President of the Texas Rangers.

    Even the most dominant pitchers in the game today rarely have the chance to enjoy only one no hitter during their careers.  To even think that another pitcher will come close to seven no hitters is unimaginable.

No. 5: Pete Rose's 4,256 Career Hits

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    Pete Rose deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.  Most fans would agree with that.  Despite the fact that his betting on baseball earned him the lifetime ban received in 1989, Rose still holds the unreachable record of 4,256 base hits.

    Nicknamed "Charlie Hustle" for his playing style, Rose tripled for his first big league hit on April 13, 1963.  What made Rose even more special was his uncanny ability to switch hit and deliver from both sides of the plate.

    A 17 time All-Star, Rose ended his career with a .303 batting average and 1,314 runs batted in.  Never being much of a power hitter, Rose excelled as a contact hitter much like his idol Ty Cobb.

    In 1978, Rose enjoyed a 44 game hitting streak, tying the National League record set by Willie Keeler and threatening the Major League record of 56 games set by Joe DiMaggio.

    After stints in Philadelphia and Montreal, Rose returned to the Cincinnati Reds where he began his career.  On September 11, 1985, Rose broke Cobb's record of total hits with a single to left field.  Rose would play one more season before retiring from baseball as a player in 1986.  Since then, elite players such as Derek Jeter and Rafael Palmeiro reach 3,000 hits at the twilight of their careers.  Few can even fathom coming close to 4,000 and above.

    Rose's managerial career and subsequent gambling accusations overshadowed his brilliant career, but most baseball fans still feel that Rose deserves his spot in the Hall of Fame.  His career hit total, however, shall still stand untouchable.

No. 4: Napoleon Lajoie Hits .426 During the 1901 Regular Season

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    Napoleon Lajoie is not a household Major League Baseball name.  When baseball fans think of hitting .400, most will refer to Ted Williams, the last player to hit above the illusive mark.  However, .400 still holds its luster as we have watched players in recent decades come close, most notably George Brett (.394) and Tony Gwynn (.390).  When these and other players come close, baseball fans hold their breath and wonder if they can achieve that seemingly unreachable mark.

    However, the record for a single season batting average belongs to a player whose last name most cannot pronounce.  Lajoie started his career in 1896 during the peak of the Dead Ball Era and in 1901, he signed with the Philadelphia Athletics and subsequently batted .426 that year.  His peers such as Ty Cobb were amazed by his hitting ability.

    Certainly it can be argued that the game was different back at the turn of the 20th Century.  The pitching was not as solid and the nature of play was much more hitting focused as opposed to power.  But putting up offensive numbers that would make slow pitch softball hitters jealous today still commands respect.  It also deserves to be remembered by students of the game today.

    There were numerous .400 hitters after Lajoie finally ending with Ted Williams in 1941 and a handful of players that have come close since.  Yet Lajoie is the master of this elite of elite clubs and will continue to be so.

No. 3: Sam Crawford Hits 309 Career Triples

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    Ed Barrow, the general manager of the New York Yankees during Babe Ruth's tenure, once noted that Sam Crawford was the best hitter he had ever seen.  Crawford played 18 seasons for the Cincinnati Reds and the Detroit Tigers.  Plus, how can you not give attention to a player from Wahoo, Nebraska?

    According to the "Gray Ink Test" from which awards points for leading offensive statistics among batting leaders over the course of the regular season, Crawford ranks ninth all time over such greats as Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams.  Yet like Lajoie, most baseball fans have never heard of Crawford and his amazing career.

    From 1899 through 1917, Crawford excelled in extra base hits, most notably triples.  His ability to hit the ball to all parts of the field and turn doubles into triples, made Crawford into one of the most prolific hitters of the Dead Ball Era. 

    While Crawford may never be recognized as a baseball icon across generations, his record of 309 triples should never be approached.  Current Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford is a distant favorite with 105 triples over 10 seasons to date.  At that rate, Carl Crawford would have to play into his fifties to come close to Sam Crawford's record.  That seems unlikely to say the least.

No. 2: Joe DiMaggio's 56 Game Hitting Streak in 1941

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    56.  Any baseball fan, young or old, can tell you what that number means.  In 1941, Joe DiMaggio set the all time record for consecutive games with at least one base hit.  "Joltin' Joe" was a tremendous five-tool ball player who combined batting average with power in addition to his fielding prowess. 

    In his storied career spanning 13 seasons with the New York Yankees, Joe DiMaggio hit 361 home runs and held a career batting average of .325.  Yet his 56 game hitting streak is the one record that sets DiMaggio apart from the rest of the best ballplayers of his generation.

    Starting May 15, 1941, DiMaggio started his incredible hitting streak.  It finally ended in Cleveland on July 16 and was forever immortalized in the famous Les Brown & His Band of Renown's hit song, "Joltin' Joe DiMaggio."  His streak surpassed Willie Keeler's previous mark of 44 games with a hit.

    Since DiMaggio's streak has passed, a few players have come close.  Pete Rose tied Keeler's mark with 44 games and Jimmy Rollins got to 38. 

    While DiMaggio's record certainly does not require the longevity of a player's entire career, it seems highly unlikely that any player could ever breach a record that every baseball fan knows well.

No. 1: Cy Young Wins 511 Games

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    There is an infinitely slight possibility that the previous records listed in this article may be reached by future Major League players at some point in the distant future.  After all, records are made to be broken...except for one.

    Cy Young won 511 games over a 22 year career with five different teams.  He is 94 wins ahead of the second most winning pitcher Walter Johnson.  There is a reason why the award given to the best pitcher in each league each season is called the Cy Young Award.  He was the best at winning and nobody comes close or ever will.

    Other pitchers will not come close not because they lack his talent, but because baseball has changed in such a way that pitchers would never have the ability to reach even close to that mark.  In Young's day, starting pitchers often pitched consecutive days and would start games three to four times a week.  Now, the pitching rotation is solidified with a four or five man rotation, therefore not allowing a starting pitcher to acquire enough starts to guarantee even 400 wins let alone 511.  Three hundred wins is considered the standard for a Hall of Fame starter.

    Young's dominance on the mound was exemplified by his ability to throw fastballs through wooden fences, earning him the nickname "Cyclone" which was later termed Cy.

    Given Young's ability to start multiple games and achieve so many wins, no pitcher should ever even come close to the unreachable 511.