Work in Sports
It's time to revise the list of the greatest records in sports history
Sports records just ain't what they used to be. Ten years ago a list of the most hallowed marks would have included such names as Maris, Gehrig and Beamon. Today those three have been supplanted by McGwire, Ripken and Powell -- and Marino may be the next to go. Rams quarterback Kurt Warner is on pace to break several of the NFL's most significant passing records, including Dan Marino's seemingly unreachable 5,084 yards in a season. So what does that leave as the most remarkable marks? Here are our choices, in order of greatness, for the absolutely, positively most unbreakable individual records of the last 60 years.
1. Wilt Chamberlain's 100 points in a game (1962). Even after all this time, the total still seems absurd. Michael Jordan at his best scored 69, and as we're constantly reminded, it will be a long time before we see another MJ. No player dominates the game physically the way Wilt did. These days tighter defenses and a slower tempo keep most teams from scoring 100.
2. Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak (1941). Given the pathetic state of pitching, you'd think someone would have mounted a threat to baseball's most revered mark. However, the longest streak in the last decade was 31 by Vladimir Guerrero in 1999, and in 59 years the closest anyone has come to DiMaggio is Pete Rose (44 in 1978). Short of baseball's legalizing metal bats or expanding by another dozen teams, no one's going to touch the Yankee Clipper.
3. Wayne Gretzky's 2,857 career points (1979-99). How great is the Great One's record? Consider that Gordie Howe is second with 1,850 points, and Howe played for 26 seasons. The leading active player is Mark Messier, 39, with 1,719. Some of Gretzky's other marks could fall -- Brett Hull got within shouting distance of Gretzky's 92-goal season a few years ago -- but his staggering point total will stand forever.
4. Rickey Henderson's 1,370 career steals (1979-present). As records go, this is a largely overlooked one, but it appears more out of reach each year. As managers wait for the three-run bomb rather than manufacture offense, steal totals decline. Only two other active players, Barry Bonds with 471 and Kenny Lofton with 463, are even in the top 50 in career thefts. Bonds would have to average 90 swipes for the next 10 seasons to pass Henderson.
5. Byron Nelson's 11 straight PGA Tour victories (1945). Tiger Woods created a stir earlier this year after putting together a six-win streak. That shows you how astonishing 11 in a row is. Nelson achieved his mark against fields thinned by the war, and although we'd be the last to bet against Tiger in anything, unless half the Tour pros are suddenly called into military service, even Woods isn't going to pass Lord Byron.
Issue date: October 23, 2000
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