It's time to revise the list of the greatest records in sports
Sports records just ain't what they used to be. Ten years ago a
list of the most hallowed marks would have included such names as
Maris, Gehrig and Beamon. Today those three have been supplanted
by McGwire, Ripken and Powell--and Marino may be the next to go.
Rams quarterback Kurt Warner is on pace to break several of the
NFL's most significant passing records, including Dan Marino's
seemingly unreachable 5,084 yards in a season. So what does that
leave as the most remarkable marks? Here are our choices, in
order of greatness, for the absolutely, positively most
unbreakable individual records of the last 60 years.
1. Wilt Chamberlain's 100 points in a game (1962). Even after all
this time, the total still seems absurd. Michael Jordan at his
best scored 69, and as we're constantly reminded, it will be a
long time before we see another MJ. No player dominates the game
physically the way Wilt did. These days tighter defenses and a
slower tempo keep most teams from scoring 100.
2. Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak (1941). Given the
pathetic state of pitching, you'd think someone would have
mounted a threat to baseball's most revered mark. However, the
longest streak in the last decade was 31 by Vladimir Guerrero in
1999, and in 59 years the closest anyone has come to DiMaggio is
Pete Rose (44 in 1978). Short of baseball's legalizing metal bats
or expanding by another dozen teams, no one's going to touch the
October 22, 2000
3. Wayne Gretzky's 2,857 career points (1979-99). How great is
the Great One's record? Consider that Gordie Howe is second with
1,850 points, and Howe played for 26 seasons. The leading active
player is Mark Messier, 39, with 1,719. Some of Gretzky's other
marks could fall--Brett Hull got within shouting distance of
Gretzky's 92-goal season a few years ago--but his staggering point
total will stand forever.
4. Rickey Henderson's 1,370 career steals (1979-present). As
records go, this is a largely overlooked one, but it appears more
out of reach each year. As managers wait for the three-run bomb
rather than manufacture offense, steal totals decline. Only two
other active players, Barry Bonds with 471 and Kenny Lofton with
463, are even in the top 50 in career thefts. Bonds would have to
average 90 swipes for the next 10 seasons to pass Henderson.
5. Byron Nelson's 11 straight PGA Tour victories (1945). Tiger
Woods created a stir earlier this year after putting together a
six-win streak. That shows you how astonishing 11 in a row is.
Nelson achieved his mark against fields thinned by the war, and
although we'd be the last to bet against Tiger in anything,
unless half the Tour pros are suddenly called into military
service, even Woods isn't going to pass Lord Byron.
Five Records That Are More Fragile Than You Think
Walter Payton, 275 rushing yards in a game, 1977. Just last week
two players rushed for 200-plus. Payton's mark isn't far off.
Hack Wilson, 191 RBIs in a season, 1930. Several players,
including Juan Gonzalez in 1998, have threatened to break it in
recent years. Someone will.
Walter Payton, 16,726 career rushing yards, 1975-87. Emmitt Smith
(14,358 yards) should pass Sweetness in 2002.
Hank Aaron, 755 career home runs, 1954-76. If Mark McGwire (554)
doesn't pass Aaron, Ken Griffey Jr. (438) will.
Norm Van Brocklin, 554 passing yards in a game, 1951. This one's
at risk every time Kurt Warner takes the field.
WOMAN PLACEKICKER'S LAWSUIT
BLUE DEVIL OF A TIME
Last week, after deliberating for a little more than two hours, a
jury of five women and three men awarded $2 million in punitive
damages to Heather Sue Mercer, the placekicker who sued Duke
University for sex discrimination. Former Duke coach Fred
Goldsmith viewed that verdict as punishment for a good deed. "It
was my choice to let her be there," he said of giving Mercer a
chance to play. "I was a nice guy, and I got stabbed in the
If so, Goldsmith may have been the one to unsheath the knife.
Mercer, the starting kicker on the Yorktown Heights (N.Y.) High
team that won the 1993 state championship, had an unsuccessful
tryout for the Blue Devils as a freshman in the fall of 1994. The
following spring she received nationwide attention when she
kicked the winning field goal in Duke's intrasquad game.
Goldsmith then announced to the media that she had made the team.
The jury's verdict suggests that the subsequent treatment of
Mercer could fill a primer on how not to deal with female players
in the Title IX era. For instance, don't:
--tell the player, as Mercer alleges Goldsmith did, that she
should give up "little boys' sports" and try beauty pageants or
cheerleading instead. (Goldsmith testified that he couldn't
recall using those terms.)
--tell reporters that the player is pretty and looks like Molly
--make the female player the first one you've cut in your tenure
as head coach, while keeping at least one other (male) walk-on
kicker who was arguably not as accomplished.
--ban the player from the sideline as a "distraction" and tell
her, as Mercer alleges, that she should watch the games from the
stands with her boyfriend.
Mercer, who graduated from Duke in 1998 and is now a securities
trader at Charles Schwab in New York City, says she'll use
whatever money she receives from the school (Duke is appealing
the verdict) to fund scholarships for female kickers. It might be
hard to find recipients. An appeals court ruled that only when
Duke allowed Mercer to try out did Title IX's prohibitions
against sex discrimination kick in--football, as a contact sport,
is normally exempt. What other coaches may take from Mercer's
victory is the biggest don't of all: Don't let women play in the
During the playoffs we've watched Roger Clemens dominate with his
splitter and Al Leiter set hitters down with a cutter. As diehard
fans we're clear on the difference between the two pitches,
right? Maybe not. Even hardball junkies get confused when
discussing the modern pitcher's repertoire. Here's a quick primer
on four of the most popular pitches of the day, all variants of
that staple, the fastball.
The forkball's cousin. Gripped with the index and middle fingers
jammed outside the seams, and thrown over the top. The result is
a fastball delivery but with slower velocity; to a batter the
pitch falls off the table. Popularized in the 1980s by Giants
manager Roger Craig. Current expert: Clemens.
Gripped with middle finger on one of the seams and the index
finger on the seam's inside. Often conflated with the slider. A
good cut fastball should break side-to-side more than a slider,
which moves down and away. Came into vogue in the mid-1990s.
Andy Pettitte is a modern master.
Most common fastball, it moves down like a sinker to produce a
groundball out. Same grip as the cutter but held closer to the
center of the ball. "It's the pitch of the millennium," says Red
Sox pitching coach Joe Kerrigan. "Most successful pitchers throw
Also known as a cross-seam fastball, it's gripped across the
seams, which gives the pitch maximum rotation and velocity. The
two-seamer spins so the red of the seams shows; the four-seamer
spins white, which is harder for batters to pick up. Pedro
Martinez's rising fastball is a four-seamer.
Q What are those garish ribbons being worn by the Fox
sportscasting crew during baseball's postseason?
A Having trouble keeping your charity emblems straight? The
ribbons donned by Joe Buck, Steve Lyons (left), Tim McCarver and
Keith Olbermann are to show support for autism awareness. Last
year Fox's NFL broadcasters began sporting the ribbons on air in
support of Fox NFL director Artie Kempner, who has an autistic
son and serves as the president of the Autism Society of
Delaware. This year the network's baseball crew decided to
surprise Kempner and also wear the pins. "I had no idea they
were going to do that," says Kempner, who was at home when he
first saw the ribbons on the announcers. As for the symbols'
flashiness, the multihued pattern is a jigsaw puzzle, which,
according to the Autism Society of Delaware's website, "reflects
the complexity of autism, [while] the brightness of the ribbon
--By Little League Baseball International, a softball division
for boys aged five to 18, in part "to protect the integrity" of
girls' softball. There was an uproar at this year's softball
championships when a team using five boys won the age 14-16
title. Between 500 and 1,000 of the 392,000 Little League
softball players in 2000 were boys.
--By U.S. gold medal swimmer Misty Hyman, a $16,000 offer to
appear on Wheaties boxes, in addition to other commercial offers.
The Stanford senior prefers to retain her college eligibility.
--A French TV crew, from the Swisscom Challenge in Zurich after
tournament organizers determined that the crew was harassing
--University of Minnesota running back Tellis Redmon, for
driving with a revoked license. He was pulled over when police
saw a television playing inside his 1999 Honda Accord. Redmon,
who says his brother installed two rear-facing TVs in the car's
headrests, insists he wasn't watching while at the wheel. In
July he was cited for having a television visible to the driver.
--Ballroom dancers, over a comment made on NBC's broadcast of the
Sydney closing ceremonies. During the gala's dance-sport segment,
Bob Costas made a remark about Rita Moreno pulling a hamstring.
More than 500 complaints have been posted on dancescape.com since
then. Says site founder Robert Tang, "That's all the ballroom
dancing community has been talking about."
Open Field Runners
Former Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne and longtime NFL tight
end Russ Francis--Republican candidates for Congress from Nebraska
and Hawaii, respectively--are the latest in a long line of sports
figures to throw their hats in the political ring. Who's next?
Here's a look at a few potential candidates.
Greg Anthony. Trail Blazers guard, former vice chair of the
Nevada Young Republicans, counts Jack Kemp and Bill Bradley as
political role models. Says he's interested in economic
empowerment and race issues. When President Clinton visited the
Sonics while Anthony played for Seattle, Anthony drew cheers from
teammates by lobbying for a capital gains tax cut.
Josh Davis. Co-captain of this year's U.S. Olympic swim team says
he often envisions a political career. Outspoken Christian
conservative who advocates sexual abstinence outside marriage is
a polished and much sought-after speaker. Cites Republican
congressman and NFL Hall of Famer Steve Largent as his political
John Elway. The most popular person in Colorado spoke to state
Republicans about congressional run this year but opted to pursue
business ventures instead. Some are calling the congressional
seat Colorado will gain as a result of the 2000 census the Elway
Michael Jordan. Eschewed politics during his playing days but
actively campaigned for Bradley this year. Gaining executive
experience in Washington with NBA's Wizards. Asked by Tim Russert
on Meet the Press about a possible run for office, replied, "I
can never say never."
Steve Young. Recently retired quarterback turned down Republican
entreaties this year but may consider run for Senate seat from
Utah in 2004. San Francisco Republicans also believe former Niner
would have crossover appeal in the mostly Democratic Bay Area.
Delivered invocation at this year's Republican National
Convention. Jay Leno on Young's political affiliation: "Doctors
said that with one more concussion, he could end up a Reform
Ah, autumn, when the air is filled with falling leaves and
wedding news. The latest buzz is that Kobe Bryant will soon
marry his 18-year-old fiancee, Vanessa Laine (below, with
Bryant). Bryant, who proposed last May, gave Laine a seven-carat
diamond engagement ring worth more than $100,000. One coupling
that has already come off is the marriage of former major league
outfielder Otis Nixon to 1980s R&B sensation Pebbles (who now
goes by her real name, Perri Reid). The two were wed this month
at the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island in the Bahamas. Matron
of honor Whitney Houston sang His Eye is on the Sparrow during
the alcohol-free festivities. (The deeply religious couple
banned liquor at the celebration.)...
What is it about Jets quarterbacks and Broadway? Producer Pierre
Cossette, who is in the midst of preparing a musical on the life
of Jesse Ventura, has offered Boomer Esiason the lead role.
Never mind that Esiason isn't exactly Robert Preston; Cossette
is prepared to bring in voice coaches to work with the QB....
Sony's upcoming biopic on Muhammad Ali has suffered a TKO. The
heavily anticipated Ali, which was to star Will Smith and be
directed by Michael Mann (The Insider), was put on hold by the
studio last week because of its hefty budget, reportedly in the
neighborhood of $100 million. To prepare, Smith had put on 20
pounds of muscle and worked out with Ali....
Former NFL defensive tackle Steve Emtman and R&B legend Ike
Turner were the biggest names among the crowd of 500 at the Oct.
12 release party of Oscar De La Hoya's eponymous CD at
Hollywood's Sunset Room. But don't let the low-wattage turnout
fool you: De La Hoya is a singing success. His single Ven a Mi
(Run to Me) debuted at No. 3 on the Latin charts. "It's
incredible," said De La Hoya. "This has always been my passion.
Boxing isn't going to last forever. I'm 27, and boxing will last
a couple more years. I can sing until I'm 70."
Height and weight of Reny Nunes, a senior two-way lineman for
Roselle Park (N.J.) High.
Amount the city of San Diego budgeted this year to buy unused
Chargers tickets and guarantee the team per-game sales of 60,000,
a fund that is completely used up with five home games remaining.
Position of the Division I-AA Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens (7-0)
in this week's Sagarin college football rankings, ahead of
Alabama, Texas, Tennessee and Southern Cal.
Length of the 2000 American League Championship Series' Game 1,
which featured two runs, 11 hits and six pitching changes.
Length of the 1960 World Series' Game 7 (page 66), which had 19
runs, 24 hits and seven pitching changes.
This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse
Women's Olympic marathon champion Naoko Takahashi of Japan
revealed that she boosts her stamina for races by drinking the
stomach juices of three-inch-long killer hornets that can travel
60 miles in a day at speeds of up to 20 mph.
They Said It
Former St. Louis Blue, now the team's director of professional
scouting: "We had concussions when we played, too--only we
called them hangovers."