In 1967, Boston Red Sox left fielder Carl Yastrzemski led all of Major League Baseball with a .326 batting average, 44 home runs and 121 runs batted in, claiming the coveted Triple Crown award by leading in the three most important statistics for batters.
For nearly half a century the Triple Crown would sit on a shelf, gathering dust as hitters struggled to produce consistently in all three categories. Hitters came close but always managed to falter down the stretch, giving up one or more categories before season’s end.
After 45 years of toil and hope from fans and players alike, a chunky Venezuelan by the name of Miguel Cabrera did the unthinkable. He won the Triple Crown.
Only the 14th player in Major League Baseball history to accomplish the daunting task, Cabrera posted a monster line of .330 BA/44 HR/139 RBI, leading his Detroit Tigers to the playoffs..
As if this wasn’t enough, just days after Cabrera did what no one has done in five decades, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees pulled the unthinkable.
Avoiding a San Diego Chargers’ zone blitz late in the first quarter on Sunday Night Football, Brees floated a beauty to a wide open Devery Henderson for a 40-yard touchdown. It was the 48th straight game in which Brees had thrown for a touchdown, breaking Johnny Unitas’ record of 47 straight games with a passing touchdown.
Compiled from 1956-60, the Baltimore Colt quarterback threw touchdowns like no other quarterback had or has ever done until now, as his record stood for 52 years before Brees broke it.
While records were certainly made to be broken, some records have not only continued to stand the test of time, but could go down in history permanently chiseled to the tablet, never to be touched.
Unitas and Yastrzemski fell after 50 years of standing tall, but these records aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Joe DiMaggio – safely hits in 56 games
The Yankee Clipper might be one of the greatest pure hitters to ever play the game, and just one game after his streak ended in 1941, DiMaggio again hit safely in 16 straight games, meaning this record was one defensive failure away from being the most incredible sporting feat of all time.
It might still be, as the closest to achieve the feat was Cincinnati Red Pete Rose, who hit safely in 44 straight games in 1978.
Jerry Rice – a reception in 274 consecutive games
I sometimes fire up my “Madden 2005” just to throw digital passes to the greatest NFL player of all time.
Over the course of 20 years, Rice forged his name atop all of the receiving records, cementing his name in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton in sensational fashion.
His most impressive feat, and one that should remain untouched for all of history, is his 274 consecutive games with a catch.
With defenses keyed on removing him from the game plan, Rice did nothing but impose his will and make catches anyway.
The closest to Rice’s record? Marvin Harrison, who caught passes in 190 straight games. Harrison is now retired, putting the record safely out of reach for a very, very long time.
UCLA – 88 straight basketball wins
From 1970-74, John Wooden and the UCLA Bruins went on a rampage, scooping up victories left and right en route to five years without knowing defeat.
While teams have incredible records on their home floor, winning on the road is certainly tough in college basketball, as team travel often drains players and opposing stadiums are raucous and unruly.
While chances of winning on the road certainly thwart most teams from mounting a shot at 88 straight victories, it’s the concept of one-and-done that truly prevents teams from trying to break the record.
A perfect college season in this age would almost certainly lift the draft stock of the entire team, pressuring young players into taking the big payday and leaping to the NBA after one good year of basketball.
1971 Miami Dolphins – undefeated through the Super Bowl
In 2007, the ’71 Dolphins had to wait all the way until the Super Bowl to pop the champagne, as the New England Patriots came up short against the New York Giants after a miraculous David Tyree catch.
Other than the Patriots, no other team has even come close to bringing home the Lombardi Trophy unscathed from a season loss.
With only two remaining undefeated teams in the NFL this season at 5-0, I’m going to say it won’t be long before the bubbly comes off the ice.
Cheers, Bob Griese. Cheers.