On September 6th 1995, twenty five years ago, Cal Ripken JR. broke Lou Gehrig’s 56-year old record, when he played in 2,131 consecutive games. He would eventually end his streak at 2,632 games. If you think you will see that record broken, well, don’t hold your breath. The baseball man who signed Ripken in 1978 was my former boss, Tom “T-bone” Giordano. He always told me, “Cal just wanted to play everyday and he did. Nothing would keep him out of a game. Not a blister or a sore body, nothing.” He had to stay injury free but more than that, like Gehrig, he had to produce.
Are all records are meant to be broken? I believe that theory is a thing of the past. I feel that records like Ripken’s will never be broken. Like Cy Young’s 511 wins, Nolan Ryan’s 5,714 career strikeouts as well as his seven career no-hitters, Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, Walter Johnson’s 110 shutouts, or Ty Cobb’s .367 career batting average.
There are a few more records and yearly achievements of note but if you noticed, all of those records happened many years ago. Some before any of us were born. The closest to 2020 was Ripken 25 years ago. Will we ever see any of those records broken? I can’t see that happening. Even if you are 11 years old and can comprehend any of these feats, you may never see it happen.
Ted Williams, who hit .406 in 1941 was the last to do that almost 80 years ago. Today with the way batters work on their launch angles and swing for the fences on every at bat, we will soon see a batting champ who hits under .300.
The reason these records will stand is that the game has changed so much over the past 25 years. The changes, like how many innings a pitcher is allowed to throw in a game, makes some of these records very hard to break. The five man pitching rotations used by many teams, will make it more difficult to get to 300 wins, let alone 511. Pitch counts have all but eliminated a 9-inning complete game and what’s a shutout?
Seven no hitters by one pitcher or getting more than 16 strikeouts in a game is just about impossible when they only average 6.2 innings as starters. You wonder if these guys can go more than 6.2 innings without calling for the paramedics to help them off of the field.
Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak should be next to impossible because a hitter sees as many as four different pitchers in a game. Ripken’s record is safe because today’s players get more days off than Washington politicians.
Next year it will be 35 years since the Mets last won the World Series. Yet many of us can remember it like it was yesterday. “The ball gets by Buckner, the Mets win, the Mets win!!” As fans we don’t just watch games and forget them. We cherish the past years that gave us so many amazing thrills. Records are a big part of those memories and being there when one of them is broken, gives us the joy of being able to say, “I was at that game when it happened. I saw that.”