Sports' Magic Numbers
Roger Maris hit his 61st home run on the final day of the 1961 season, breaking Babe Ruth's single-season home run record of 60 that had stood since 1927. Ruth achieved the feat in a 154-game season, compared to Maris' 162-game season, causing the league to add an asterisk to Maris' mark in the record book. Mark McGwire broke Maris' mark in 1998, and Barry Bonds currently holds the record with 73 homers in a season.
Wilt Chamberlain holds many NBA records, but on March 2, 1962, he achieved his greatest feat by scoring 100 points against the Knicks in a 169-147 victory. A crowd of only 4,124 in Hershey, Pa., witnessed the incredible event. Chamberlain went on to average an NBA-record 50.4 points a game that season.
The Dolphins were 14-0 during the 1972 regular season and stormed through the playoffs to become the only undefeated team in pro football's modern era. Many teams have come close, including the Colts in 2005. Indy won its first 13 games last year but finished the season 14-2.
The Great One shattered Phil Esposito's single-season record of 76 goals in 1981-82. Gretzky scored an NHL-record 894 goals, to go along with 2,857 points, in his unprecedented career.
In the summer of 1941 the Yankees center fielder hit safely in 56 consecutive games, a mark that no one has ever come close to breaking. Pete Rose's 44-game streak in 1978 was the most serious challenge since Joltin' Joe achieved the feat.
Ruth's all-time major league record for home runs stood from 1935 to 1974, when Hank Aaron passed him. Ruth's legacy remains a huge part of baseball lore, and 714 still looms as one of the great statistical feats in sports history.
Smith became the Dean of college basketball coaches in 1997, when he passed Adolph Rupp with his 877th career victory in North Carolina's defeat of Colorado in the NCAA tournament. Smith led the Tar Heels to a pair of national titles and was revered for his innovative approach to the game. He may not hold the record for long, however, as Bob Knight is on his heels with 869 wins.
The magnificent Triple Crown winner won by an unthinkable margin in the 1973 race, finishing 31 lengths ahead of his closest competitor on the 11/2-mile track. Secretariat crossed the finish line in two minutes and 24 seconds, setting a world record for that distance.
Williams entered the last day of the 1941 season with a .3995 average -- a mark that would have been rounded up to .400 if he had sat out the final game. Instead, Williams went 6-for-8 to increase his average to .406, the last time a hitter eclipsed the .400 mark for a season. The most serious threats were George Brett in 1980 (.390) and Tony Gwynn in a strike-shortened 1994 season (.394).
The Bears laid this historic beating on the Redskins in the 1940 NFL Championship Game. Using the famous T-formation, Chicago ran roughshod over the hapless `Skins to win the title. More than 36,000 witnessed the game at Griffith Stadium in Washington, setting a gate record at the time for the league.
Aaron broke Babe Ruth's record of 714 home runs on April 8, 1974, and went on to hit 40 more homers in his illustrious career. Aaron received racist threats from people who didn't want to see a black man break the most important record in baseball, but he performed with grace under intense pressure as he chased the record.
Late in the 1995 season, Ripken became baseball's iron man when he passed Lou Gehrig for consecutive games played, before a standing-room-only crowd at Baltimore's Camden Yards. Ripken redefined the shortstop position and didn't miss a game in more than 15 years before his streak ended at 2,632.
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The 22-year-old Beamon barely qualified for the long jump finals at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, but once he got there, he set a record that stood until Mike Powell of the U.S. jumped 29 feet, 4 1/2 inches in 1991.
In an era in which 300 career victories is the benchmark for a Hall of Fame pitcher, Young is in a league of his own. Even more impressive, Young pitched 751 complete games. Considering that it would take 20 25-win seasons to reach 500 victories, it's safe to say that Young's mark won't be broken.
John Wooden's Bruins were virtually unbeatable during the 1960s and `70s. From 1971 to 1974, the Bruins won 88 straight games, a record that has not even been challenged. Wooden also led UCLA to seven straight national titles from 1967 through 1973.
No one thought anyone would ever catch Ty Cobb's record of 4,191 career hits, but Rose finally did on Sept. 11, 1985, while in his second tour with the Reds. Rose's career spanned from 1963 to 1986, and he ended his career with 4,256 hits -- a record that should stand for a very long time.
From Sept.1977 through May 1987, no one could beat the 400-meter hurdler. He won gold at the 1976 and 1984 Olympics (the U.S. boycotted the 1980 Games) and set the world record four times.
From 1999 through 2005, Armstrong was not only the best cyclist in the world, he was untouchable. After beating cancer, Armstrong blew past the field year after year, becoming the only rider ever to win seven Tours.
Nicklaus won six Masters, five PGA Championships, four U.S. Opens and three British Opens for a total of 18 Grand Slam titles. That's more than Ben Hogan and Arnold Palmer combined. With 10 Grand Slam wins under his belt, Tiger Woods still has a ways to go to catch the Golden Bear.
The Mets entered their inaugural season with high hopes under manager Casey Stengel, but they just couldn't win. Their 120 loses were the most in the 20th century. (In 1899, the Cleveland Spiders finished 20-134.) The Mets, however, wouldn't stay down long: They won the World Series in 1969.
With Michael Jordan leading the way, the 1995-96 Bulls became the first NBA team to win 70 games in a season. The previous record was 69, held by the '71-72 Lakers. Right before the season, the Bulls had signed controversial power forward Dennis Rodman, who became a major contributor as Chicago went on to win the NBA title that season.
Other running backs have eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark since Simpson, but in 1973 the Bills star became the first to do it and the only one to achieve the feat in a 14-game NFL season. The Juice ran for 419 yards in the final two games.
In American sports, the year 1980 means one thing: the Miracle on Ice. The U.S. Olympic hockey team shocked the world by defeating the world's best competition, including the Russians, to take the gold medal. The victory is now synonymous with underdogs beating long odds and is certainly one of United States' most important Olympic achievements.
Ryan threw his first no-hitter on May 15, 1973, and his record seventh on May 1, 1991. The Ryan Express is the only pitcher to throw no-hitters for three teams and is Major League Baseball's all-time strikeout leader.
With a roster filled with future Hall of Famers, the Lakers won 33 straight en route to a 69-13 record and the NBA Championship in 1971-72. Gail Goodrich (25.9 ppg) and Jerry West (25.8) led the scoring, while Wilt Chamberlain, at the tail end of his career, provided a defensive presence in the middle. The 69 wins stood as a record until the Bulls won 72 in 1995-96.
Dempsey set the NFL record from 63 yards out with seconds left in the Saints' 19-17 win over the Lions in 1970. Jason Elam tied the record in 1998, although many people think the thin air in Denver helped Elam's kick.