[ Saturday, June 14, 2003 ]

The best records

How many Houston Astros does it take to throw a no-hitter against the New York Yankees?

That’s no joke, like some Polish comment involving screwing in a light bulb.

It’s a legitimate question. And there is an answer. It’s six. On June 11, six Astros combined to throw the first no-hitter against the Yankees since a blanking by Baltimore’s Hoyt Wilhelm on September 20, 1958.

They set a Major League Baseball record for most pitchers used in a nine-inning no-hitter that now ranks as one of the least likely records to fall in baseball. Granted, it’s one of the odder records. Plus, the same thing could have been said about the previous record of four pitchers. However, it is deserving of its place.

Here are some other records - some odd, some famous - that will not likely fall anytime soon. Excluding the top record(s), the rest are mentioned in no particular order. They’re just listed.

However, the top record on this list is there for a reason.

Pick a Cy Young record - Cy Young owns the career standards with 511 wins, 815 starts, 316 losses, 7,356.0 innings pitched and 750 complete games. The Astros six-person no-hitter shows why all of Young’s records will likely still stand a century from now. The game - specifically pitching - has changed too much for people to threaten Young’s marks. Managers don’t let people pitch like they did during Young’s days. Pitchers can get pulled even if they do good, depending on the situation. None of those Houston pitchers even allowed a hit, but they got pulled due to situational decisions.

The Yankees’ Roger Clemens also recently highlighted how far ahead Young’s marks are from anybody playing today or in the near future. Clemens ranks as one of the unquestioned best pitchers of his generation. He is also in the closing days of his career. Clemens just put another punctuation mark on his career by collecting his 300th win. Win number 400 is not even a remote option.

Now, here comes the no-particular-order part.

The careers of Minnie Minoso and Nick Altrock - Both men played on the major league level in five different decades. Altrock played from 1898-1933, while Minoso’s career spanned from 1949 to 1980. For a person to play in six decades, he would almost have to theoretically enter the league at 18 in say 2009. He would then have to still be playing in 2050 at the age of 59.

Old Hoss’ old record - Old Hoss Radbourn - a name that immediately makes most modern baseball fans recall the words ‘who?’ ‘hah?’ and ‘what?’ - collected 60 wins for Providence in 1884. Basically, the same sentiments about Young’s records apply here. Jack Chesbro won 41 games in 1904 to set the modern-day standard.

Pick Satchel Paige’s age - Satchel Paige’s age was always a rough estimate at best. It was part of the mystery surrounding the former Negro League star, especially when he entered Major League Baseball after the color barrier fell. According to ‘official’ information, Paige played a big league game when he was 58 years, two months and 18 days old on 9-25-1965. The record will not likely fall unless some individual purposely makes a gimmick-type appearance just to beat it. Paige was also the oldest rookie at 42.

Joe Nuxhall’s mark as the youngest player ever - 15 years, 10 months, 11 days - appears equally safe.

Both men’s careers put them in the record books due to unique situations. Paige was barred from playing in the big leagues until the color barrier fell in 1947. Nuxhall made his debut when many able-bodied men and big league players served during World War II.

Hit by pitch in the 1800s - Ed Knouff or John Grimes would charge the mound nowadays. But a century ago, both men just kept stepping into the batter’s box and getting hit. During one game in 1887, Knouff was hit by six pitches. Grimes, playing for the National League Saint Louis’ franchise, repeated the number in 1897. In modern times, a game would get stopped if one batter got hit six times because just about every player would be ejected for fighting.

Cal’s big number - Records that take a decade and a half to break don’t fall easily. Nor do records that can end due to a broken finger, the flu, back pain or other ailments. Those factors make Cal Ripken’s record of 2,632 consecutive games played one of the most secure.

A scorekeeper’s dilemma - Bottom of the ninth, a 12-run game is already basically decided, a person steps into the batter’s box with an 0-for-4 mark and he hits a grounder toward the shortstop, who bobbles it in the hole. Would he have gotten the guy out at first with a clean catch and throw? Is it a hit? Or an error? By the way, there’s a 56-game hitting streak on the line.

No scorekeeper will probably find himself in that situation.

The idea of anybody approaching Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak seems that farfetched. The media pressure alone would be suffocating once a person even approached 45 games.

Just being Ty Cobb - He was a son of a bitch. But he could hit. Cobb posted a lifetime batting average of .367. He also led the American League in batting 12 times. The Georgia Peach also stole home 54 times. When was the last time you saw anybody steal home?

Road trip - Play the early afternoon game of a doubleheader in New York. Get traded. Play a late-afternoon game in Chicago. Get traded. Hop on another plane. Play a game in Los Angeles. Somebody would have to do basically that to break a record shared by Max Flack (5-30-1922), Cliff Heathcote (5-30-1922) and Joel Youngblood (8-4-1982), who all played for two teams in the same day due to the timing of their trades.

A perfect loss - Harvey Haddix created ‘perfect plus’ on May 26, 1959. Haddix pitched 12 perfect innings for the Pittsburgh Pirates opposite the Milwaukee Braves, setting the record for most perfect frames ever tossed in one game. And he still lost 1-0 in the 13th stanza.

Together by themselves - Bill Wambganss, George Burns, Ernie Padgett, Glenn Wright, Jimmy Cooney and Johnny Neun all did something individually. They turned unassisted triple plays during the 1920s. Nobody else did the same thing again until 1968.

Together, they created a combined six unassisted triple plays during the decade - a number that dwarfs any 10-year span. In fact, baseball has only six other unassisted triple plays from 1878 to present.

Double up - Johnny Vander Meer did a freak thing. He collected no-hitters in back-to-back starts for the Cincinnati Reds in 1938. Three in a row would seem a little too freakish to seriously consider.

Online sources

Baseball Almanac
Dave Sutor [1:31 PM]