On Friday night, Andre Ethier of the Los Angeles Dodgers ran his hitting streak to 30 games, the highest total since Jimmy Rollins hit in 35 straight in 2005. While the attention on Ethier’s hit streak has garnered a lot of attention – and rightfully so – he is still 26 games short of Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak in 1941. Will Ethier reach DiMaggio’s record? More than likely the answer to that question is no. Will anyone? In my opinion, no. With Ethier’s streak reaching 30, it made me think about the all-time best records in baseball history. Here is my top ten:
10. Atlanta Braves’ 14 consecutive division titles (1991-2005) – Ok, so when I decided to do this article, I wanted to make it about individual records, but this is one that I feel doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Growing up, I hated the Braves. I hated they were on TBS every day and I hated seeing them always win. When they squared off against the Yankees in 1996, it was the worst possible World Series pitting my two most-hated teams against each other. Although I hated them, I respected them fully. The Braves were the model of consistency with players like Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Mark Lemke, Ryan Klesko, Gary Sheffield, Chipper Jones, Brian Jordan, Javy Lopez and many others. In the free-agency era, the Braves will be the last team to ever pull off this amazing feat.
9. Denny McClain’s 31 wins (1968) – With pitch counts and five-man rotations, this is a record that can’t be touched. There weren’t specialty pitchers back then like there are nowadays. Pitchers average 35 starts per season now making this record nearly impossible to break. In the past 20 years, John Smoltz and Randy Johnson were the closest with “only” 24 wins each.
8. Rickey Henderson’s 130 stolen bases in a season (1982) – Henderson is the all-time leader in steals, but I feel this record is more impressive. As steals have dwindled down over the years, there isn’t a player that will be able to reach this plateau. Henderson would make modern day base thieves Michael Bourn, Jose Reyes and Ichiro look like Chris Snyder, Adam Dunn and Prince Fielder on the base paths.
7. Hitting .400 in a season – The modern day record is held by Nap Lajoie in 1901 as he hit .426. It was last done by Ted Williams in 1941 when he hit .401. The closest a player has come since Williams was when Tony Gwynn hit .394 in 1994. This is another example of the game evolving and the pitchers getting better and better. Unlike the other records so far, this one is marginally attainable, but still a long-shot for a record that has stood for 70 years.
6. Nolan Ryan’s 5,714 career strikeouts (1966-1993) – Perhaps the most dominate player to ever play baseball. I was able to witness him pitch during the end of his career with the Texas Rangers (sadly, his headlock on Robin Ventura is the best memory I have). Currently, Javier Vazquez is the active leader in strikeouts with 2,390 at the age of 35. Perhaps that puts “The Ryan Express” record into perspective a bit.
5. Nolan Ryan’s seven career no-hitters (1966-1993) – You read correct, seven no-hitters in his career. Mark Buehrle threw his second of his career in 2009 and we saw the attention he drew. Pitchers break into the league and feel blessed if they have a shot to throw one. This untouchable record solidifies Ryan’s spot as the best pitcher to ever play the game.
4. Cy Young’s 511 wins (1890-1911) – Say what you want about Young’s attitude off the field, this man could pitch. Again, the era he pitched in has a lot to do with his record, but it is impressive no matter what. Randy Johnson became the 24th member of the 300 club in 2009 with the Giants and may be the last member of that class. Walter Johnson is the closest to Young with 417 career victories. No pitcher will ever touch this mark. As discussed above, pitchers aren’t built like they used to be, free-agency affects the pitcher’s team and the pitchers now have pitch counts. The active leader in wins is 44 year-old Tim Wakefield with 193. Felix Hernandez is the only active player who has a shot to make the 300 win club with his 74 wins at the age of 25.
3. Cal Ripken’s 2,632 consecutive game streak (1982-1998) – Personally, this is the most impressive record to me because I got to witness this. My dad told me to remember the game when Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s streak of 2,130 against the (then) California Angels on September 6, 1995, and I know that I always will. Ripken finally decided to sit out the final home game of 1998. With 162 games in a season, it would take 16 and one-quarter seasons straight to reach Ripken’s mark. Ripken was a true ironman and a true hero of the game of baseball. The active leader in consecutive games played is Matt Kemp with 237 straight. Only 2,395 behind Ripken.
2. Pete Rose’s 4,256 hits (1963-1986) – Sadly, Rose will always be remembered for his betting on baseball as a manager instead of what he did on the field. One of the best players ever to play the game, Rose’s career hit record won’t ever be touched. There are 27 current members of the 3,000 hit club with only Ty Cobb joining Pete Rose in the prestigious 4,000 hit club. Derek Jeter has 2,954 hits to date and is going to be entering the 3,000 hit club this year. Jeter will be 37 this year, meaning he will need to play at least until he’s 45, with very good statistical seasons, to have any chance to reach Rose’s record. In other words, it’s not going to happen.
1. Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hit streak (1941) – Back to where we started with not only the best record in baseball, but the best record in all of sports. Many have gotten in the 20-30 game range, but only Pete Rose, with 44, was the closest to DiMaggio’s record. This wasn’t just a fluke for DiMaggio, either, as he had impressive hit streaks in the minor leagues as well. With all of the media that surrounds sports today, the pressure is on more today than it was in 1941. This is sports’ most untouchable record.
So what do you think fans? Do you agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear.
About the Author
Written by Michael Waterloo
I'm currently pursuing my Master's degree in Communication and Journalism from Clarion University. I currently work for Ohio Valley Athletics where I serve as the West Virginia Football Beat Writer and cover West Virginia Men's Basketball as well. I'm a big Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers and Oregon Ducks fan. Follow me on Twitter at @MichaelWaterloo or visit www.ovathletics.com