The Major League Baseball season can be a long and grueling journey, even for players who've reached the pinnacle of the sport. It's six months of near-daily competition against the highest level of talent the game has to offer. Few players play the full 162-game slate each year, and even fewer take the field with the consistency and durability that the players atop MLB's consecutive games record book did.
A quarter century ago, Cal Ripken Jr. broke one of baseball's most unbreakable records, toppling Lou Gehrig's 2,130-game streak, which stood for 56 years, in 1995. Ripken went on to play 501 more games and set the record at a seemingly unreachable 2,632 games.
Sixteen years is long for a professional baseball career, and it'd take more than that to knock Ripken from the top of the following list. Below is a look at Ripken's streak and those of baseball's other most consistent iron men:
1. Cal Ripken Jr: 2,632 games
May 30, 1982 to Sept. 19, 1998
On Sept. 6, 1995, Ripken surpassed Gehrig as baseball's greatest iron man by playing in a record-breaking 2,131st consecutive game -- and he went 2-for-4 with a home run for good measure. Ripken's historic streak begin in his sophomore campaign, his first full MLB season, and stretched over 17 seasons of his 21-year Hall of Fame career. He earned Rookie of the Year honors, two American League Most Valuable Player Awards and 16 All-Star appearances in that span. Ripken himself quietly ended the streak, 501 games after breaking Gehrig's record, sitting out a late September game against the Yankees at Camden Yards in 1998.
• Cal Ripken’s Iron Man streak: Complete coverage
"It was time. Baseball has always been a team game," Ripken told reporters after the game. "I thought about it, talked to my wife and decided, 'Let's end it in the same place it started. In my home state. In front of friends and family. In front of the best fans in the world.'"
2. Lou Gehrig: 2,130 games
June 1, 1925 to April 30, 1939
The Iron Horse earned his nickname. Gehrig's streak, which once seemed unbreakable, held more than half a century. The Yankee legend pinch-hit in a June 1 game against the Washington Senators in 1925, then started in place of Wally Pipp the next day and was etched into New York's lineup card for the next 15 years. Gehrig's streak persisted to his final Major League game, shortly before he was diagnosed with ALS. It included all but 34 games of his 17-year career as well as two MVP campaigns (1927 and '37), a Triple Crown ('34) and six Yankees championship runs ('27-28, '32, '36-38).
3. Everett Scott: 1,307 games
June 20, 1916 to May 5, 1925
Scott's tenure atop this list didn't last long. Less than month after Scott's streak ended at 1,307 games, his Yankee teammate Gehrig began his. Scott's streak actually began with the Red Sox in 1916, his third year in the big leagues, and lasted all the way up through his final days in Pinstripes in 1925, just before he was dealt to the Senators in a mid-season trade. Scott won three of his four World Series rings with New York in that span.
4. Steve Garvey: 1,207 games
Sept. 3, 1975 to July 29, 1983
Garvey's 1,207 consecutive games played are the National League record. His streak began the year after his 1974 MVP season for the Dodgers, and lasted through the remainder of his time in Los Angeles and into his end-of-career tenure with the Padres. Garvey was an All-Star in the first seven seasons of his streak, and he won three straight Gold Gloves at first base. He had five 200-hit seasons during the streak, including leading the NL in hits in 1978 and '80.
5. Miguel Tejada: 1,152 games
June 2, 2000 to June 21, 2007
Tejada is the only player to have a 1,000-plus consecutive game streak this millennium. His streak began with the A's and ended with the Orioles -- meaning the O's have hosted two of the top five longest games-played streaks of all time (as have the Yankees with Gehrig and Scott). During his streak, Tejada earned his first four career All-Star nods, and he also won his only career MVP Award with Oakland in 2002. Tejada hit an even .300 over the course of his streak, while totaling 1,367 hits, 206 home runs and 819 RBIs.
6. Billy Williams: 1,117 games
Sept. 22, 1963 to Sept. 2, 1970
Williams' streak was the National League record before Garvey's, and it now stands as the second-longest for the Senior Circuit. The Cubs Hall of Famer totaled 1,308 hits, 213 home runs and 721 runs scored during his streak, and he made three All-Star teams, in 1964, '65 and '68. Williams finally asked for a day off late in the 1970 season -- a season in which he would finish second in NL MVP voting after leading the Majors with 205 hits and 137 runs scored, while hitting .322 with a career-high 42 home runs and 129 RBIs.
7. Joe Sewell: 1,103 games
Sept. 13, 1922 to April 30, 1930
When Sewell played in his 1,103rd consecutive game in 1930, his streak was the Major League record, although Gehrig was in the middle of the run that would surpass it. The Indians' Hall of Fame shortstop batted .324 during his streak, collecting 1,348 hits total. Sewell finished in the top 10 of AL MVP voting four times, placing as high as third in 1925. His hallmark was never striking out -- Sewell struck out just 58 times in the 1,103 games of his streak, which included five consecutive full seasons of single-digit strikeout totals from 1925-29.
8. Stan Musial: 895 games
April 15, 1952 to Aug. 22, 1957
One of the true legends of the game, Stan the Man's 895 consecutive games played from 1952-57 isn't the biggest part of his legacy, but it's impressive nonetheless. A National League record at the time it was set, Musial's streak spanned six straight All-Star Games and top-10 MVP finishes, and he won batting titles in the first and last season touched by the streak. The Cardinals icon hit .328 during his streak, second only to Ted Williams over that time period, and he had 444 extra-base hits, second only to Duke Snider.
9. Eddie Yost: 829 games
Aug. 30, 1949 to May 11, 1955
Nicknamed "The Walking Man," Yost led the American League in walks six times during his 18-year career (and the Major Leagues five of those times). Three of those seasons came amid his run of 829 consecutive games played, a streak during which he totaled 693 bases on balls, the most of any player over that timespan. The Senators third baseman also earned his lone career All-Star nod during his games-played streak, in 1952.
10. Gus Suhr: 822 games
Sept. 11, 1931 to June 4, 1937
Suhr wasn't a superstar like some of the other players on this list, but he set what was then a National League record by playing in 822 straight games in the 1930s. That run included the one All-Star season of his 11-year Major League career, 1936, when he hit .312 with 11 home runs and 118 RBIs for the Pirates. Suhr's streak ended when he missed a game in 1937 to attend his mother's funeral.
11. Nellie Fox: 798 games
Aug. 7, 1955 to Sept. 3, 1960
The Hall of Fame second baseman set the Major League record for most consecutive games played at that position with his 798-game run with the White Sox from 1955-60. Fox was an All-Star in all of those years as well as a three-time Gold Glover, and he was named the AL MVP in 1959. He led the league in hits twice, in 1957 and '58, and the only player who totaled more hits than Fox's 979 during his streak was Hank Aaron. But the most impressive part might have been this: Fox struck out only 66 times in those 798 games.
12: Pete Rose: 745 games
Sept. 1, 1978 to Aug. 23, 1983
In addition to being Major League Baseball's all-time hits leader with 4,256, Rose is also the all-time leader in games played, with 3,562 over his 24-year career. That included a run of 745 games played consecutively from 1978-83, despite Rose being 37 years old when the streak began and 42 when it ended. Rose was an All-Star in all four of the full seasons encompassed by the streak, and the run included the final 200-hit season of his career, 1979.
13: Dale Murphy: 740 games
Sept. 26, 1981 to July 8, 1986
Murphy's games played streak encompassed a dominant run in the National League, including his back-to-back MVP seasons in 1982 and '83. The bulk of the streak ran from 1982-86, and Murphy was an All-Star, Gold Glover and Silver Slugger in all five of those years. He twice led the NL in home runs (1984 and '85), twice in RBIs (1982 and '83), twice in slugging percentage (1983 and '84) and once in runs scored (1985). Murphy's 161 home runs during his streak were second only to Mike Schmidt during that span.
14: Richie Ashburn: 730 games
June 7, 1950 to Sept. 26, 1954
The Phillies legend and Hall of Famer set the franchise's record for most consecutive games played from 1950-54. Ashburn twice led the league in hits during that time, with an MLB-best 221 in 1951 and an NL-best 205 in 1953. He was an All-Star both of those years. During the streak, only Stan Musial had more hits than Ashburn's 918. Ashburn's streak only ended when an injury in a Spring Training outfield collision forced him to miss the start of the 1955 season.
15: Ernie Banks: 717 games
Aug. 26, 1956 to June 22, 1961
Mr. Cub loved to play the game -- his "Let's play two!" is one of baseball's most iconic sayings -- so it's no surprise that the Hall of Famer was almost always on the field. During a six-year stretch that encompassed both of his MVP seasons, 1958 and '59, Banks played 717 consecutive games. In every year that the streak included, from 1956-61, Banks was a National League All-Star. Over his 717-game streak, he hit .291 with 191 home runs, the most of any Major Leaguer during that span, and 541 RBIs, tied with Hank Aaron for the most of any player.
David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.
Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.