25 years later, Rickey Henderson and Nolan Ryan's big milestones are still probably untouchable
On May 1, 1991, two of the most gifted individuals to play the game did things that probably won't be done again.
A's outfielder Rickey Henderson, already a big name with an accomplished resume of Hall of Fame-caliber accomplishments, cemented his place in the record books by stealing the 939th stolen base of his career in the fourth inning of Oakland's contest with the Yankees. The feat surpassed Lou Brock and prompted Rickey to exclaim, as only Rickey could, that, "I am the greatest of all time."
Here's a look back on the moment, with the call from the game coming from the late, great A's play-by-play man Bill King:
Meanwhile, over in Texas, 44-year-old Nolan Ryan did the unthinkable and threw his SEVENTH no-hitter, this one coming at the expense of the Blue Jays. It was a truly remarkable pitching performance, considering Ryan had thrown 131 pitches in his previous outing. It was a testament to his feisty demeanor and undying intensity on the mound -- even given the physical rigors of throwing high-velocity fastballs at 44 years of age:
Twenty-five years later, will either of these feats be eclipsed by any player in today's game, or any players to emerge in the future?
Neither seems particularly realistic, given the state of the game today. Henderson, for example, was on another level. He finished his career with 1,406 stolen bases, almost 500 more than Brock (who finished with 938).
As for active players with high stolen base totals, they're still a far cry from Henderson range: Ichiro Suzuki has 500 (but won't play long enough to come close to 1,406). What's more, players today just don't steal at the rate Rickey did. He had three seasons with more than 100 stolen bases (100 in 1980, 130 in 182 and 108 in 1983), whereas the most a player has accumulated in a single year since 2011 is Dee Gordon, who had 64 in 2014.
Billy Hamilton has turned heads with his blazingly fast speed the past few seasons, but he still has more than 1,000 to go if he wants to reach Rickey.
Ryan's penchant for collecting no-hitters regardless of age or physical limitations is also something that seems unreachable for today's standards. For one, pitchers often have their innings limited and carefully monitored as arm fatigue and injuries are of great concern by clubs around the league. Based on that alone, the complete game is elusive these days.
Cubs ace Jake Arrieta just threw his second no-no in two seasons, but will he get five more? Tim Lincecum, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander each have two in their careers as well. Ryan, though, pitched at a level the game hadn't seen before and probably won't see again.
Pitching for 27 seasons is already pretty unfathomable, as is racking up 5,386 innings of work on the mound. Still, the game does get some next-level talents every now and then (see Trout, Mike for reference) and loves to do things nobody expects, so we'll have to wait and see.
Of these two long-standing records, which do you see being broken first?