By Robert Dominguez
“Count ’em, 60! Let’s see some other son of a bitch match that!”
Babe Ruth had good reason to gloat in 1927 after the Sultan of Swat broke his own single-season home run record of 59 set six years prior.
After all, no one hit them harder or farther or as often as the larger-than-life Bambino, so this was one baseball record guaranteed to last. Right?
Sorry, Babe. It took 34 seasons, a ridiculous controversy, and the assignation of an asinine asterisk, but fellow Yankee Roger Maris was the S.O.B. who finally out-swatted Ruth with 61 in ’61.
And though Maris’ mark was eventually shattered by a succession of unnaturally swollen sluggers who played under a cloud of PED suspicion, it still proved that old baseball saw right: Records are indeed made to be broken.
Who would have thought Carl Ripken Jr. would break Lou Gehrig’s Iron Horse record of consecutive games played? Or that a wiry Japanese-born player who goes by one name would effortlessly surpass George Sisler’s single-season record of 257 hits?
Still, in this homer-happy modern era of five-man rotations, pitch counts, specialized bullpens, smaller stadiums and the lost art of base stealing, it’s a safe bet that these baseball achievements will stand forever:
2 grand slams in one inning, Fernando Tatis — Playing for the Cardinals in 1999, the Dominican-born third-baseman had a great week in just one inning in 1999, slugging a pair of grand slams against the Dodgers’ Chan Ho Park. The odds of duplicating Tatis’ feat is like winning Powerball — only 12 players in baseball history enjoyed two grand salamis in one game, never mind one inning. His eight RBIs in a single frame is also a record.
511 wins, Cy Young — Young, who pitched in the Dead ball era from 1890-1911, started more than 40 games a year 11 times over his 22-year career — these days, 33 starts a year is the usual max. He also had five 30-win seasons to go with 10 20-win years. To eclipse Young’s mark, a pitcher would need to average 20 wins for 26 years.
41 wins in a season, Jack Chesbro — The 30-year-old righty for the New York Highlanders (soon to be known as the Yankees) essentially pitched two seasons back in 1904, when he started 51 games (finishing 48) and hurled and unimaginable 454.2 innings without his arm falling off. In 2019, only Astros aces Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole won more than 20 games.
5,714 strikeouts, Nolan Ryan — The Alvin Express played 27 seasons from 1966 to 1993, retiring at age 46. For a pitcher to pass his KO total, he’d have to average 286 strikeouts over 20 years. Let’s not even talk about Ryan’s seven no-hitters.
110 shutouts, Walter Johnson — Two pitchers were tied for most shutouts in 2019 — at three each. Considering how even the complete game has gone the way of cotton uniforms, the Big Train’s record is sure to stay on track.
191 RBIs, Hack Wilson — Since 1940, the only batter who has surpassed 160 RBIs in a season is Manny Ramirez, who drove in 165 runs in 1999.
.367 lifetime average, Ty Cobb — To put things into perspective, from 1909 to 1919, the sweet-tempered soul affectionately known as the Georgia Peach had an average of .369. The rest of the league was at .254. Ted Williams, a .344 lifetime hitter, would have had to have at least six .400 seasons to come close.
4,256 hits, Pete Rose — It’s rare for batters to reach 200 hits in a season. To pass Rose, who played 24 seasons, you’d have to average 200 hits for 22 years.
1,406 steals, Rickey Henderson — With an increasing reliance on power up and down the lineup, teams aren’t running like they used to. To beat this record a player would have to average more than 100 steals a season for 14 seasons. Only three players stole more than 40 in 2019. In 1982, the year Henderson swiped a record 130 bases, 10 players had 41 or more steals.
2,632 consecutive games played: Cal Ripken Jr. — It must’ve really stunk to be a shortstop in the Baltimore Orioles’ minor league system while Ripken took 16 years to break Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games played record of 2,130. Gehrig’s mark stood for 56 years. Ripken’s will last way longer.
262 hits, Ichiro Suzuki — The amazing one-name wonder known simply as Ichiro had 200 hits in a season for 10 straight years after coming from Japan in 2001. So it was hardly surprising he’d be the one to break the record of 257 set by George Sisler of the St. Louis Browns in 1920. Ichiro had 262 hits in 2004, with another seven players reaching the 200-hit level.
67 doubles, Earl Webb — Set in 1934 by Earl Webb of the Red Sox, the single-season record for two-baggers has only been threatened by Joe Medwick, who had 64 in 1936.
36 triples, Chief Wilson — No player has come within 10 of the record Wilson set in 1912, when most ballparks were massive and no one swung for the fences until Ruth came along.
.426 batting average, Nap Lajoie — No one’s hit .400 in a season since Ted Williams did it in 1941, and no one likely ever will until the day they thaw out Teddy Ballgame and stick a bat in his cold, hard hands.
With Beto Villa
Robert Dominguez is a senior editor at the New York Daily News and co-author of “Bronx Bummers: The Unofficial History of the New York Yankees’ Bad Boys, Blunders and Brawls.”