Many will tell you that a record is the highest personal honor that can be obtained by any athlete. Others contend records set new standards and push athletes to reach higher, to run faster, and to push harder. As spectators, we relish in seeing these feats accomplished, and we thrive on seeing them broken a short time later. In fact, it’s no secret many of us live and die by the age-old axiom, “records are made to be broken.”
But some feats are just so unbelievable they stretch the viability of such a saying to its breaking point. Here are some of the most hallowed records in professional sports. Some of them may never be matched.
- Secretariat’s Belmont Time
On his way to perhaps the most impressive Triple Crown in horse racing history, Secretariat shattered track records that still stand today. Set in 1973, his time at the Kentucky Derby of 1:59 is a lengthy half-second better than any other horse that’s run the track. But that’s not the amazing feat. Big Red’s blazing Belmont mark of 2:24, is a full two seconds better than his next closest competition (A.P. Indy, 2:26, 1992), making it a run that may never be matched no matter how many geneticists they put on the job.
- Pete Rose’s Career Hits
When you shatter Ty Cobb’s mark by 65 hits, you know you’ve done something special. Still, some believe Rose’s career mark of 4,256 hits does seem reachable. Ichiro Suzuki topped out at 3030, well over a thousand hits shy of Charlie Hustle. A-Rod finished with 3,115 hits, also about a thousand shy of Rose’s mark. The next two active players on the list are Albert Pujols and Adrian Beltre, both teetering around the 3000 mark. But both of those players are on the downsides of their careers. Rose doesn’t seem so reachable now, does he?
- Tiger Woods’ Cuts Made Streak
From 1998 to 2005, did Tiger Woods ever have a bad round? His record pretty much answers that question with a resounding NO. Any thoughts of possibly not making a cut clearly didn’t cross Tiger’s mind during this time because he was automatic. Tiger made a mind-boggling 142 tournament cuts in a row, leaving him in the money more times than Richie Rich. No other active PGA Tour member is even close.
- Cal Ripken Jr. / Brett Favre Consecutive Games
The iron men of baseball and football are both testaments to a hard-nose era in sports. Cal’s streak of 2,632 straight games bested Lou Gehrig in 1995. You know you’re tough when you outlast a dude whose nickname was the Iron Horse. Maybe more impressive, because of the position he played, was Brett Favre’s streak of 297 straight starts as the Packers’ quarterback. This record is especially amazing in the current hospital ward version of the NFL, where it sometimes feels like the injury lists are longer than the active rosters.
- Wayne Gretzky’s Single Season Goals
The Great One plugged the net 92 times in 1981 on his way to a 212 point season. His mark bests the next player on the list, Brett Hull, by six goals. Even though the NHL has changed rules to increase overall scoring, there’s still not one single player who dominates the game the way Gretzky did for so long. I simply don’t see another player capable of matching the Great One’s mark. And yes, that includes you too, Mr. Crosby.
- Nolan Ryan’s No-Hitters
We may never see a pitcher like Nolan Ryan again, let alone see his record of seven career no-hitters ever beaten. What’s even more mind-numbing is the Ryan Express tallied his first no-no in 1973 at the tender age of 26, and his last one in 1991 at a slightly more ripened 44. Talk about standing up to the test of time. The only thing that’ll last longer than Ryan himself is an almost surreal record. Did I mention he also boasts 5,714 career strikeouts?
- Bill Russell’s Rings
Perhaps no sports figure has been as fortunate as the legendary Bill Russell, especially when it comes to winning championships. From 1956 to 1969 Russell collected a ring for every finger, and even one for his toes. That’s right, an outrageous 11 championships. Not even Vince Lombardi or Michael Jordan can match that total. Want your jaw to drop a little lower? He won two of those titles as a player/coach. Maybe we give him a few extra rings for that.
- Wilt Chamberlain’s Points in a Game
Everyone knows about Wilt the Stilt’s 100 points in a single game, but do they realize just how unreachable this standard seems to be? There hasn’t been a single player to even come within shouting distance of this mark. Kobe Bryant became the Stilt’s second fiddle when he dropped 81 points on the Raptors in 2006. But even that ridiculous performance was 19 points shy of Wilt’s total. Nineteen points? Most guys never reach that total in a single game in the course of an entire season, but that’s the gap between Chamberlain and his nearest competitor. Amazing.
- Joe DiMaggio’s Hitting Streak
There’s just no way to deny the Yankee Clipper his rightful spot at the top of this list. On May 15, 1941 Joe DiMaggio slapped a single off Eddie Smith, and for the next 61 days this country ate, slept, and dreamed nothing but Joe. He thrust the insurmountable weight of the City of New York on his shoulders and carried it through 56 straight games of steady hitting. Then he took just a single day off before feasting on American League pitching for another 16 straight. His 56-game hitting streak has only been approached once, that by Pete Rose, whose measly 44-game streak seems like a distant cloud of dust in DiMaggio’s rear-view mirror. Every year we see another player run a hitting streak to 25, maybe even 30 games before fizzling out. And every year it becomes clear that Joltin’ Joe’s streak will stand as long as there is baseball.