Lance the Great joins the list of unbreakable records
I’m amazed by what Lance Armstrong is doing in the Tour de France – and I don’t even know how to ride a bike.With all but a record six Tour titles in a row in the bag, he’s easily America’s most underappreciated athlete. Whether Lance decides to come back to defend his title in 2005 – The New York Times is reporting him as saying no – six in a row is a record that will stand for quite a while.And that got me to thinking – yes, I know that doesn’t happen often – as to what the unbreakable records are in America’s big four sports. Let’s start by saying that Los Angeles Dodgers’ Greg Gagne’s save streak does not fall under this category. The statistical quality of a save has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. Whereas 30 saves in a season was outstanding in the late 70s and early 80s, we had guys with 30 saves at this year’s All-Star Break. A closer on the worst team in baseball will have 30 saves at the end of the season. Gagne saved 55 games last year for a team that barely finished over .500 last year
While the save streak is overrated, here are some marks which are not even touchable:– Let’s start with Cy Young’s 511 career wins, 7,356 innings pitched, 751 complete games and 313 career losses, for that matter. Today’s pitchers are workhorses if they pitch 300 innings in a season. If you won 20 games a year for 20 years, you’d still be 112 wins short. There’s a reason they named the award after him.– Johnny Vander Meer’s back-to-back no-no’s in 1938. To break this one, you need three no-hitters in a row. Not going to happen. Only Cy Young, Sandy Koufax and Nolan Ryan have thrown three no-no’s in their careers – not to mention in a row.– Speaking of no-hitters – The Ryan Express’ seven career no-hitters should hold on quite nicely.– Baseball’s two other great streaks – Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak and Cal Ripken Jr.’s 2,632 games in a row are safer than gold in Fort Knox. Joe D is safe in the clubhouse because a batter no longer gets four looks at the same pitcher each game. With the modern bullpen, you see three different pitchers in a game. Good luck reaching 30, not to mention 56. As for Ripken Jr., while it was noble, the streak was dumb. Playing 162 games each season for years on end takes a toll on your production. Take a look at the best player in baseball, Barry Bonds. He’ll play in fewer than 150 games this year and still be putting up great numbers. (By the way, happy 40th, Barry.)
— In the NFL, Brett Favre of the Packers has started 190 consecutive games, including the playoffs. Are you kidding? With the players getting bigger, medical diagnoses getting better and more money invested in quarterbacks, when Favre stops, that’ll be where the record stays.– A lot is made about Oakland’s Jerry Rice’s streak of catching a pass in however many games he’s played in. One, Oakland’s Jerry Rice sounds stupid. San Francisco’s Jerry Rice sounds better. But whatever you call him, 204 career touchdowns and counting, put that record in cement.– Moving to hoops, we give you Wilt Chamberlain on March 2, 1962, in Altoona, Pa. – 100 points vs. the New York Knicks. He averaged 50.4 points per game that year. I’ll bet my 401(k) those marks don’t go by the wayside.– Dynasties: The Boston Celtics won eight NBA titles in a row from 1958-1966. They might have had some company had Michael Jordan not decided to take two years off to play baseball, but pro teams don’t win eight in a row any more.– And that makes UCLA’s seven in a row from 1967-1973 equally remarkable. Remember, freshmen couldn’t play during this time. During this era, the two best teams in college basketball were UCLA’s varsity and junior varsity squads. With players leaving school early to go the NBA or not even bothering with college, John Wooden’s boys are safe.
— In hockey, I give you three letters – TGO, as in The Great One, Wayne Gretzky. He scored 215 points in one season in 1985-86. I’d like to see player score 215 points in TWO seasons. Here are just few more untouchable TGO marks – most goals in a season (92); most assists in a season (163); 50 goals in 39 games; 894 career goals, 1,963 career assists; 2,857 career points and the list goes on. Jordan, Sh-mordan. Pfft to Bonds. Gretzky’s the greatest of our generation.– Quick, who’s gotten their name on the Stanley Cup the most? Not Wayne. Not Mark Messier. Not Gordie Howe. If you picked Maurice Richard, you’ve got the wrong Richard. The Pocket Rocket, Henri Richard, has done it 11 times.– Records are made to be broken, they say, but, Lance, welcome to the club.