100 sports records and the stories behind them
The 1989 film “Back to the Future Part II” predicted that there wouldn’t be much of a need for sports almanacs in the 21st century. True to form, today’s internet allows us to instantaneously relive great sports moments of yesteryear and find data and recaps of a majority of games from the past century. Still, even some of the sports world’s most heralded records contain multiple backstories that could take days to pore through, even with a time-traveling DeLorean.
That’s why Stacker compiled a list of 100 sports records from the 20th and 21st centuries, and the stories behind them. Sources included statistical databases, Hall of Fame records, official league records, various record books, and news reports.
Most baseball buffs know that Nolan Ryan holds the record for most strikeouts in a season, but do you know how many innings he had to pitch in his final start of the 1973 season to break Sandy Koufax’s mark? There are plenty of hoop heads who can easily remember that Mike Krzyzewski has the most career NCAA basketball wins, but can they name the coach who previously had the most victories across all levels of college hoops?
Not all of the records are great athletic feats of strength, but they provide interesting fodder nonetheless—anyone who can crush more than one can per second deserves a tip of the hat, don’t you think? This story also examines important records beyond pro and college sports—like the X Games athlete who overcame serious injury to inspire in 2009—and recognize just plain impressive control over body and mind (like averaging almost three pull-ups a minute over a 24-hour period).
Click through for a drive down memory lane, a look into the absurd, and the story of one record that is all but certainly the most overblown sports story ever.
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1911: Cy Young’s 749 complete games
Cy Young holds the MLB record for complete games with 749. During a 22-year career, Young pitched 7,356 innings, also a record. Young also holds records for wins, losses, starts, hits allowed, and earned runs allowed.
1919: Babe Ruth’s reported 587-foot home run
MLB Statcast has only been used this century, but baseball fans have always been enamored with tape-measure home runs. In 1919, media reported that Babe Ruth swatted a 587-foot homer at Tampa’s Plant Field. Some historians have speculated the home run was closer to 550 feet, but it remains a monstrous feat regardless and is earmarked with a historical marker at the current site of Plant Field.
1920: The longest MLB game ever
On May 1, 1920, the Brooklyn Robins and Boston Braves played 26 innings before it was called due to darkness, with the score tied, 1-1. The second-longest game lasted 25 innings, a 1984 tilt that the Chicago White Sox won over the Milwaukee Brewers.
1930: Hack Wilson’s 191 RBI
During Hack Wilson’s RBI tear in 1930, he did not hit one grand slam. Still, Wilson’s 191 runs batted in remain the best mark in MLB history; Lou Gehrig’s 184 RBI in 1931 is the closest anyone’s come to hacking Wilson off the top spot.
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1940: Chicago mauls Washington, 73–0
The 1940 Washington Redskins were riding high with a 9-2 record and earned the right to host the NFL Championship Game. Their opponent, the Chicago Bears, went 8-3, including a loss to the Redskins a few weeks earlier. In the rematch, the Bears recorded the biggest blowout in NFL history, stomping Washington, 73-0.
1941: Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak
Joe DiMaggio’s box score for the New York Yankees’ game on May 15, 1941, was nothing special: 1-for-4, 1 RBI. But that lone hit was the beginning of one of baseball’s most revered records, a 56-game hitting streak that stands today. Pete Rose came the closest to DiMaggio’s record, recording a hit in 44 consecutive games in 1978.
1944: Red Barrett’s 58-pitch complete game
Today, baseball pitch counts heavily dictate a pitcher’s lifespan. In 1944, relief pitchers were an anomaly, and starters tossed well over 100 pitches per outing. Charley “Red” Barrett only needed about half of that when he took the mound on Aug. 10, as he threw a 58-pitch complete game, which remains the fewest amount of pitches ever needed for a complete game.
1957: Oklahoma football wins 47 straight games
The Oklahoma Sooners were unbeatable on the gridiron for the better part of five seasons during the mid-1950s. Oklahoma, led by coach Bud Wilkinson, won 47 straight games. Notre Dame ended the streak in 1957, and Toledo’s 35 wins have come the closest since that reign of Sooner dominance.
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1962: The Big O’s triple-doubles
In 1962, Oscar Robertson registered 41 triple-doubles in a season, an NBA record which stood for 55 years until Russell Westbrook earned 42 in 2017. Robertson also averaged a triple-double for the season (30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 11.4 assists). Only eight other players have 41 or more triple-doubles through their entire NBA careers.