Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The 10 greatest individual streaks in sports

Tiger Woods made news this past week, when he failed to make the cut at the Byron Nelson Championship, breaking a streak that extended to 142 tournaments over seven years.

No other golfer has ever made the cut for as many as 114 tournaments in a row, which means Woods' streak is nearly 30 percent more than the second-place mark (Nelson's 113 cuts is second, Jack Nicklaus' 105 is third).
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Sports' top streaks

So how does Woods' record stack up against the greatest individual streaks in all sports? Here's a look at the top 10 sports streaks of all time.

1. Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak
This might actually be the second greatest individual feat for the great DiMaggio, who once remained married to actress Marilyn Monroe for 274 consecutive days. But here are some facts about his 1941 hitting streak: In the 56 games (and 223 at-bats), DiMaggio struck out just seven times; and he had 91 hits (56 singles, 16 doubles, 4 triples, and 15 home runs). It's been 64 years, and no one has seriously challenged the record. Pete Rose hit in 44 straight games in 1978.

2. Johnny Unitas' 47 consecutive games with a touchdown pass
From 1956-1960, Johnny U. threw a touchdown pass in 47 consecutive games. No one has come close in 45 years. Dan Marino, Brett Favre, Joe Montana, and anyone else you can name never even had a streak of more than 36 games. This is the most underappreciated record in sports.

Edwin Moses didn't lose a race for almost 10 years. ( / Associated Press)

3. Edwin Moses' 122 consecutive victories in 400-meter high hurdles
On August 26, 1977, Edwin Moses lost a race to Harold Schmid in Berlin. One week later, Moses defeated Schmid by 15 yards to win his first of 122 consecutive races in the 400m high hurdles. During the streak, Moses posted the nine fastest times ever recorded in the event. The streak lasted nine years, nine months, and nine days. It ended on June 4, 1987 when he lost to American Danny Harris. This streak boggles the mind.

4. Wilt Chamberlain's 45 complete games in a row
Between Jan. 5 and March 14, 1962, Wilt Chamberlain played every minute of 45 consecutive NBA games. There is nothing even remotely close to this in the history of the league. Today, if a player plays 48 minutes in one game, it's news. It's remarkable when a player averages 40 minutes per game. In fact, there's not a single NBA player in the league today who has played in 45 complete games in his career. Chamberlain (who had 79 complete games that season) set many records, but this might be the most impressive.

5. Brett Favre's 225 consecutive starts at quarterback
Will Baltimore fans be happy with this list, because Unitas' streak is listed so high; or will they be upset that the Packers quarterback's consecutive start streak is ahead of Cal Ripken's consecutive game streak? I just feel the physical demands of playing quarterback outweigh the demands of playing baseball on a daily basis.

6. Greg Maddux's 15 or more wins for 17 consecutive seasons
This is a more impressive feat than Ripken's showing up and playing all those innings. This streak has everything to do with winning, and effectiveness. And it includes shortened seasons due to work stoppages (1994, '95).

7. Cal Ripken's 2,632 consecutive baseball games
The streak began on May 30, 1982, and lasted until Ripken pulled the plug on it in 1998 after 2,632 games. He played the first 904 games from start to finish, playing every single inning. He played 2,216 of the games at shortstop during the streak; and played at times with a sprained ankle (1985), twisted knee (1993), and broken nose (1996). I'm not sure Chamberlain or Favre ever hurt their teams by continuing to play, but Cal (and the O's) could have probably benefited from some time off at points during the streak.

While still impressive, there are bigger streaks than Cal Ripken's run of games played. ( / Associated Press)

8. Dale Long, Don Mattingly, Ken Griffey Jr. hitting home runs in eight consecutive games
This is a streak I can sink my teeth into and appreciate. It is similar to the DiMaggio and Unitas streaks, as opposed to the Tiger Woods streak of making the cut or Ripken's good attendance record. This must be difficult: Ruth, Bonds, Mays, Aaron, and Schmidt never did it. You only get four or five chances a game.

9. Kareem Abdul Jabbar's 1,000 or more points scored in 19 consecutive seasons
Karl Malone was the only player with a possibility of reaching Kareem. But Malone retired, ending a streak of 18 consecutive seasons. Is it possible that sometime in the future an NBA player will play for 20 years, without getting seriously injured? I suppose, but my guess is this record will remain forever.

10. (tie) Byron Nelson's 11 consecutive tournament wins in golf in 1945; Tiger Woods' 142 consecutive tournaments making the cut
Tiger was able to be off his game some of the time, and yet make the cut. It is harder to win 11 consecutive tournaments. Still, there are arguments that Nelson accomplished his feat in a weakened (due to World War II) year, and that several of the events that Nelson won were team events, and several of the 11 wins were part of a two-man team. They are both great feats.

Honorable mention

Wayne Gretzky's 51 consecutive games with at least one point. Just like the Tiger streak (where he didn't always play outstanding golf to make the cut), I'm not overly impressed by games when Gretzky (playing a ton of shifts) registered a single assist.

Rocky Marciano's 49 consecutive victories between 1947-1955 were also under consideration. But, there were a lot of bums that Marciano fought.

I gave consideration to Lance Armstrong's six consecutive Tour de France victories; but the previous record-holder, Miguel Indurain, completed his streak of five in a row not too much before Lance.

I'm a huge fan of Jerry Rice, but not so enamored of his 274 consecutive games with a reception. It's not like if he dropped a pass, he would have to wait for his turn in order to catch another one.

Orel Hershiser's 59 consecutive shutout innings in 1988 also got some thought.

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