- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Chase Utley fell well short of Joe DiMaggio’s hit streak. We found a few more records that should be etched in stone.

Unbreakable meter: The Times doesn’t think any of these marks will fall. But to make it interesting, we hedge our bets with the meter: 1 (So you’re telling me there’s a chance) through 10 (Don’t even think about it).

Cal Ripken Jr.’s 2,632 consecutive games played (1982-98)

Hard to believe, but it was nearly eight years ago that the sports world came to an end, or seemed to, in Baltimore.

On Sunday evening, Sept. 20, 1998, at Camden Yards, the record was set in stone.

Cal Ripken.

2,632 consecutive games played.

The Streak.

When Ripken sat down, at his own request, the Baltimore Orioles were near the end of what would be the first of at least eight consecutive losing seasons — the case of a monumental streak being replaced by a terrible one. Ripken retired at the end of the 2001 season at 41. And then there was almost no reason, other than habit, for being an Orioles fan.

Next July, the hometown boy who was a hometown hero surely will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., as thousands cheer. Not all will be Orioles fans. Some will be merely baseball fans who appreciate and revere a guy who brought so much honor to his sport, his team and himself.

No one who was at Camden Yards, or watching on television, will forget the night of Sept. 6, 1995, when Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s 56-year-old record streak of 2,130 games. In the middle of the fifth inning, when the game became official, the number “1” descended over the “0” on the huge banner hanging on the B&O Warehouse beyond right field, fireworks and smoke erupted and Cal took a victory lap around the ballpark, shaking hands with fans leaning precariously over the barriers.

In an age when many athletes take time off because of the sniffles or a hangnail, The Streak seems positively surreal. But it is very real indeed, and if it doesn’t last forever, that would be equally unbelievable.

— Dick Heller

Johnny Unitas’ 47 consecutive games with a TD pass (1956-60)

Johnny Unitas’ NFL career was only eight games old when, in the second quarter of a 31-7 loss to the Rams in December 1956, he flipped a 3-yard touchdown pass to Jim Mutscheller. The Colts weren’t a very good team then. They had never had a winning record in their brief time in the league and finished that season 5-7.

But they got good in a hurry. A year later they contended for the Western Conference title, and the year after that they won the NFL championship — thanks, in large part, to Unitas, who kept throwing touchdowns. That seemingly meaningless TD against the Rams in 1956 was the beginning of one of the greatest streaks in sports history. Over the next four seasons, Johnny U. passed for scores in 47 consecutive games, double the previous record (22 by the Packers’ Cecil Isbell in 1941 and ‘42). The best anyone has done since is 36 straight (the Pack’s Brett Favre from 1984 to ‘86).

Dan Marino’s best streak: 30.

Peyton Manning’s: 27.

Joe Montana’s: 14.

But what really moves Unitas’ mark into the Near Unbreakable category is this: Virtually all the passing records from the NFL’s old days have been obliterated because of longer seasons, rule changes, domes, etc. When Johnny retired in 1974 he was No. 1 all-time in attempts (5,186), completions (2,830), yards (40,239), touchdowns (290) and 300-yard games (26). The records are now 8,358 attempts, 4,967 completions, 61,361 yards, 420 touchdowns and 63 300-yard games — all held by Marino.

But Unitas’ 47-game streak — a testimony to his greatness, consistency and durability — lives on. And get this: He also threw for scores in the ‘58 and ‘59 championship games, so the streak was really 49 games. Unless the NFL goes the Arena Ball route, his mark may stand forever.

— Dan Daly

UCLA’s seven straight national titles (1967-73)

There are dynasties in many sports. In college basketball, there is THE dynasty.

For more than a decade, UCLA dominated college hoops in a way never before or since witnessed. The Bruins won 10 titles in 12 years under coach John Wooden and, perhaps more ridiculously, missed the Final Four once in a 13-year span.

In that stretch, UCLA accomplished quite a few things that will never be duplicated. The seven straight titles from 1967 to 1973 is unreachable. And coinciding with part of that run was an 88-game winning streak, an impressive feat since no one has made it through one season — let alone 2½ — without a loss in three decades (and thankfully, no one has received a career golden ticket like Notre Dame coach Digger Phelps did for ending that streak in 1974).

The state of college basketball today makes it nearly impossible to collect the likes of Lew Alcindor, Sidney Wicks, Henry Bibby and Bill Walton and keep them in the program for their full eligibility. Early entry in the NBA Draft has made player continuity at major programs a relic, though Florida will test that theory next season.

The game also exploded, growing at the Division I level as the increase in television exposure and the increasing popularity of the NBA improved the perception of the sport. More schools are serious about basketball, and it’s much more difficult to remain at the top.

And there’s also more subtle reasons. UCLA needed to win only four games a year in the NCAA tournament during its seven-season run. Now it’s six games. Those two extra tests make it far tougher to even win two straight titles, as every champ other than 1991-92 Duke since UCLA’s run can attest.

— Patrick Stevens

Cigar’s 16-race winning streak (1994-96)

Rapidly running out of ideas after watching his colt struggle on the turf, thoroughbred trainer Bill Mott moved Cigar to the dirt in October 1994.

The result was a streak that may not be broken for generations: 16 consecutive wins over a 21-month span, tying him with the great Citation (1948-50) for longest winning streak in American horse racing.

“It’s hard these days to win three in a row, much less 16,” Mott said recently. “And we have seen some pretty good horses.”

The streak will be tough to match for one major reason: Horses with world-class talent don’t run for long. Instead, their breeding rights are sold for multi-millions instead of letting them race and risk injury.

Allen Paulsen was different. An old fashioned horseman who liked to watch his equine stars race, Cigar ran 33 times in four years, winning 19 times and earning $9,999,813.

Foaled in 1990, Cigar was 4-for-15 in the first two years of his career. But with the magic touch of two Hall of Famers — Mott and jockey Jerry Bailey — Cigar became “America’s Horse,” winning on 10 different tracks and four different distances during the streak.

The streak was broken at the Pacific Classic on Aug. 10, 1996, when Cigar finished second to Dare and Go. Cigar was retired after a third in the Breeders Cup Classic two months later. Paulsen sold 75 percent of Cigar’s rights for $25 million, but as a stud, he proved infertile, failing to produce any offspring.

— Ryan O’Halloran

Glenn Hall’s 502 consecutive games in goal (1954-63)

When Glenn Hall stepped between the pipes for the Detroit Red Wings to open the 1955-56 season, it was the first game of what has become known as one of the most remarkable streaks in the history of sport. And it came in the days before pro goalies wore masks for facial protection.

Hall stayed in net for the next 502 games, not missing a single second of playing time for more than seven straight seasons. Throw in the playoffs and that string extends to every single minute of 552 straight contests for the Red Wings and later the Chicago Blackhawks — all without a mask.

The season was just 70 games long when Hall was rewriting record books but goalies in those days had no backups. In case of injury during a game, time was called while repairs were made or a reserve was called out of the stands and put into the game. In Hall’s case, a sore back which limited his ability to move from side to side 12 games into the 1962-63 season finally ended a record streak which will never be broken.

The Hall of Fame goalie finally donned a mask when he was acquired by the St. Louis Blues, an expansion team, in 1967.

The last goalie to play a complete season was Boston’s Eddie Johnston, 70 games in 1963-64. Grant Fuhr, then with St. Louis, holds the record for most games played in one season when he appeared in 79 of 82 in 1995-96; he started 75 of those games in a row, also the single-season NHL record.

— Dave Fay

Oklahoma’s 47-game win streak(1953-57)

Fifty years ago, there were no scholarship limitations, players didn’t turn pro early, conference title games didn’t exist and boosters — wink, wink — made it worthwhile for a kid to attend their school.

Nonetheless, Oklahoma’s 47-game winning streak from 1953 to ‘57 is impressive, especially given that no team has come within 11 games of the streak since the Sooners lost to Notre Dame 7-0 on Nov. 16, 1957. Parity now reigns in college football, making a streak of Oklahoma’s length unlikely.

Had USC outlasted Texas in January’s Rose Bowl, it would enter this season with a 35-game win streak. Oklahoma’s run, documented in Jim Dent’s book “The Undefeated,” is eight games better than the second-longest streak, Washington’s from 1908 to ‘14.

The streak begin with a 19-14 win over Texas, which was preceded by a 0-1-1 start.

Oklahoma’s run of dominance included two national championships, 23 shutouts and only nine games decided by fewer than 10 points.

Oklahoma’s best team during the dynasty was in 1956, when the Sooners went 10-0 and outscored their opponents 419-51. On Nov. 3 that season, in Boulder, Colo., the Sooners trailed the Buffs 19-6 at halftime.

“The players before created the great tradition of Oklahoma,” coach Bud Wilkinson told the team. “They wore those jerseys. You don’t deserve to wear them. Take them off.”

Oklahoma outscored Colorado 21-0 in the second half to win.

Since the streak ended, only Toledo (35 games, 1969-71), USC (34 games, 2003-05) and Miami (34 games, 2000-02) have come close to Oklahoma.

— Ryan O’Halloran

Johnny Vander Meer’s back-to-back no-hitters (1938)

Forget DiMaggio. Look beyond Ripken. Ignore Cy Young.

There’s only one fail-safe, no-doubt-about-it, impossible-to-break record in baseball. And few remember Johnny Vander Meer’s back-to-back no-hitters.

On June 11, 1938, the Cincinnati Reds left-hander held the Boston Bees hitless in a 3-0 victory. Four nights later, he duplicated the feat in a 6-0 win over the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Two starts, 18 innings, no hits. Top that.

You can’t. Seriously, think about it: For someone to break Vander Meer’s record, they’d have to throw not one, not two, but three straight no-hitters.

There hasn’t been a single no-no in the major leagues for more than two years. What are the odds someone does it three times in two weeks? Nada.

Vander Meer was an otherwise pedestrian southpaw, a career 119-121 pitcher over 13 seasons with the Reds, Cubs and Indians. He made just one postseason appearance, tossing three innings of relief during the 1940 World Series. He might as well have been his era’s Zane Smith.

But “The Dutch Master” was at the center of the baseball universe on June 15, 1938, when he took the mound at Ebbets Field for the first night game in that famed ballpark’s history. By the time the ninth inning rolled around, 40,000 Dodger diehards were cheering for the opposing pitcher as he closed in on history.

Vander Meer made it difficult on himself. With one out in the ninth, he walked the bases loaded. But he got Ernie Koy to ground into a force out and then got Leo Durocher to fly out to center field, setting off a wild celebration for a true baseball rarity: back-to-back no-hitters.

— Mark Zuckerman

Archie Moore’s 141 knockouts (1936-63)

As boxing continues its descent into irrelevance, the accomplishments of fighters from days past seem more impressive every day.

The great Archie Moore, for instance, knocked out 141 fighters.

Mike Tyson, considered to be the most prolific knockout artist of his time in the heavyweight division, had 44 knockouts. Roberto Duran — Mr. “Hands of Stone” — knocked out 70 fighters over his 33-year career.

Then again, he fought only 119 times. Moore fought an astounding 229 times in a 27-year span, six years shorter than Duran’s career and just seven years longer than Tyson’s, with nearly four times as many fights.

When Moore made his professional debut in 1936, fighters fought. Moore fought 14 times in 1937. He started out as a middleweight, but moved to light heavyweight, and, at age 39, won the light heavyweight championship by defeating Joey Maxim in 1952.

Moore tried to become heavyweight champion in 1955 at the age of 42 when he faced undefeated champion Rocky Marciano. He put Marciano on the canvas in the second round, but Marciano got up and stopped Moore in the ninth round. Moore tried to win the heavyweight title again a year later after Marciano retired, leaving the championship vacant, but he was stopped by Floyd Patterson in five rounds.

Still, Moore remained light heavyweight champion for 10 years. He fought a young Cassius Clay in 1962 at the age of 49, and was stopped in four rounds.

When he finally stopped fighting in 1963, Moore had a record of 194-26 with eight draws and one no contest … and 141 knockouts that will likely never been matched again.

— Thom Loverro

Byron Nelson’s 18 wins in a season (1945)

What Lord Byron achieved in 1945 is quite simply the most impressive single-season achievement in the history of sports, much less the annals of golf.

In 30 official starts in 1945, Nelson won 18 times, including 11 straight tournaments, and finished the season with a scoring average of 68.33. It took the game 55 years and a slew of technological advances before a player bested Nelson’s scoring mark. During his nine-win season in 2000, Tiger Woods posted a scoring average of 67.79. But Nelson’s victory records from 1945 will never be broken, not by Woods or any other future immortal.

“Nobody has ever struck, thrown, kicked, carried or shot a ball like Byron did in 1945,” says fellow Fort Worth native and sportswriting dean Dan Jenkins.

Said Nelson in a 1997 biography: “The mechanics of my swing were such that no thought was required. It’s like eating. You don’t think to feed yourself. All my concentration was on scoring, not the swing … Some call it timing. I call it tempo, and it’s everything. I was afraid of losing it, but I couldn’t lose it.”

As if his 18 victories aren’t inspiring enough, Nelson also finished second seven times in 1945, meaning he either won or was runner-up in 25 of 30 starts. In the more than 60 years since only two players have ever broken the double-digit mark for single-season victories (Ben Hogan with 13 in 1946 and 10 in 1948 and Sam Snead with 11 in 1950). And only two men have made it more than halfway to Nelson’s record for consecutive victories. Hogan won six straight times in 1948 and Woods duplicated that feat during his epic 2000 run.

No player before or since has swung a club with Nelson’s combination of technical precision and impeccable feel.

— Barker Davis

Richard Petty’s 200 career wins (1958-92)

Because of rules tinkering that started in 1972, which began what NASCAR refers to as its modern era, no stock car driver ever will match Richard Petty’s career wins total of 200.

Petty was great — they don’t call him “The King” for nothing.

But when Petty started driving professionally in 1958, the racing landscape was a bit different.

King Richard fired up his legendary blue No. 43 car in a NASCAR-record 1,184 races. Ricky Rudd is No. 2 on that list with 870 starts. The only active driver with more than 800 starts is the King’s son, Kyle — and let’s just say he’s no threat to the crown.

To put it in perspective, when Petty set the single-season mark of 27 victories in 1967, he raced 48 times — 12 more races than NASCAR sanctions these days.

A number of victories on Petty’s resume came in events such as the Pickens 200 or the Speedy Morelock 200, which came at tiny tracks such as Fonda Speedway and even tiny Old Dominion Speedway in Manassas. The rules changes in 1972 eliminated not only the extra races but also the short ones — races had to be 250 miles or longer.

The closest anyone has come to Petty is David Pearson, a contemporary of his, who picked up 105 wins. The active driver with the most wins is Jeff Gordon, with 75 wins, is the active driver who comes closest to the King, but Gordon already is 35 years old. And, after a fast start, the former “Wonder Boy” has averaged only three wins a year in the last five seasons.

— John Taylor

Wayne Gretzky’s 215 points (1985-86)

How ridiculous is Wayne Gretzky’s 1985-86 season, when he racked up an NHL-record 215 points?

Last season, there was only one set of teammates that combined for that many — and Joe Thorton had 33 of his 125 with Boston before the trade to San Jose.

The Great One netted “only” 52 goals that season (the eighth highest total of his career), but he did plenty of passing, tallying an NHL-record 163 assists. New rules or no rules, it wouldn’t matter — Gretzky’s record is untouchable. The game changed in the early 1990s, from better goalie equipment (and better backstop coaching) to a greater emphasis on defense — mainly as a reaction by the teams that didn’t have an offensive talent like Gretzky or Mario Lemieux.

Even if goaltender equipment shrunk (more than this past season) and the neutral zone trap was outlawed, defensive-minded coaches would still find schemes to keep generational talents like Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby from averaging the 2.63 points a game needed to reach 216. Ottawa led the NHL with 3.82 goals a game last season in the “New NHL.” That number would have placed 14th out of 21 teams in 1985-86.

Gretzky’s Oilers scored 426 goals in his record season. Three of his teammates (Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson and Paul Coffey) notched at least 48 and another (Mark Messier) had 35. Maybe the most impressive thing about Gretzky’s career — no other player has ever had a 200-point season. The Great One had four.

— Corey Masisak

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