Records were made to be broken – or so the saying goes. Some though are easier to shatter than others. In the illustrious and lengthy history of Major League Baseball, there have been some rather impressive feats. Some which were thought unbreakable have fallen in recent years. It’s conceivable that if baseball is played long enough, one day these too will fall, but there’s a whole group of them that won’t go down without a fight. Here are ten of the most difficult records to break in baseball.
10 Orel Hershiser’s 59 Consecutive Scoreless Innings
In 1988 Hershiser won 23 games and threw 15 complete game shutouts. Yet, from the sixth inning of a game on August 30th until the 10th inning of a game on September 30th Hershiser didn’t allow a single run. Had the final game not gone to extra-innings, he would have also matched Drysdale’s record of six consecutive complete game shutouts. Hershiser was untouchable. He threw six consecutive complete games, and five consecutive shutouts during this streak. He allowed less than 36 total hits and it remains one of the best individual achievements in baseball.
9 Rickey Henderson’s 130 Stolen Bases
As the game has evolved, there’s been less of an importance on stealing bases. Pitchers have developed the slide step and many left-handed pitchers nearly balk on every throw to first base. Managers are less inclined to run as the two-run home run is now a more important part of the game than the hit and run. As such, stolen base numbers have dropped significantly since the 1990s. That being said, even if teams began running more, it would take a special kind of individual to best this record. This record was set in 1982 and since Henderson and Vince Coleman retired, no player has managed to even steal 80 bases in a single season. This record could have been even higher. Henderson was caught 42 times this year, easily the most in his career.
8 Bob Gibson’s .112 ERA
Earned Run Average is largely dependent on luck. You can load the bases and be removed for a reliever who immediately gives up a grand slam. Your defense can be lousy and sometimes balls just fly off the bat in unlucky ways. But what Gibson did in 1968 was something magical. His 1968 season is considered one of the best seasons for a pitcher in the history of the game. In 24 games, he allowed one run or less. He struck out 268 batters, won 22 games, and threw 13 shutouts. His .112 ERA is over .70 points lower than the next closest on the list (Bobby Bolin’s 1968 season of .199). Part of what makes this record nearly unbreakable was the height of the mound at the time and that it was thrown in the year of the pitcher (1968). After the season the mound was lowered. A few pitchers have thrown sub .250 seasons, but none have ever come to Gibson’s magical year.
7 Pete Rose’s 4,256 Hits
In today’s modern game, the benchmark for a sure-fire Hall of Fame hitter is 3,000 hits. Rose eclipsed that mark and then some. Rose played until he was 45 years old and his 24 years of playing time certainly contributed to this number, but we can’t take anything away from him. Rose had ten years of 200+ hits, including 172 hits in 1982 when he was 41 years old. There are a few active players with 3,000 hits, but all of them are over 35 years old.
6 Nolan Ryan’s 5,714 Strikeouts
Like Rose, Ryan played late into his 40s. His career spanned 27 seasons and he was 47 when he finally hung-up his spikes. During that time he accumulated an impressive 5,714 strikeouts. The next closest person on this list is Randy Johnson with 4,875. The closest active player is New York Yankee C.C. Sabathia with just over 2,400 strikeouts. With teams monitoring pitch counts and pitchers being pulled earlier in games it's really unlikely that anyone is ever going to come close to breaking this impressive number any time soon.
5 Cy Young’s 511 Wins
Young won 511 games in his career. In the modern era no one has come within 150 wins of that mark. Greg Maddux and Roger Clemens both hit the 350 wins mark, but no active pitcher is even close to 300 wins. It’s very likely that this record will stand for all time. It’s no wonder they named an award after this guy.
4 Joe DiMaggio’s 56 Game Hitting Streak
It takes skill and luck to put together a successful hitting streak. Not only that, but opposing teams can walk you five times a game and there’s little a hitter can do about it. In the years since this record was stabled, several players have tried, but no one has ever come within 10 games of DiMaggio. Pete Rose hit for 44. Paul Molitor hit in 39 straight games and Jimmy Rollins hit in 38 consecutive games spanning the end and beginning of two years. Before DiMaggio, Willie Keeler had a 45 game hitting streak and several have hitting streaks in the 30s, but no one has ever touched 50. In today’s game with instant access to social media and a twenty-four hour news presence, it would be a media circus if anyone ever came close – and we don’t imagine any team would want to pitch to a guy with a 50 game hitting streak.
3 Ty Cobb’s .367 Lifetime Batting Average
Ty Cobb’s lifetime batting average would be a single season high for the majority of major league players. Not only is the number impressive, so is the fact that Cobb played 24 years – so you can’t even blame this record on a small sample size. Cobb hit over .400 three times and hit .323 in his final season at the age of 41. He led the league in batting average 11 times. The closest active player is Joe Mauer with a lifetime .321 batting average, and he’s 47th all-time. It’s fairly safe to assume that no player is breaking this record anytime soon.
2 Cal Ripken’s 2,632 Consecutive Games
Most considered Lou Gehrig’s streak to be unbreakable. Gehrig played 2,130 consecutive games before Ripken came along and destroyed his record – by over 500 games. Ripken’s streak was compiled while playing a demanding position (short stop) and while battling nagging injuries which would have kept many players out. With more advanced medical science and an emphasis on rest, it’s improbable to think anyone is ever going to come close to breaking this one. And in case you’re curious, no active player has a live streak of even 500 games long.
1 Cy Young’s 749 Complete Games
Most pitchers in today’s age won’t pitch in this many games in their career. Young started an astonishing 815 games in his career and finished 749 of them. No one else is even close. Gaylord Perry is second on this list with 303, and it’s a safe bet no modern pitcher will ever come close to that mark – not to mention Young’s. With an increase in specialized roles of relievers and an emphasis on lowering pitch counts it’s safe to say this record won’t ever be broken.