Ten (perhaps) “Unbreakable” MLB Records

On Wednesday night, the Dodgers and Astro combined to set a new World Series record for home runs in a game – eight. Given the current state of baseball (hard-throwing/free-swinging), the fact that the Astros and Dodgers hit a combined 479 regular-season homers and Minute Maid Park’s 315-foot left-field “porch – that record should last until at least 10 p.m. tonight.

In honor of Wednesday’s record-setting performance, Baseball Roundtable would like to look at what BBRT sees as ten of the most unbreakable MLB records. There were a couple of criteria I used to narrow the list.  I focused on the post-1900 era. This meant that Cy Young’s 511 career victories (clearly out of reach) did not make the cut (ten of Young’s 22 MLB season came before 1900), nor did Old Hoss Radbourn’s 59 wins in 1884.  I also eliminated records that had already been achieved more than once – dropping such marks as twenty strikeouts in a nine-inning game (Max Scherzer, Kerry Wood, Roger Clemens twice) or the record seven base hits in a single game (Wilbert Robinson and Rennie Stennett).  So here, in no particular order, are BBRT’s “unbreakables.”

Fifty-three seasons as a major league manager – Connie Mack (Cornelius Alexander McGillicuddy). More than five decades as a manager, no one is ever going to top that.  Note: Fifty of those 53 seasons came after 1900.  By the same vein, Mack’s 3,731 wins are nearly 1,000 more than the second-best (John McGraw – 2,763). Similarly, Mack’s 3,948 managerial losses are also the all-time high. Mack managed the Pirates (1894-1896), Athletics (1901-1950). In his career, he won nine league pennants and five World Series Championships.  Mack was also an MLB player (C/1B/OF) from 1886-1896, putting up a .244-5-265 stat line.

208 1/3 innings pitched in relief in a single season … Mike Marshall.  There’s a slight chance that some rubber-armed hurler may someday reach Marshall’s 1974 MLB record of 106 appearances (particularly one of those specialists brought in to, say, get one left-handed hitter out).  However, given how pitchers are used today, 208 innings out of the pen in a single season likely will never be topped.  Heck, most starters don’t even reach 200 innings these days.  That 1974 season, Marshall went 15-12, 2.42, with 21 saves for the Dodgers.  Marshall also holds the AL record for mound appearances in a season with 90 for the Twins in 1979. Marshall played 14 MLB seasons, going 97-112, 188 saves, 3.14 in 724 games (24 starts).

120 Intentional Walks in a Season, 688 Intentional Walks in a career … Barry Bonds.  Okay, I’m not going to touch the controversy surrounding Barry Bond’s 73 home runs in a season or 762 career round trippers – but his dominance of the Intentional Walk category is monumental.   First there is Bonds’ record of 120 intentional walks in a season (2004). That season, only three players drew more total walks than Bonds drew intentional walks (Todd Helton, Lance Berkman and Bobby Abreu each drew 127 walks) – and second to Bonds’ 120 intentional passes were Jim Thome’s 26.  Further, Bonds holds the top three single-season IBB marks – and no other player has ever drawn more than 45 intentional passes in a campaign (Willie McCovey – 45 in 1969). The year Bonds drew 120 IBB, he hit .362, with 45 home runs and 101 RBI in 147 games. He also drew a record 232 total walks that season. Further, Bonds’ 688 career intentional passes are more than twice as many as the number-two player – Albert Pujols (still active) at 307.  Both these marks seem unbreakable from this vantage point.

110 career shutouts … Walter Johnson. Johnson, who pitched 21 seasons (1907-27) for the Washington Senators, tossed a record 110 shutouts in compiling a 417-279 record – leading the AL in shutouts seven times.  Second on the career shutouts list is Grover Cleveland Alexander with 90.  In today’s game, a starting pitcher can have a successful career without reaching 110 complete games – much less 110 complete-game, shutouts. (The current active leader in career shutouts is Clayton Kershaw with 15.)   Johnson’s record will stand. For those who like to know such things: Johnson led his league in strikeouts 12 times, complete games six times; wins six times; ERA five times and won a pair of MVP Awards. In 1913, he went 36-7 (leading MLB in wins and winning percentage, while also topping both leagues with a 1.14 ERA, 29 complete games, 11 shutouts, 346 innings pitched and 243 strikeouts.

Five consecutive Rookie of the Year Award winners … Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers can lay claim to a record streak of five consecutive NL Rookies of the Year Award winners:  1B Eric Karros (1992); C Mike Piazza (1993); OF Raul Mondesi (1994); P Hideo Nomo (1995); P Todd Hollandsworth (1996). I just don’t think we’ll ever see that kind of streak again.

.424 single-season batting average … Rogers Hornsby In 1924, Cardinals’ 2B Rogers Hornsby won the NL batting title with an MLB single-season record .424 average. (Interestingly, he finished second in the NL MVP voting to Dodgers’ pitcher Dazzy Vance, who went 28-6, 2.16.) In 1924, Hornsby led the NL in average, hits (227), runs scored (121), doubles (43), walks (89) and total bases (373). Hornsby hit over .400 three times in his 23-season (1915-37) MLB career – and retired with a .358 average.  From here, .400 looks pretty safe – and .424 even safer.

Carl Yastrzemski photo

Photo by highflyer16

.301 average for a batting title winner – Carl Yastrzemski. In 1968 – the now famous (or infamous) Year of the Pitcher – Red Sox’ OF Carl Yastrzemski won the American League batting title with a .301 average. It remains the lowest average ever for a league leader. Second place in the AL went to the A’s Danny Cater at .290.  (Pete Rose led the AL at .335.) It was, by the way, Yaz’ third batting title (.321 in 1963 and .326 in 1967). Yaz played 23 seasons for the Red Sox, hitting .285, with 452 home runs and 1,844 RBI. He won the Triple Crown and AL MVP Award in 1967; was an All Star in 18 seasons; and picked up six Gold Gloves. I doubt we will ever see another season in which the AL or NL is led by an average the barely tops .300.

41 victories in a season (post-1900)… Jack Chesbro. In 1904, the thirty-year-old Chesbro (in his sixth MLB season) went 41-12, with a 1.82 ERA and 48 complete games in 51 starts for the New York HIghlanders (Yankees). Chesbro pitched 11 MLB seasons, going 198-132, 2.69 – topping twenty wins five times. Since 1900, only one other pitcher has won at least 40 games in a season – Ed Walsh of the White Sox, who went 40-15 in 1908. Denny McLain of the Tigers is, of course, the last 30-game winner at 31-6 in 1968.

Two Grand Slam home runs in the same inning, hit by the same batter against the same pitcher … Fernando Tatis and Chan Ho Park.  On April 23, 1999 – as the Cardinals faced the Dodgers – Cardinals’ 3B (and, appropriately, cleanup hitter) Fernando Tatis came up to the plate in the third inning versus Dodgers’ starter Chan Ho Park.  The Cardinals were down 2-0, with the bases loaded and no outs.  Tatis rapped a 2-0 pitch to deep left for a Grand Slam home run. When the lineup came around again in the same inning, Park was (surprisingly) still on the mound and Tatis found himself at the plate with the bases again loaded (and two out). This time, Tatis belted a 3-2 pitch for a second Grand Slam.  Two Grand Slams by a player in one inning is probably achievement enough for this “unbreakable” list (it’s only been done this one time); but add the provision that both four-run dingers came off the same pitcher and it truly looks unbreakable.  The Cardinals won the contest 12-5 – on the strength of the 11-run third frame.

43-inches tall, MLB’s shortest player – Eddie Gaedel.  It may have been a Bill Veeck publicity stunt, but 3’ 7” – 65-pounds Eddie Gaedel is in the record books for his April 19, 1951 plate appearance (for the Saint Louis Browns) versus the Detroit Tigers. Gaedel, as expected, drew a walk and was immediately replaced by pinch runner Jim Delsing.


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