By Father Gabe Costa
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Numbers are fascinating. Mathematicians and statisticians love them. And, in a real sense, the only way to understand baseball is from a quantitative approach.

In their classic book, “The Hidden Game of Baseball” (ISBN13: 9780385182843), authors John Thorn and Pete Palmer write: “Baseball may be loved without statistics, but it cannot be understood without them.”

While growing up as a kid and hanging out with my friends on the corner of Second and Monroe Streets in Hoboken, when we weren’t playing stickball, boxball or touch football, we would be talking sports. Since baseball was our favorite sport, a lot of our conversations centered on the National Pastime.

And certain numbers always came up; numbers, such as, 714, 892, 3508 and 2130.

None of us even had to reference or contextualize these figures. Everyone knew that these four numbers represented Babe Ruth’s lifetime home run total, Ty Cobb’s lifetime stolen base total, Walter Johnson’s career total of batters he fanned, and Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games played record, respectively.

Not one of us figured any of these marks would ever be surpassed. They were Magic Numbers.

Well, decades later, we certainly know better. Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds have both hit more than 714 home runs. Rickey Henderson, for one, has left Ty Cobb in the dust.

Nolan Ryan and others have far surpassed the Big Train in total strikeouts. And we all know that Cal Ripken has bettered the Iron Horse’s skein by about 500 games.

Still, it always came down to the numbers. And, of course, thanks to Bill James and many, many others, we have had the advent of sabermetrics… talk about numbers!

Lately I’ve been wondering whether there are any truly “unbreakable” records. That is, I asked myself if there are numbers so “magic,” that they will never be surpassed? To get some input, I contacted some of my old pals from Hoboken – John Conforti, Bobby Lemke, Kenny Riordan and Jimmy Vincenti – to ask them to give me some suggestions.

In this episode of By The Numbers we list, a la David Letterman, some seasonal and career records which range from very difficult to virtually impossible (?) with respect to being overtaken.

These are some of the records we came up with:


10. Most RBIs in a season (currently held by Hack Wilson with 191)

9. Most career strikeouts by a pitcher (currently held by Nolan Ryan with 5714)

8. Most career steals of home (currently held by Ty Cobb with 54)

7. Most wins by a pitcher in a season (currently held by Jack Chesbro with 41)

6. Most consecutive games with a hit (currently held by Joe DiMaggio with 56)

5. Most consecutive games played (currently held by Cal Ripken with 2632)

4. Most career shutouts by a pitcher (currently held by Walter Johnson with 110)

3. Highest career slugging percentage (currently held by Babe Ruth with .690)

2. Most career complete games by a pitcher (currently held by Cy Young with 749), Most career wins by a pitcher (currently held by Cy Young with 511), Most career losses by a pitcher (currently held by Cy Young with 316)

1. Most consecutive no-hitters pitched (currently held by Johnny Vander Meer with 2)

Can these numbers be surpassed? Will these records ever be broken? Let Father Gabe know in the comments below…

Comments (24)
  1. Andy Ettinger says:

    Don’t forget Ty Cobb’s lifetime batting average of .367 (changed to .366).There’s no way that is ever broken.

  2. 2gruesome2b says:

    in another generation or so, when total sloth has overwhelmed athletics, robots will replace humans, and then, the sky is the limit.

  3. Stevo from NYC says:

    You forgot the 36 triples that Owen (Chief Wilson) hit in 1912 for the Pirates. No one has ever reached 30 before or since.

  4. Stevo from NYC says:

    Cy Young won 267 games in the 19th Century when the rules were different. His stat is therefore tainted. A better one is Walter Johnson’s 417 wins — all with the lowly Washington Senators.

    1. hal morris says:

      I agree re: Cy Young. Johnson’s 417 itself is mighty impressive, but at least MIGHT be broken some day…

  5. G says:

    Ichiro 10 consecutive 200 hit seasons will never be broken.

  6. Jamie Hamma says:

    how the hell is back to back no hittersd number 1?? i think that the easiest to do on this list.. by far

    1. G says:

      to break you would need 3 in a row.

  7. Anton says:

    How about Lou Gehrig’s 23 career grand slams? Still unbroken after nearly 73 seasons. (Senor Juicer came close)

    1. Jamie Hamma says:

      a rod is gonna break that.

      1. but..... says:

        …………it won’t matter……….’cause a…rod was juiced.

  8. matt says:

    how about roses 4000 and change hits

  9. George Soliman says:

    How about Nolan Ryan’s 7 career no-hitters?!

  10. Dann Russo says:

    Walter Johnson should watch out for Roy Halliday though!

    1. Tyler says:

      hey genius, are you aware, probably not, that Roy Halladay ONLY HAS 19 CAREER SHUTOUTS and is already 34 yrs old. You’re not too bright are you. That was not a question.

      1. Jonas Altman-Kurosaki says:

        Bravo, I was thinking the same thing, Tyler! I was expecting that kind of ignorance from someone here, though.

      2. Master Shake says:

        Did you just look that up, and then tried to make youself sound smart by littleing someone else?

      3. Master Shake says:

        Yes. I know I spelled “belittling” wrong.

      4. Rich says:

        If you did not want that to be a question, you would have needed to remove the “are you” portion of your sentence. Regardless as to the tone or inflection, “are you” is always a question. Just because you removed the question mark does not change the laws of grammar. So, yes, that was a question, actually. Please note that I am simply correcting you, not insulting you or questioning your intelligence.

    2. Joe says:

      I see Master-bater & Rich the D*ck are upset. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are the one & the same who posted the Halladay statement.

      Get a life girls, it’s not the end of the world. Next time you post, just know what the hell you’re talking about.

      1. Rich says:

        No, Joe, I did not post about Halladay. I am neither a fan of his nor Philly. I may be a d*ck, but I am correct. I simply do not see the need to be nasty to a complete stranger. Aside from being rude, it is cowardly. Typically, I don’t even post on these things…I read articles and scan comments…just felt like Tyler’s comments deserved a response. Nice of you to defend him, though…very gallant of you.

    3. G$ says:

      He’s nowhere close. Those pitching stats are ridiculous..

  11. 48colorrainbow says:

    #7 should be higher on the list, since pitchers don’t even start 40 games anymore.

    1. G$ says:

      Agreed, a 20 win season is talk for the Cy Young award these days…

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