Harv currently writes for Abstract Sports, the Sports History Network, and the magazine Gridiron Greats. Harv wrote the published book "Pro Football's Most Passionate Fans" and as a professional writer has had articles published in an array of sports publications.
Baseball Records That May Never Be Broken
The cliché in sports is that records are meant to be broken. In Major League Baseball, some single-season records may never be broken and have stood the test of time. What follows are 10 single-season records on the books that most likely will never be matched again.
In no particular order, these 10 marks are held by players who are no longer alive to see how long their records will stand.
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Joe Dimaggio’s 56-game hitting streak.
One of the greatest hitters in baseball history, Joe DiMaggio was one of three brothers who all played professional baseball. Joe’s brothers were Vince and Dom but neither was as good a player as Joe. In 1941, DiMaggio scored a single for his only hit on May 15 while playing the Chicago White Sox. For every game after that in a string of 56 games, the Yankee Clipper as he was called, or Joltin Joe as his other nickname had at least one hit in each of those 56 games. This became a new all-time record as he surpassed George Sisler and Willie Keeler’s mark of 44 games and no one has come close since. Pete Rose hit safely in 44 games in 1978 and more recently, Jimmy Rollins rode a 38-game streak from 2005 into the 2006 season. But after 82 years we still wait for a player to get a hot bat and break DiMaggio’s streak but it doesn’t appear that will ever happen.
Nolan Ryan's 7 no-nos.
In 148 years of professional baseball, there have been 318 no-hitters thrown by pitchers. Some of those have been combined efforts where several pitchers were used in the game, then there are those thrown by one man. But one record that will stand the test of time is Nolan Ryan’s seven no-nos. It’s one thing to throw a no-hitter or two but seven? Incredible. What makes him one of the greatest pitchers ever is the fact that not only did he complete those seven amazing games he may have had more if not for in five other games he lost a chance for an additional no-hitter by giving up a hit in the ninth inning with one out already in the books.
Here are “The Ryan Express’s” seven no-nos:
May 15, 1973: Angels 3, Royals 0. Ryan’s first no-no came when he was 26 years old. In this game, Ryan struck out 112 hitters and walked three. His team backed him with a solo home run by Bob Oliver and two runs in the very first inning.
July 15, 1973: Angels 6, Tigers 0. Two months to the day of his previous no-hitter Nolan Ryan was at it again. This time the Detroit Tigers were his victims. 17 of those victims were struck out by the Angels’ fireballer. Ryan walked four in the process and this time around his team gave him plenty of offense especially when they pushed across five runs in the eighth inning when the game was tight at 1-0.
Sept. 28, 1974: Angels 4, Twins 0. Along with this no-hitter, Ryan won his 22nd game of the season against 16 losses. While striking out 15 Ryan was a bit wilder in this one walking eight.
June 1, 1975: Angels 1, Orioles 0. Nolan Ryan found himself in a pitching duel on June 1, 1975, as Ross Grimsley started for Baltimore and was relieved by Wayne Garland. Those two pitchers gave up nine hits but surrendered only one run which became the final score of 1-0. Ryan struck out nine and walked four while The Orioles left five men on base.
Sept. 26, 1981: Astros 5, Dodgers 0. Five seasons had passed since Nolan Ryan’s last no-hitter and now The Ryan Express was pitching in the National League. Ryan was facing the always-tough Los Angeles Dodgers who had one of the most loaded lineups in baseball. That wasn’t a problem for Ryan who struck out 11 Dodgers, walking only three and tossing yet another no-no. He also held L.A. to just three men left on base. Now in the N.L. and not having the benefit of the designated hitter, Ryan came to the plate as a batter three times, knocked out a single, and walked once.
June 11, 1990: Rangers 5, Athletics 0. Nolan Ryan played for four different teams in his career originally with the New York Mets who drafted him in 1965 in the 12th round of the MLB Draft. He made his first appearance in 1966 and then went full-time in 1968. He closed out his career back in the American League with the Texas Rangers with his first season in Texas coming in 1989. Nine years after his fifth no-hitter Ryan did it again shutting down the Oakland A’s. Ryan had 14 Ks in this game walking only two and leaving just two A’s stranded on the basepaths. For the Rangers, Julio Franco smacked two home runs and knocked in four runs.
May 1, 1991: Rangers 3, Blue Jays 0. By this time in his career, Nolan Ryan was two years away from retirement and was 44 years old. This was Ryan’s earliest season no-hitter and still, he struck out an amazing 16 batters while putting only two on base with a walk. With just two men left on base, the Blue Jays posed no threat to Ryan.
When he finally retired, Nolan Ryan was a shoo-in for the Baseball Hall of Fame and his stats speak for themselves. Ryan is 14th all-time in victories with 324 ties with Don Sutton. He is the all-time leader in strikeouts with 5,714 and two active pitchers are still a long way from reaching that number as Justin Verlander has 3,198 and Max Scherzer with 2,682. Ryan is fifth in history for innings pitched with 5,386, 7th with 61 shutouts, but unfortunately first in base on balls with 2,795.
Barry Bonds' Single-season home runs (73/2001)
As sports writers who vote to place men in the Baseball Hall of Fame continue to reject Barry Bonds as an inductee, most fans will remember Bonds for being a steroid abuser. Until writers can look past that Bonds may never make the hallowed halls in Cooperstown. Based on his numbers he does belong in the hall but those totals are tainted by the steroid accusations. The one record he set will most likely never be broken and that is home runs hit in one season. Three years after Mark McGwire set the record, along came Bonds who did him three better in 2001. Last season the Yankees’ Aaron Judge challenged the record but fell way short with 62 dingers. Judge had 696 at-bats and Bonds 664 when he set the record so the chance of anyone hitting 73 or more is probably something that just won’t happen.
Hack Wilson's RBIs (191/1930)
Think about this record. It has stood the test of time for 93 years. The closest anyone has come in recent years was when Miguel Cabrera knocked in 139 10 years ago. Oddly enough and while tragic, Wilson died at the age of 48 in the year 1948. He was suffering from pneumonia and after taking a fall at home, he developed internal hemorrhaging and passed away on November 23, 1948. He would probably be amazed that no other player has come close to matching or breaking his record and that it may never be broken.
Grover Alexander's Single pitching shutouts (16/1916)
Given the nature of today’s Major League Baseball with specialized pitching and the use of relief pitchers, complete games have nearly gone by the wayside. With that so have the instances of a pitcher completing a game and shutting out an opponent. The most shutouts by one pitcher in one season are held by Grover Alexander, one of the best pitchers in history. In 1916, he tossed 16 shutouts which will never be broken. You have to go back to 2012 to find the highest total in recent years and that belongs to Felix Hernandez who threw five shutouts.
Will White pitching complete games (75/1879) and Robin Roberts (33/1953)
Speaking of complete games considered here is the record and then the most in the modern era. In 1879 Will White completed an incredible 75 games. After 1900, Robin Roberts holds the record with 33. Last season Sandy Alcantara could only finish six games to lead the majors so that indicates how few complete games are on the books these days.
Hugh Nicol's Stolen Bases (138/1887)
Growing up watching baseball, Lou Brock was the base-stealing champion. Then along came Rickey Henderson. Henderson broke Brock’s record but he falls just short of the most stolen bases ever not based on era. That belongs to Hugh Nicol who in 1887 grabbed an extra base 138 times. Henderson’s record has stood since 1982 and the highest total since that time belongs to Dee Strange-Gordon who stole just 60 for the Miami Marlins in 2017. It’s unlikely anyone is ever going to steal 130 bases again.
Billy Hamilton's Runs Scored (198/1894)
Going hand in hand with RBIs and home runs are runs scored. You hit a home run and you get credit for a run scored. If you bat in a run you are responsible for someone else’s run total. Perhaps the greatest player in history, Babe Ruth still holds the record for most runs scored in a single season, with 177 runs scored in 1921. With Aaron Judge’s phenomenal season in 2022, he scored 133 times still well off of Ruth’s historic mark. Given Judge’s year unless another player or Judge himself can duplicate that, breaking the record for runs scored most likely won’t happen.
Ross Barnes' Batting average (.429 / 1876)
A batting accomplishment is reaching a final season average of .400 or better. It might be one of the most difficult levels to reach. The last time a hitter got over .400 was way back in 1941 when Ted Williams turned the trick by hitting .406. The record, however, belongs to Ross Barnes who reached a mark of .4129 in 1876, and then in the modern era the highest average was achieved by Nap Lajoie who hit .426 in 1901. The last highest average was reached in 2020 when DJ LeMahieu ended the season at .364. It will be one thing to hit .400 but to get to Barnes or Lajoi’s level will most likely never be seen.
Old Hoss Radbourn Pitching victories (60/1884)
Our final stat is pitching victories for a season. The goal for any starter is to reach 20 wins. That’s considered the gold standard. But Ed Walsh? He won an incredible 40 games in 1908. NO ONE is going to touch that record EVER. There is just too much emphasis on relief pitching these days and having a rotation of starters and relievers. In 2011, Justin Verlander won 24 games, which seemed above and beyond, but winning 40 is unthinkable and just can’t happen.