Starkey: Unbreakable Pittsburgh records
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Some sports numbers are so ingrained in my cranium that I will be reciting them long after I'm dead.
• 715 (home runs) — Hank Aaron passes Babe Ruth.
• 56 (straight games) — Joe DiMaggio's still-standing hit streak.
• 2,003 (yards) — O.J. Simpson's since-broken rushing record.
• 2 (home runs) — My career total at Garnett Little League Field in Amherst, N.Y. (I'm guessing you weren't aware of that one).
Sadly, the advanced metrics and super-advanced pharmaceuticals of the day have rendered many milestones meaningless. Take Albert Pujols' 500th home run. It didn't exactly elicit a national celebration despite happening in our nation's capital last Tuesday (home-run markers stopped mattering to me when Brady Anderson hit 50 — two more than Willie Stargell ever had).
But numbers still have a certain allure. Records still matter. And that got me to thinking: Which Pittsburgh sports records are most unbreakable?
We have a pretty good idea of which numbers are most meaningful (aside from Dick Tarnstrom's Penguins-leading 52 points in 2003-04, of course). They would include …
• 303 (yards rushing) — Tony Dorsett against Notre Dame on Nov. 15, 1975.
• 199 (points) — Mario Lemieux's final tally in 1988-89, a figure that somehow seems cooler than 200.
• 3,000 (hits) — Roberto Clemente's eerily amazing career total.
Others spring to mind, including Rennie Stennett's seven hits (in seven at-bats, Sept. 16, 1975, at Wrigley Field), Dorsett's 6,082 career yards and Hines Ward's 1,000 catches.
Surely, some of the above never will be touched. Some aren't even team records. But back to the original question: Which are the most unbreakable records in Pittsburgh sports?
I came up with four records in each sport. That's a grand total of 12, matching the number of perfect innings Harvey Haddix threw May 26, 1959, at Milwaukee County Municipal Stadium.
Just to be clear: These will never, ever be broken.
• 35 single-season losses for (Don't Call Me Marc-Andre) Fleury Sullivan in 1884. Luckily for him, Pirates records didn't begin to be recognized until 1888, so we'll go with four home runs allowed by the great 1902 team — fewest in MLB history.
• 54 complete games for Ed Morris in 1888. He finished all but one of his starts and might've been in the running for the Cy Young Award, except that Cy Young hadn't yet pitched a major league game.
• 36 triples for Chief (no relation to Jack) Wilson in 1912. Nobody in team history has come within 12 of that number, a major league record. Starling Marte's 10 were considered a remarkable feat last season.
• 2 steals of home by Honus Wagner on June 20, 1901, against the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds.
• 3 ties for the 1963 Steelers. That was the first year they wore black helmets with the logo on one side and the last time you'll see this franchise have three ties unless the NFL does away with overtime.
• 11 Mel Blount interceptions in 1975. OK, the truly unbreakable interception number is Jack Butler making five in a game in 1953, and given the proliferation of passing, Blount's record could be broken. But no NFL player since Lester Hayes in 1980 has had 12 interceptions, and this really is just an excuse to point out that the Steelers AS A TEAM have not intercepted as many as 11 since 2010. Come on, Ike.
• 5 shutouts for the 1976 defense. They didn't win the Super Bowl, but no wonder Jack Lambert once told NFL Films: “I know that Art Rooney Sr. felt this way, too: The 1976 football team was the best team the Steelers ever had.”
• 7 interceptions thrown by Tommy Wade on Dec. 12, 1965, in a 47-13 loss to the Eagles at Pitt Stadium. If Tommy Maddox couldn't break it, nobody will.
• 113 points for a defenseman, Paul Coffey, in 1988-89. No NHL D-man has cracked 100 since Brian Leetch in 1991-92. The Penguins' best this millennium was Sergei Gonchar's 67.
• 409 penalty minutes for Paul Baxter in 1981-82. Baxter was so reviled that five opponents were suspended a total of 20 games for trying (and sometimes succeeding) to injure him. Chris Nilan, for example, split open Baxter's face by whipping a puck at him.
• 70 saves for Ron Tugnutt on May 4, 2000, in Game 4 against the Flyers. Of course, the shot Tugnutt won't forget is the one by Keith Primeau that beat him at 12:01 of period No. 8. Remarkably, it was the second 70-save game of Tugnutt's career. And he's the answer to this trivia question: Who was the Columbus Blue Jackets' first goalie?
• 66 Mario Lemieux's jersey number, because, really, there are too many mind-blowing numbers to pick just one. Which of his records is most unbreakable? I don't know, the 199 points, the 85 goals, the 114 assists, the five goals in five ways, the 49 career short-handed goals, including 13 in one season? The 40 hat tricks?
Yeah, the 40 hat tricks will do.
Joe Starkey co-hosts a show 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 93.7 FM. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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