Whenever the inevitable debate arises among sports fans concerning the record that is the least likely to ever be broken, many people are quick to cite Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hit streak.
But there are many other — perhaps lesser-known — achievements by athletes or teams that are likely to still be standing well into the future. Here are the Top 10 unbreakable sports records.
10. Rocky Marciano's 49-0
Marciano began his professional career in 1947 by beating Lee Epperson, and over the next eight years, he proceeded to defeat all 49 of his opponents — 43 by knockout. In doing so, Marciano became the first heavyweight to go undefeated throughout his entire career.
Marciano's record was challenged in 1985 by Larry Holmes, who got to 48-0 before losing to Michael Spinks. However, with today's crop of heavyweights being underwhelming, his mark seems likely to stand the test of time.
9. Michael Schumacher's seven championships
Schumacher made his Formula 1 debut in 1991, and just one year later, he managed a third-place finish in the overall drivers' standings. By 1994, Schumacher had truly arrived, winning the first of his seven F1 points titles. He performed the feat again in 1995, then moved over to the Ferrari team and won each year between 2000 and 2004. His 2003 season victory moved him ahead of Juan Fangio, who finished atop the standings five times.
Schumi also holds the F1 record for most race wins with 85 (Alain Prost is a distant second with 51) and most wins in a season with 13. All three records are unlikely to be overturned.
8. Ty Cobb's .366 career batting average
The Georgia Peach played 24 seasons from 1905 to 1928, and outside of his rookie year, he never hit below .316. Regardless of one's opinion of Cobb as a person, his incredible statistics are indisputable: he hit over .380 nine times, batted above .400 three times, and finished with a career batting average of .366, well ahead of Rogers Hornsby, whose .358 places him second.
The closest active player was Todd Helton of the Colorado Rockies, who entered the 2005 season hitting .339. However, that average has since fallen to .333, meaning that Cobb's lofty average is in no danger of being surpassed yet.
7. Nolan Ryan's seven no-hitters
Nolan Ryan broke into baseball in 1966 as the second-youngest player in the league. By the time he retired as Major League Baseball's oldest in 1993, he had thrown seven no-hitters, making him by far the all-time record holder (Sandy Koufax sits second, with four). Ryan's first no-no came on May 15, 1973, and he recorded his second exactly two months later.
He then proceeded to record one in each of the next two seasons, threw another in 1981 to set the record, and then added one no-hitter per season in 1990 and 1991 (made all the more incredible by his advanced age of 43 and 44 years old, respectively) to seal his position on top.
6. Wayne Gretzky's 215-point season
While all of Gretzky's records seem unbreakable (with 2,857 points, he's nearly 1,000 ahead of second-place Mark Messier), this mark set in 1985-'86 simply can't be surpassed. A player not only needs scoring punch but durability; during this magical season, The Great One averaged 2.69 points per game. In NHL history, only Mario Lemieux has even come close to matching that pace over a campaign, but he didn't play all 80 games, as Gretzky did.
Last season, the San Jose Sharks' Joe Thorton led all NHL players with 125 points (in 81 games). Will anyone ever come close to The Great One's record? It's not likely.
5. Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point night
Like Gretzky's and some of the other records that follow on this list, Wilt's 100 points in a game will not be challenged simply because the sport has changed so much. In an era in which entire teams often struggle to score 100 points in a game, a repeat of what happened on March 2, 1962 isn't likely.
During the game, Chamberlain also set records for most field goals (36), free throws (28 of 32), points in a quarter (31), and points in a half (59), while breaking his own record of 78 points in a game set earlier that season. Incidentally, Wilt also holds another scoring record (20,000) that's unlikely to be broken, but we'll leave that for another article.
4. John Wooden's 88 straight wins
Another relic of a bygone era, this record harkens back to when college players stuck around for four years and turned their programs into dynasties. Under the tutelage of the Wizard of Westwood and with Bill Walton leading the way, the UCLA Bruins won 88 straight games — between two losses to Notre Dame on Jan. 23, 1971 and Jan. 19, 1974 — a span that included three of the record seven straight NCAA championships won by UCLA from 1967 to 1973.
To get an idea of just how hard these feats are to replicate, reflect on the fact that no team has gone undefeated for even a single season since 1976, and no other school has ever won more than two straight titles.
3. Cy Young's 511 wins
Young had the benefit of pitching from 1890 to 1911, an era in which hurlers could finish what they started. He picked up wins by throwing 749 complete games out of 815 starts on his way to setting a record that will undoubtedly never be topped. In 1903, Young got his 365th win, passing Pud Galvin for the record, and proceeded to add nearly 150 more victories for good measure.
A pitcher today would need to average 25 wins a season for 21 years to surpass Young; with an average of just 35 starts each year, that's an all-but-impossible task.
2. Jerry Rice's 22,895 receiving yards
This record, and the one that follows it for top spot, earn their positions by virtue of the fact that they were set quite recently, and yet are still of mythic proportions. In other words, Rice is playing the same style of game as current players, and yet he's so far above and beyond them that his accomplishments can't be touched.
This is the most iron-clad of Rice's records set during his career that began in 1985, although he also holds the records for most catches with 1,549 and touchdowns with 197. The next-closest player is Tim Brown, who is nearly 8,000 yards behind. Even for a young star like Randy Moss to catch Rice, he'd have to average nearly 1,400 yards per year for the next 10 seasons, at which point he'll be 38. Don't count on it.
1. Cal Ripken's 2,632 consecutive games
Likewise, Ripken set his record in the modern era, and that lends it extra credence in the pantheon of sports accomplishments. Lou Gehrig's "Iron Man" record of 2,130 games was widely regarded as "unbreakable," but Ripken not only passed it on Sept. 6, 1995, he also added an extra 500 straight games before he finally decided to take the pressure off and end the streak. That move, on Sept. 20, 1998, brought to a close a remarkable run that had begun over 16 years earlier on May 30, 1982, and that included a string between June 5, 1982, and Sept. 14, 1987, in which Ripken played 8,243 straight innings.
Considering that only four players were present in all 162 of their team's games in 2004, Ripken's record looks even more impressive, and beyond challenge.
Tennis great Pete Sampras came close to making the list, with his 14 Grand Slam titles placing him tops among male players of all time. The same goes for Ted "the Splendid Splinter" Williams of the Boston Red Sox, who finished his career with an on-base percentage of .482.
But while challengers may take aim at Sampras' and Williams' marks, and at the other records mentioned above, it will take a truly phenomenal player to eclipse any of these incredible athletic achievements.