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Okay, fuck it, more baseball-bashing. On SportsCenter just now they're talking about Barry Bonds on the career home runs list and calling Hank Aaron's record "the most hallowed record in all of sports." Most hallowed according to who? No doubt there's some soccer record of some sort that's extremely hallowed outside the USA. The whole thing wreaks of typical MLB arrogance. At any rate, I take it that Bonds stands a good chance of breaking Aaron's record. Wilt's 100 point game is something I think may really never be surpassed.

It was alleged to me yesterday that nobody will outdo Oscar Robinson by averaging a triple-double for a season, but upon reflection I could totally see LeBron doing it. Word on the street is that perimeter players peak at around age 27. If that's actually true (but is it actually true?) then someone who's averaging 31.5, 7.3, and 6.7 six or seven years before his peak seems to stand a decent chance.

April 4, 2006 | Permalink


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HALLOWED RECORDS....Matt Yglesias sez:On SportsCenter just now they're talking about Barry Bonds on the career home runs list and calling Hank Aaron's record "the most hallowed record in all of sports." Most hallowed according to who? No doubt there's ... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 4, 2006 10:21:10 PM


If Bonds plays only one year, I think the money is that he won't break Aaron's record.

And anyway, 61 was pretty clearly the most hallowed record in all of baseball, and I'm pretty sure 56 may be next after it.

I was going to say Oscar Robertson's was pretty unbreakable. A lot of Jerry Rice's records are probably unbreakable too.

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot | Apr 4, 2006 12:33:58 AM

It's certainly true that SportsCenter announcers have a lower threshold for rigor than, say, mathematicians attempting to prove a theorem. However, almost every "hallowed record" in sports is a baseball record. That's the nature of things; a lot of baseball lore is numbers. This is simply not true in the NBA or the NFL.

Posted by: Barbar | Apr 4, 2006 12:36:58 AM


Posted by: Homer | Apr 4, 2006 12:40:07 AM

Baseball has always been the most statistic-intensive sport, because other than arguing about 40-year-old batting streaks what the hell else are you going to do between pitching changes, invasive crotch-scrathching, and thirteen-minute at-bats? I don't think there's any soccer stat comparable to baseball, because there simply aren't enough goals in soccer to get the mathematically-inclinded fired up. So far as hallowed records go, Aaron's record is pretty goddam hallowed.

Posted by: Mean Gene | Apr 4, 2006 12:40:56 AM

Baseball players peak at 27, or probably a little later nowadays due to better conditioning and better surgery.

It's hard to say when basketball players peak, but it's certainly earlier than baseball on average. Pro basketball is unusual in that you can have players be the MVP in their rookie year, like Wes Unseld, although that's unlikely these days with players leaving college early. Typically, players have their best years in terms of rebounds, steals, and blocked shots very early in their careers, often the first season as a starter, while shooting percentage peaks comes a few years later, and peak years for assists and free throw shooting percentage often come in the second half of the career.

Posted by: Steve Sailer | Apr 4, 2006 1:05:01 AM

Joe Dimaggio's 56 game streak ranks right up there with Wilt's 100 as something that will never be beaten. The reasons are different though.

Nobody will ever get to 100 in the NBA not because today's players are incapable of it (LeBron, Kobe, maybe Wade), but because today's NBA defenses are too good.

Dimaggio's record will never be broken because it was just a super-human effort; an extreme statistical outlier. I've watched the best hope for beating that streak here in Seattle for the last few years (Ichiro). He's an amazing hitter, but he'll never hit in 56 straight games.

Posted by: stand | Apr 4, 2006 1:15:32 AM

If you are looking for unbreakable career records across all sports, Australian cricket player Don Bradman's career in the first half of the last century is in a class by itself.

As for the "most hallowed" American record, currently it's certainly Dimaggio's 56 game hitting streak in 1941. This partly reflects the over-representation of New Yorkers among writers. (Stephen Jay Gould, for example, who was born in New York in 1941, used to yammer on endlessly about it.)

It's kind of a dopey record, since it mostly reflects pointless luck at stringing together a lot of games with one hit. Dimaggio batted .408 during his 1941 hitting streak, which is impressive, but much, much less impressive than Ted Williams batting .406 for the entire 1941 season. Over those 56 games, Dimaggio hit 15 homers and drove in 55 runs, which equates to about a .408-41-148 full season, which is real good, but hardly better than Joe's own 1937 season of .346-46-167.

On the other hand, as overrated as the 56 game hitting streak is, Dimaggio was a great, great ballplayer, yet his career statistics (361 career homers, .325 batting average) don't really reflect how good he was because he had a lot of bad luck. He came up a couple of years after he was mature enough to play big league ball because his minor league team wanted to hold onto him, he missed three prime years due to the War, and he suffered a lot of post war injuries and retired early at 37. So, I don't mind all the hoopla over his 56 game hitting streak because it gives a peg to celebrate Dimaggio.

Posted by: Steve Sailer | Apr 4, 2006 1:22:43 AM

sports analysts aren't exactly the brightest.

But how can you say that Wilt record won't be broken,
when Kobe was so close?

Posted by: cedichou | Apr 4, 2006 2:06:38 AM

Bonds needs 48 to break Aarons record, and 6 to beat Ruth's. If Bonds is healthy all season long, he can break 48. Chances are that he'll break 6 homeruns, and re-injure his knee. This is the post-steroid era, hitting even 30 homeruns will get someone the label of a homerun hitter. I would say that I don't think he can do it, but pitchers will pitch to him this season, so he does have a chance.

Posted by: MaddenDude | Apr 4, 2006 2:26:10 AM

The only way I can see wilts record broken is in overtime. What if the kobe game went overtime for 2 quarters, he could've easily gotten 100.

The streak that will never be broken is Cal Ripken Jrs streak! He played 16 straight seasons! No one will ever do that again. He twisted his knee and still played.

I believe Dimaggios streak can be broken. Players get 3-5 At-bats a game, usually. Lets say they get one hit, thats essentially batting .250, which isn't great. So being consistantly mediocre is what someone needs to break the record. Its bound to happen.

Posted by: MaddenDude | Apr 4, 2006 2:37:04 AM

If you're a .250 hitter, the odds of going 1/4 every single day are not good.

755 was probably more hallowed than 61, and will probably be more amazing than ever when Barry retires before breaking it ("he roided up and still couldn't catch Aaron...").

.406 is pretty well known, I'm more than a casual fan but hardly as nuts as some. And DiMaggio gave up some great years of his life but so did Ted Williams. War does crazy things.

Pro basketball was just a sideshow when Wilt's 100 went down, partly why it's not as revered. Maybe not as ignored as hockey is right now, but pretty close.

Posted by: dbt | Apr 4, 2006 4:04:27 AM

also, who gives a fuckall what sportscenter says? They're the common clay of the new west*.

* (you know... morons)

Posted by: dbt | Apr 4, 2006 4:14:23 AM

The basebal records that really won't be broken are Cy Young's: 511 wins, 7354 innings, 749 complete games. Roger Clemens' career numbers are about as good as a modern player is likely to get, and he's only got 2/3 the wins, 2/3 the innings, and less than a sixth as many complete games.

Posted by: Tom Scudder | Apr 4, 2006 6:19:30 AM

And just look at all the hate that Aaron dealt with in breaking Ruth's record. Plenty of people suggesting he should retire before surpassing that hallowed, white man's achievement.

TS is right above about pitching records; the early modern approach to pitching is so different from the contemporary approach that no one is even going to come close. Speaking of Ripken, is there anyone active right now in MLB who has even racked up two or three years of never missing a game?

Posted by: Doug | Apr 4, 2006 6:39:07 AM

If we're talking about career records, and just sticking to American sports, then Aaron's 755 is certainly more "hallowed" than anything else. Basketball and football don't have career records that are anywhere near as well known as that one, although Chamberlain's 100-point game is pretty clearly the most "hallowed" single-game record in American sports.

Posted by: Haggai | Apr 4, 2006 9:33:40 AM

DiMaggio's streak is actually vulnerable right now, due to a rather unusual situation: Philadelphia shortstop Jimmy Rollins ended the 2005 season with a 36-game hitting streak. So to match DiMaggio, he just needs to hit in his first 20 games of 2006. He got his first hit yesterday, so 19 to go.

Posted by: Tom Strong | Apr 4, 2006 9:51:55 AM

The 100 point game may go but...in 61-62 Wilt averaged 48.5 minutes per game. He missed six minutes of an entire eighty game season including overtimes. That one is usually safe by about the third game of an NBA season. He wasn't taking it easy either since he led the league in scoring.

Posted by: QuietStorm | Apr 4, 2006 10:29:42 AM

But how can you say that Wilt record won't be broken, when Kobe was so close?

I can say it because despite the unbelievable awesomeness of Kobe's achievement he wasn't, in fact, all that close -- 19 points is a lot of points. That he pulled it off was totally freakish -- bizarre, incredible, astounding -- and still quite a bit wide of the mark.

Posted by: Matthew Yglesias | Apr 4, 2006 10:52:43 AM

On the larger point, MY is, of course, correct: basketball is a sport, baseball is a game.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Apr 4, 2006 10:52:44 AM

Yep, I could see the 100-point game being surpassed by Kobe.

Posted by: Al | Apr 4, 2006 10:55:25 AM

Just to add to the above - why couldn't a Lakers-Suns game feature a 100-point performance by Kobe? Yeah, defenses are better these days, but not always, and the Suns like to run and play a quick tempo. It's not out of the realm of possibility in the way that, say, Ripken's streak or Cy Young's records are.

Posted by: Al | Apr 4, 2006 10:58:22 AM

I don't think Kobe or anyone else can get to 100 anymore. If anyone really started getting close, like 75-80 points after 3 quarters, the other team would almost certainly force him to give the ball up as often as possible. They would focus all their efforts on not letting someone drop 100 on them. Of course, the Raptors didn't display too much pride when they let Kobe get 81, but I think they would have adjusted if he had been pushing 100.

Posted by: Haggai | Apr 4, 2006 10:59:49 AM

Doug, Tejada has a streak of about 920 games right now, if I'm not mistaken.

Posted by: Barbar | Apr 4, 2006 11:02:32 AM

Sports records are actually a VERY young entity and people are always saying that they're unbreakable. Here's some examples from baseball:

Babe Ruth's 60 homers in the 1927 season. (And then Maris's 61, which stood even longer.)
Babe Ruth's 714 career homers.
Ty Cobb's career hits record (4000-something).
and (funny enough for the people mentioning Ripken) particularly Lou Gehrig's streak of 2130 consecutive games played.

All of these records were touted - fairly recently - as extremely hallowed unbreakable things, even though they only stood for fairly short periods of time. Then when they were broken, people got to feel like they were part of a historical happening.

Even DiMaggio's 56 may go eventually.

The records that actually ARE unbreakable are the ones that no one talks about because players in this era just don't rack up those kinds of stats anymore. As someone else mentioned, Cy Young's 511 wins. Ty Cobb's .367 lifetime batting average is also in that category.

Sportswriters like to claim that records that are actually VERY breakable are hallowed - because then they'll have the "hallowed" honor of writing about their fall.

Posted by: Mark | Apr 4, 2006 11:32:33 AM

Many people made this point at the time but Kobe's scoring 81 points in today's 90 possession per game NBA is as impressive , if not moreso, than Wilt dropping 100 in the 120 to 130 possession per game NBA of the early 60's.

Posted by: QuietStorm | Apr 4, 2006 11:35:01 AM

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