More than any other sport in the world, baseball is a game of numbers. Recite the digits “.406,” “56,” and “61” to any long-time baseball fan, and they’ll immediately recognize them as the batting average Ted Williams posted in 1941, the hitting streak compiled by Joe DiMaggio in that same 1941 campaign, and the home-run count by Roger Maris in 1961.
While those numbers may be the most recognizable of any in MLB history (at least Maris’ 61 homers were memorable before the steroid era in the late 1990s and early 2000s obliterated that feat), they’re hardly the only measurements of tremendous feats accomplished over the years. Whether accomplished in a single season or over a career, baseball is filled with fascinating records, most of which will almost certainly withstand the tests of time.
In this article, we’ve compiled a list of the greatest hitting, pitching, base-running, fielding, and team records that baseball fans need to be aware of. Enjoy!
Although Ichiro Suzuki’s 262 hits in 2004 broke the previous single-season hits record by just five, it’s a mark that will probably never be broken again.
Prior to the 2001 arrival of Ichiro from Japan, no player had recorded more than 240 hits in a season since 1930. Ichiro eclipsed that 240-hit mark in his rookie MLB season (though he had played 9 previous professional seasons in Japan, he was still considered a rookie in MLB), then broke the all-time record three years later.
Since 2004, the most hits in a season by any player other than Ichiro was the 225 recorded by the Astros’ Jose Altuve in 2014.
We don’t mean to take away from the greats who played the game a century ago, but the all-time record for highest batting average in a season should really be divided into two eras: before 1940 and after 1940.
That’s because 83 of the top 87 single-season batting averages took place before 1940, a time when it was unquestionably easier to get a hit than it has been in recent years. The improvement of defenders, the increased usage of bullpens (meaning hitters don’t get to face fatigued starters as often), advanced scouting, and the use of defensive shifts are just a few of the possible reasons why we don’t see averages as high anymore.
So give Hugh Duffy his due as the all-time single-season batting average king. But let’s also give a tip of the hat to Boston’s Ted Williams (the only hitter to hit .400 or higher since 1924) and to San Diego’s Tony Gwynn (whose .394 average is the highest since 1941).
The record for the longest hitting streak in a single season is also one that may forever go unmatched. Joe DiMaggio recorded at least one hit in 56 consecutive games in 1941, an accomplishment that was so incredible that he was named American League MVP despite the fact that Boston’s Ted Williams hit .406.
DiMaggio’s streak nearly ended at 35 games when, in the seventh inning, opposing pitcher Bob Muncrief was ordered by his manager to intentionally walk DiMaggio. Muncrief refused, DiMaggio hit a single, and the streak lived on until July 17, 1941, when DiMaggio went 0-for-3 with a walk. Incidentally, if DiMaggio had extended his streak just one more game, he would have cashed in on a $10,000 bonus from Heinz for reaching the number “57.”
Since DiMaggio’s historic streak, just five players have recorded single-season hit streaks of 35 games or higher. Pete Rose came the closest to breaking DiMaggio’s record when he had a hit in 44 straight games in 1978.
If the single-season batting average record should be divided by two separate eras (as we suggested earlier in this page), we’re not sure any asterisk in the world is big enough to accompany the single-season home run records.
Anything stick out about the top six on the list below? Yep, each of those massive home run totals were recorded between 1998-2001, otherwise known as baseball’s Steroid Era. Knowing that having sluggers in hot pursuit of Roger Maris’ record of 61 home runs would keep fans enthralled, Major League Baseball turned a blind eye to the influx of performance-enhancing drugs during that era that ballooned biceps and home run totals alike. Yet Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa have yet to be inducted into Cooperstown, and it’s possible that they never will.
Hack Wilson was overshadowed by Babe Ruth throughout essentially his entire career, and his promising career ended prematurely thanks to struggles with alcohol, fitness, and anger management.
But the former National League slugger does have his name atop the record books in one department, driving in an astounding 191 runs in 1930. Though Lou Gehrig and Hank Greenberg both came within eight RBI of matching Wilson’s record over the next seven years, no player has collected more than 165 RBI in a season since then.
In fact, all of the top 10 single-season RBI leaders did so during either the 1920s or 1930s, an era in which most teams stacked the lineup with high-average hitters and consistently loaded up the bases for their big bashers. With so many homers being hit these days and clean-up hitters consistently coming up with few runners on base, it’s hard to imagine Wilson’s record being challenged anytime soon.
Major League Baseball’s all-time leader in career hits isn’t even in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Yep, as hard as that may be to believe, Pete Rose’s 4,256 career knocks, three World Series rings, and 17 All-Star nominations are overshadowed by his own admissions that he bet on baseball games while he was a player/manager for the Cincinnati Reds.
Whether Rose does ever find his way to Cooperstown or not, his greatness as a hitting machine for The Big Red Machine is undeniable. He collected 200 hits in a season 10 times in his career, was a three-time NL batting average champion, and played the game with unrivaled intensity. That sounds like a Hall of Famer to us (as you may have noticed, we’re kind of pro-gambling around here, so we don’t hold his past wagering indiscretions against him).
By the way, if you’re wondering where Ichiro Suzuki is on this list, we didn’t include him because this is a page about MLB records alone. Ichiro is ranked third on baseball’s all-time hits list, but 1,278 of his 4,367 career hits came while he was playing in Japan.
For reasons that we touched on earlier, it used to be a lot easier to get a hit in a baseball game. So it’s no surprise to see that all of the top 10 career batting average leaders began their careers before the 1920s, with the exception of Ted Williams (eighth on the all-time list).
Once again, we’ve broken this record into two different eras: before 1940 and after 1940. Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, and Shoeless Joe Jackson (another player who was banned for gambling on baseball) deserve recognition for their tremendous hitting abilities, but so do Tony Gwynn, Stan Musial, and Wade Boggs for being that much better than their peers.
Although Barry Bonds owns the single-season home run record, the 73 bombs he hit in 2001 marks the only time in his career that he hit 50-plus in a season. Bonds’ place atop the all-time home run list is due to the consistent power numbers he put up throughout his 21-year career, hitting 25 or more homers in all but three of his full campaigns. Yes, performance-enhancing drugs are believed to have put Bonds over the top, but he isn’t believed to have started taking steroids until 12 years into his career, when he saw all the attention Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were getting for their home run numbers.
Of course, Hank Aaron didn’t rely on drugs at all to compile his 755 career dingers, which is why some people still consider him to be baseball’s rightful all-time home run leader. And although Aaron is remembered mostly for hitting the long ball, he also finished his career with a .305 batting average, 240 stolen bases, and having recorded more walks than strikeouts.
When you hit a lot of home runs, you drive yourself in as well. That’s why home run leaders are also typically among the top run producers in the game, and we see that in the record for all-time RBI leaders.
Former long-time home run king Hank Aaron leads the way in all-time RBI, collecting nearly 2,300 throughout his stellar career. Aaron drove in more than 100 runs in 11 of his career seasons and had a 17-year stretch in which he had 86 RBI or more. That was enough to put him well clear of Babe Ruth, who may have been the all-time leader had he not pitched early in his career.
Due to his pitching duties, Ruth didn’t become a regular position player until his sixth season, when he drove in 114 runs as a 24-year-old for the Red Sox. From there, Ruth went on to collect 130 RBI or more in 10 of his next 13 seasons.
Even though the ultimate goal of a baseball game is to score more runs than your opponent, the all-time run leaders don’t get as much appreciation as the guys who consistently hit for high averages or slugged the most balls over the fences. But make no mistake about it, scoring runs is a skill of its own, requiring the ability to first get on base, then utilize speed and savvy base-running to safely make your way home.
No player was greater in this department than Rickey Henderson, who parlayed drawing the most “unintentional” walks in baseball history and recording the most steals into being MLB’s best-ever run scorer. Henderson led the AL in runs scored in five seasons and finished in the league’s top 10 seven other times. “Rickey Henderson is a run, man,” former Athletics teammate Mitchell Page once said. “When you see Rickey Henderson, I don’t care when, the score’s already 1-0.”
Billy Hamilton (the one from the 1800s, not the one currently playing for the Reds) owns the record for the most runs scored in a single season, crossing the plate 198 times in 1894. The highest single-season count in the last 80 years belongs to former Astros slugger Jeff Bagwell, who scored 152 times in 2000.
A big reason Henderson was able to score so many runs was because of his aggressiveness on the basepaths. He simply had no conscience, racking up nearly 50% more stolen bases in his career than any other player but also being caught a record 335 times. While that still translated to an excellent success rate of 80.7%, that rate ranks just 44th in all-time stolen base percentage.
Of all the high-volume base stealers in MLB history, Tim Raines might have been the best. The long-time Montreal Expos outfielder is fifth on the all-time steals list, and he was successful at a clip of nearly 85%, the 13th-highest success rate in history among qualified players. Veteran infielder Chase Utley owned the highest success rate at the time of writing (nearly 88%), but he’d also averaged just 10 steals per year over his first 15 seasons.
Aggression on the basepaths is one thing. Wisely picking your spots is another. Even though a 70% success rate is considered the benchmark for quality base stealers, many have put together lengthy streaks over the years in which they seemed impossible to catch.
Vince Coleman owns the all-time record for the most consecutive successful stolen base attempts, swiping 50 in a row from September of 1988 to July of the following season. Although Coleman’s career began to deteriorate shortly after due to injuries and suspensions, he remains the only player in MLB history to record 100 steals in each of his first three seasons.
Pitching wins are another MLB record that need to be viewed with perspective.
Back in the early days of baseball, starting pitchers were virtually used until their arms flew off, taking the mound more than 60 times in a season and often going the distance. As a result, guys like Old Hoss Radbourn, John Clarkson, and Guy Hecker racked up tons of victories every year (and probably lots of surgery appointments as well).
By the late 1920s, however, most teams had realized the need to give pitchers several days off in between starts. Instead of pitching in half their teams’ games, starters were limited to a quarter of them at the most, limiting the number of wins they could earn. Meanwhile, starting pitchers have worked less and less deep into games as the years have gone by, also hurting their chances of recording a victory in their starts. That helps explain why Bob Welch (1990) is the only pitcher to earn 27 wins or more in a season since the 1960s.
For those reasons, we’ve divided this record into two different eras, much like we did with several of the hitting records.
Most of the lowest single-season ERA leaders in history came in the first several decades of MLB’s existence. Although we’ve already established that getting a hit in that era was easier in part because of how heavily starting pitchers were used, lineups in the early days of baseball were also much thinner because of an overall lack of top talent. With only one or two legitimate threats in the opposing lineups most nights, pitchers were able to put up incredibly low ERAs.
So once again, we’ve separated the all-time records from more recent eras in order to highlight the best of both. Incredibly, Bob Gibson ranks high on both lists thanks to a brilliant 1.12 in 1968. Even though that season was known as “The Year of the Pitcher” as hurlers in both leagues won the MVP that year, Gibson’s ERA was nearly half of his nearest competitor in the National League.
Also, don’t forget that National League pitchers enjoy a significant advantage over American League hurlers because of the fact that pitchers have to bat in the NL. Not having to face designated hitters like their counterparts in the Junior Circuit explains why NL pitchers have accounted for seven of the 10 lowest ERAs since 1930.
Since starting pitchers used to throw so many more innings a century ago than they do today, the single-season strikeout leaders are also heavily skewed towards those who played in the late 1800s.
A fairer way to measure the greatest single-season strikeout performances of all time is by looking at average strikeouts recorded per 9 innings. By that gauge, Randy Johnson (then with the Arizona Diamondbacks) had the best season in history when it comes to ringing up the opposition, fanning 13.41 hitters per 9 innings in 2001. That was no flash in the pan, either. Johnson struck out 330 hitters or more in four consecutive years from 1999-2002 despite being in the twilight of his career.
Legendary fireballer Nolan Ryan also deserves mention for racking up the most strikeouts in a season of any pitcher since 1930. Ryan’s 383-strikeout campaign in 1973 came in the middle of a three-year span in which he fanned nearly 1,100 opponents.
While most all-time pitching records are dominated by pitchers who toiled more than one hundred years ago, the top single-season saves totals have all been posted in the last several decades. That’s because saves weren’t even an official statistic tracked by Major League Baseball until the 1970s, and the concept of a “closer” to pitch the final inning of a close game wasn’t fully embraced until the ’80s.
And while a save is an individual stat, closers need a lot of help from their teammates in order to compile a high single-season total. You can only record a save when your team wins (which hurts dominant relievers on poor teams), and the game needs to be reasonably close (there are several different qualifiers for a save, but the most common one is having a lead of three runs or less going to the final inning).
Everything went right for Francisco Rodriguez in 2008, when “K-Rod” nailed down a record 62 games for the Los Angeles Angels. As good as that number was, it could have been even better had he not blown seven save opportunities, tying his career high. In contrast, Eric Gagne converted all 55 of his save opportunities in 2003, part of a record 84-consecutive-saves streak spanning from 2002-04.
Another one of Major League Baseball’s most untouchable records is the 511 career victories recorded by Cy Young. Pitching during the dead-ball era certainly helped, but Young’s incredible durability and sustained excellence over a 22-year career also cannot be overlooked. The fact that the award for the top pitcher in the American League and National League each season is named after the guy says it all.
Post-1920, when baseball entered the live-ball era of improved offense across the board, Warren Spahn’s 363 career wins are the most recorded by any hurler. Although Greg Maddux and Roger Clemens both took legitimate runs at that record over the past 20 years, Spahn’s mark will also likely never be surpassed now that baseball puts so much emphasis on pitch counts, relief specialists, and limiting the number of times a starting pitcher goes through an opposing lineup. Justin Verlander’s 24 victories in 2011 is the most of any starting pitcher in the MLB since 2002, and a pitcher would have to average that total for 15 years in order to match Spahn.
Once again, pitchers from the 1800s and early 1900s own the lowest career ERAs in history. Not only did these hurlers work in a lower-scoring era, but their careers were also much shorter than pitchers enjoy today, probably due to the crazy amount of innings they were throwing.
If you were to judge a pitcher’s career ERA by comparison to his peers, however, you could easily argue that legendary Yankees closer Mariano Rivera was the greatest of all time in career ERA. He allowed a mere 2.21 earned runs per 9 innings over the span of his 18-year career, and still dominated to the tune of a 2.11 ERA in his final season as a 43-year-old.
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw has an outside shot at overtaking Rivera for the lowest career ERA since 1920, but he’ll need to stay healthy.
Finally, a statistic for starting pitchers that aren’t skewed by the era in which they played in! If anything, modern-day pitchers have enjoyed the most success in this category, with the top five strikeout pitchers in history all having ended their career within the past 30 years.
Leading the way is Nolan Ryan, who rang up an astonishing 5,714 hitters in a record-long 27-year career. Even in his 40s, the Ryan Express regularly clocked over 100 miles per hour on his fastball, adding a hard and devastating curveball to keep opposing batters off balance.
The only pitcher within 1,000 strikeouts of Ryan on the all-time list is Randy Johnson, who might have got there if he’d only had a faster start to his career. Johnson struggled with his control until he was in his late 20s (walking more than 400 hitters in three seasons from 1990-92), which hurt his pitch count and his overall effectiveness. Once the Big Unit got dialed in, however, he averaged well over a strikeout per inning until his twilight years with the Yankees.
Was there ever a more fitting nickname in baseball than The Sandman? Mariano Rivera put a win to bed for the Yankees a whopping 652 times during his Hall of Fame career, and that doesn’t even include the 42 saves he recorded during post-season play.
Rivera’s dominance overshadowed Trevor Hoffman’s brilliant career as a closer, as Hoffman’s 601 career saves are 123 more than any other reliever in history. It also would have been interesting to see how many saves Dennis Eckersley or John Smoltz might have accumulated if they hadn’t been starters for the majority of their careers. Eckersley is seventh on the all-time saves list despite not becoming a reliever until he was 32 years old, and Smoltz saved 144 games in a three-year span from 2002-04 after winning more than 160 games as a starter.
Fielding percentage isn’t necessarily the best measurement of a player’s defensive abilities, since it doesn’t take into account how much range a player can cover on the field. However, there’s still something to be said about making the out when you get your hands on the ball, and certain players have stood out over the years for their wizardry with their glove and accuracy with their arm.
(Because the difficulty of defensive chances can range by the position that you play on the field, we’ve divided the all-time records by position. We also didn’t include pitchers, since they don’t have that many defensive chances.)
Although they are involved in every play, the times that catchers are capable of making an error are limited. Any pitch that gets past them is either a wild pitch or a passed ball, and 99% of the throws they make are back to the pitcher.
However, when catchers do have to make a play, things get challenging in a hurry. The thicker glove they have to wear in order to handle 100-mile-an-hour fastballs all day makes it difficult to catch throws from infielders, their throws are rushed when someone attempts to steal a base, pop-ups behind the plate are difficult to catch, and they have to do it all while being weighed down by shinguards, a chest protector, and a mask.
Hail to the three catchers below who managed to go a full season without being charged with a blunder, and to the other two receivers who put up sparkling defensive numbers as well!
Elaine Benes didn’t think too much of first basemen when she was dating Keith Hernandez on Seinfeld, telling the former Mets infielder, “They always put the worst player on first base.” Yet only three first basemen in MLB history have made it through an entire season without committing a single error (minimum of 100 games played).
While Kevin Youkilis and Casey Kotchman obviously couldn’t have been any better defensively than they were, we’ll give the all-time nod in this department to Steve Garvey because he played in all but one of the Padres’ games in 1984. That perfect campaign in ’84 was part of a 193-game errorless streak by the first sacker, setting a record for the position.
Second base is the position where teams have historically been most content to sacrifice offensive production in favor of defensive reliability. You don’t necessarily need a ton of power numbers or a high batting average from your second baseman, but you do expect him to patrol the position reliably.
Placido Polanco anchored the Detroit Tigers’ middle defense in the late 2000s, posting a perfect fielding percentage in 2007 and then recording a .997 percentage two seasons later. Even better, Polanco also contributed with his bat, hitting well over .300 from 2007-09 and stroking more than 100 doubles during that span.
Third basemen may not have the range of shortstops, but there’s no denying the difficulty of playing the “hot corner.”
With right-handed hitters accounting for roughly 75% of the at-bats in Major League Baseball, that’s a ton of times that a line drive can come screaming right at you, and you don’t have nearly as much time to react. And even if you pick the ball cleanly, you then have to throw the ball quickly and accurately all the way across the diamond to first base.
So forgive the third basemen below for not boasting as high of a single-season fielding percentage as their counterparts at other positions. Just getting through a season without taking a liner off the nose would count as a win in our books!
With a lifetime batting average of .260, Mike Bordick was never much of a threat at the plate. But he was still a valuable part of several playoff squads because of the way he could pick it at shortstop, an ability that only improved as he got older.
In fact, Bordick was 36 years old when he set the all-time record for highest fielding percentage in a season by a shortstop, successfully handling all but one of his 570 chances in 2002. In that season, Bordick also set the record for most consecutive errorless games by a shortstop, a streak during which he also passed former Orioles great Cal Ripken Jr., for the longest errorless stretch by an American League shortstop.
By comparison to infielders, outfielders have things pretty easy defensively. In order to avoid committing an error, all they have to do is stop balls from going through their legs or bouncing off their gloves, then not overthrow the cut-off man or whichever base they throw to. What separates the greatest outfielders from the rest is the amount of ground they cover, not the number of errors they commit.
That said, here’s a list of all of the outfielders who have completed a full regular season without being charged with a single error:
Though many current players rank among the all-time leaders in career fielding percentage, it didn’t seem fair to compare them to players who posted tremendous percentages throughout their entire careers. For that reason, and because some current players on the leaderboard haven’t even played in 1,000 games yet, we’ve chosen to only consider retired players as the all-time leaders at their positions.
Here are the best fielders of all time at each position (minimum 1,000 games played).
Many catchers’ fielding stats can be skewed by a dominant pitcher (did you know that a catcher is credited with a putout for catching a third strike?), so fielding percentage might actually be the best way to assess their defensive abilities.
If that’s the case, former Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds backstop Dan Wilson belongs in the record books as the greatest defensive catcher of all time. In addition to a .995 career fielding percentage, Wilson was noted for his tremendous ability to block pitches in the dirt and was also better than average when it came to throwing out would-be base stealers.
Brad Ausmus deserves an honorable mention here for finishing his lengthy career just a percentage point behind Wilson. He led his league five times in fielding percentage, called a great game from behind the plate, and was particularly known for his athleticism and range.
As one of the top run-producing first basemen of his generation, Mark Teixeira might not have been fully appreciated for his work with the glove. At least not by the average fan, since those who knew the game understood Teixeira’s defensive value. He was a five-time Gold Glove recipient, and Baseball Info Solutions estimated that he saved 105 runs above average for his position throughout his career.
Although Travis Lee technically shares the all-time career fielding percentage record for first basemen with Teixeira, Lee played nearly half the games that Big Tex played in. For that reason, we’ll give Teixeira the all-time edge here.
We already touched on Polanco’s defensive merits when describing his errorless 2007 campaign. So even though Polanco is the top defensive second baseman in history according to fielding percentage, we’ll take this opportunity to discuss another of the all-time leaders at the position.
Dustin Pedroia’s defensive abilities have regressed a bit as he has gotten older and suffered injuries, but in his prime, there may not have ever been a second baseman better at saving runs. Over a seven-year stretch from 2008-2014, the diminutive Red Sox sparkplug prevented 79 runs that an average second baseman may have allowed, according to the BIS Defensive Runs Saved Above Average statistic.
Whether it’s because he played multiple positions during his career or never made it to the World Series, Mike Lowell’s name doesn’t come up often in discussions about the best defensive third basemen to ever play the game.
But the Puerto Rico native tops all third sackers in all-time fielding percentage, booting just 2.6% of the 3,929 chances that came his way at third base in his 13-year career. The versatile Lowell was also solid in his limited action at first base (.994 in 43 games) and at second (one error in 32 chances), showing his all-around abilities as an athletic infielder.
No matter what you think of the fielding percentage statistic, you can’t argue with who it ranks as the all-time leader at shortstop.
Thanks to soft hands and quick reflexes developed as a child growing up in Venezuela (he used to always carry around a rubber ball or tennis ball that he would throw against walls and catch barehanded), Vizquel set the standard for the position throughout a 24-year career spent mostly with the Seattle Mariners and Cleveland Indians. He won the Gold Glove Award in nine straight seasons from 1993-2001, and his 11 career Gold Gloves ranks second among all-time shortstops behind only Ozzie Smith.
Any errors the sure-handed Vizquel did commit were generally due to his range, resulting in a much more difficult throw. As he got older and his range decreased, Vizquel’s fielding percentage actually improved, as he committed just nine errors in his final five seasons.
Darin Erstad’s place atop the list of all-time fielding percentage by an outfielder wasn’t simply due to his ability to make the routine play. Erstad’s range also compared well to some of the best center fielders to have played the game, evidenced by how he led the Majors in range factor in 2002.
Later in his career, Erstad moved to first base, where he won a Gold Glove in 2004. Combined with the similar honor he earned as an outfielder in 2000 and 2002, Erstad is the only player in MLB history to ever win a Gold Glove as both an infielder and an outfielder.
A pitcher’s main objective is to stop the other team from scoring runs, and Greg Maddux did it brilliantly in a couple of different ways during his Hall of Fame career.
In addition to consistently posting one of the lowest ERAs in the league every year, Maddux also excelled with his glove in a way that no other player has dominated their position. Maddux was recognized with the Gold Glove Award in 18 of his 23 seasons in the Big Leagues, including 13 in a row from 1990-2002.
Brooks Robinson holds the all-time record for Gold Gloves won by a regular position player, earning 16 while playing third base for the Baltimore Orioles. The way he seemed to suck up every ground ball and liner at the hot corner earned him the nicknames of “The Human Vacuum Cleaner” and “Mr. Hoover.”
You can’t put up big career numbers if you don’t play in a lot of games, and you can’t play in a lot of games unless you are regularly producing. That explains why all of MLB’s all-time top 10 leaders in games played are in the Hall of Fame, with the exceptions of Pete Rose (gambling) and Barry Bonds (suspicions of steroid use).
With all of the other things that Rose is known for, one of the lesser-known facts is that he suited up in the most games in MLB history, nearly a season and a half’s worth more games than his nearest competitor. One other interesting note about Rose is that he played at least 500 games at five different positions, making him the only player to ever do that.
While many of baseball’s greatest records measure performance, its most revered mark simply reflects an ability and desire to play the game every day. That’s literally what Cal Ripken did for nearly 17 full seasons from 1982-98, starting 2,623 consecutive games during that span to break the previous record of 2,130 held by the “Iron Horse,” Lou Gehrig.
Not only did Ripken start all of those games, but he also finished nearly all of them as well. From 1982-87, he played in more than 8,000 consecutive innings, nearly doubling the previous mark held by 19th-century player George Pinkney. Ripken also overcame numerous injuries to continue his consecutive games streak, whether it was a severely-twisted right knee in 1993 (suffered during a bench-clearing brawl) or a broken nose in 1996 (suffered during a photo shoot for the All-Star Game, if you can believe that!).
Gehrig is the only other player to play in more than 1,307 consecutive games, and his streak famously began after Yankees first baseman Wally Pipp asked to sit out a game due to a headache. Gehrig played well in his starting debut, and Pipp never regained his starting gig as the Yankees’ first baseman. Talk about being careful what you wish for!
You can’t hit what you can’t see. We’re not sure there’s a better way to explain how Nolan Ryan was able to rack up seven no-hitters in his career, five more than any other pitcher from his era and virtually double the amount of legendary hurlers Sandy Koufax, Cy Young, and Bob Feller.
In addition to striking out the most hitters in baseball history, Ryan also owns the all-time record for fewest hits allowed per 9 innings pitched (6.56). His first two no-nos came in the 1973 season, and his last two no-hitters came nearly 20 years later. Ryan’s final no-hitter came in 1991 when he was 44 years old, making him the oldest ever to no-hit an opponent.
Johnny Vander Meer doesn’t appear on the all-time list for most no-hitters, but he does own the most unbreakable record in baseball: most consecutive no-hitters. The Cincinnati Reds hurler didn’t allow a hit in two straight starts in 1938, and it would technically take an unfathomable three consecutive no-hitters to erase his name from the record books.
In order to get credited with a shutout, a starting pitcher needs to do more than simply not allow a run (earned or unearned) in a game. They also need to go the full nine innings to get the credit, which is why we don’t see many shutouts recorded these days (two complete games were enough to tie for the National League lead in 2017).
Back in the day, however, going the distance wasn’t just a goal for a pitcher; it was basically an expectation. When Whitey Ford led the American League in complete games in 1955, it was the first time ever that a pitcher accomplished the feat with less than 20 (Ford had 18).
Still, a pitcher can’t do any better than going a full nine without giving up a run, and no one was better at that than Walter Johnson. One of the first pitchers to regularly throw faster than 90 miles per hour, Johnson used his heater to blank 110 opponents in his 21-year career.
Another of baseball’s most unbreakable records is the 21 All-Star nominations that Hank Aaron received in his career. Aaron was recognized as an All-Star in his sophomore campaign in 1955 and wasn’t left out of the Midseason Classic until 21 years later, his final season in the game.
No team in history has dominated the regular season the way that the Chicago Cubs did in 1906. Even though the MLB campaign was 12 games shorter back then than it is now, Chicago’s 116 victories remains the record for wins in a season, and the Cubbies’ .763 winning percentage is well ahead of any other team in history.
However, we can’t quite call the 1906 Cubs the greatest team in MLB history because they actually didn’t win it all that year. Yes, the crosstown White Sox managed to upset the Cubs in the World Series that year, which also feels like the last time that the Chisox had an upper hand on the North Siders. Maybe there’s a jinx associated with winning 116 games, because the only other team to do that (the Seattle Mariners, who did it in a 162-game season in 2001) didn’t even make it to the World Series.
Although the Phillies won World Series titles in 1980 and 2008, baseball fans in Philadelphia have generally been subjected to some awful baseball over the years.
That includes the days of the Philadelphia Athletics, who authored the worst regular season in MLB history in 1916 and were routinely pretty bad until relocating to Kansas City and eventually Oakland. Throw in the Phillies, who have been around since 1883, and Philadelphia teams account for nine of the 21 lowest winning percentages ever posted by MLB squads. No wonder those fans in Philly always seem pretty angry!
Whether you consider the Indians’ 22-game run in 2017 to be the longest winning streak in MLB history or not (the 1916 New York Giants went 26 straight games without a loss, but one of those games was a tie), it was absolutely incredible.
Virtually everything was firing on all cylinders for the Tribe during their three-week run from late August to mid-September. Their starting rotation and relief corps both posted a collective ERA well under 2, their batters hit .306, they scored first in 19 of the 22 games, and they trailed in just eight of the 199 innings. Things only began to get dramatic towards the end of the streak, including an extra-innings victory in the final game of the streak.
Unfortunately, Cleveland may have peaked too soon. After taking a 2-0 series lead on the Yankees in the best-of-five divisional series, the Indians lost the next three games and were denied a return trip to the World Series.
Today’s result isn’t supposed to carry over to the next day in baseball, where they say that momentum is only as strong as tomorrow’s starting pitcher.
But try telling that to the 1889 Louisville Colonels and the other 10 MLB teams who have suffered through losing streaks of 20 games or more. When things started to go wrong for these teams, they snowballed to the point that these players were probably dreading the drive to the park the next day.
While four of the five longest losing streaks occurred before 1900, we’ve got to give a special shout-out here to the 1988 Baltimore Orioles. Pennant fever died pretty quickly in Maryland that spring as the O’s lost their first 21 games of the season. Not even firing the manager worked for the Orioles, who canned Cal Ripken Sr. after their first six losses, then proceeded to go winless in their first 15 games under Frank Robinson. When Baltimore finally earned its first win of the season, the Orioles were already 16 games out of first place in the American League East.