Sammy Sosa hit 66 home runs in 1998, Mark McGwire hit 70. Sosa socked 63 dingers in 1999, McGwire hit 65. 2001? Sosa hit a cool 64 bombs. A banner year, no question. Completely forgettable when Barry Lamar Bonds tees off for 73 the same season. Sammy Sosa in the running for some of the worst timing known to man. From '98 through '02 he hit 292 home runs, lead the NL in homers the years he hit 50 and 49. The years he hit 60+? Second place at best. Easily the second most bizarre thing involving Sammy Sosa I can think of.
This is as upsetting as it is impressive. In the words of my pal Tyler, "It's a FREE base!" Just take it. But regardless of how inept modern baseball managers are at adapting some traditional tactics to the analytic driven game of today, Rickey was still a sicko on the base paths. Three seasons of at least 100 bags swiped. Three more seasons of at least 80 stolen bases. And six more seasons of leading the league in steals, none of which were less than 56. The man stole 66 bases at age 39. THIRTY NINE. He was also cool as hell, which isn't a stat but I'm not going to spend this much time talking about Rickey Henderson and fail to mention that fact.
I had to read this several times for my brain to even accept those words made sense in that order. Even after learning this to be completely true it's hard to fathom. Shit like this and Jamir Jagr's entire career make hockey tough to wrap around my peabrain. It's the most physical team sport and yet some guys play until they're 100 years old. Gordie Howe was a full grown adult playing hockey back when wearing a helmet was illegal when Bobby Orr was conceived. Bobby Orr then learned to walk, learned to skate, learned to speak, had his first kiss, touched his first boob, got the chickenpox, forgot to take the chicken out of the freezer and caught a wooden spoon beating from Mama Orr, went to high school, graduated high school, made it to the NHL, revolutionized the game forever, retired, went into the Hall of Fame, and then Gordie Howe considered hanging 'em up.
16 years, 32 series, nine trips to the ALCS, seven trips to the World Series, 141 innings pitched, 11 earned runs. 12 men "walked on the Moon" depending on which side of the aisle you sit on that issue. I don't really care how you feel about the Moon. Let's say they did fake all the Moon landings. Even still they selected more human beings for that process than were ever able to cross the plate against Mo Rivera in October. That makes the '04 comeback seem infinitely more improbable than I already knew it to be. Plenty of teams have weapons coming out of their bullpens. No one has ever or will ever be as close to a sure thing as that cutter throwing monster trotting out to "Enter Sandman." Also, more coincidental than impressive, but retiring with 42 postseason saves for the last guy to ever wear the number 42 is one of those winks from the cosmos we get every once in a while, as a treat.
The rare TWO stats for one franchise! Only the Browns. People think absurd stats and their minds automatically jump to the good. The other-worldly. Those who stood tall against the mere mortals. And then... there are Browns fans, whose minds immediately dive to the depths of the trash heap. The Big Ben one is pretty well known but still extremely upsetting to read. The man plays one game a year there, and not even always because sometimes he crashes a motorcycle and ends up missing that one game. Doesn't matter, still has enough wins to top the CVS receipt long list of QBs to line up under center for the Browns since the Steelers drafted him. But the other one is truly mind-numbing. Losing a game where you're a +5 in the turnover battle is hard enough. Plenty of Sundays come and go where no team puts that kind of gap between them and their opponent. But when 31 teams find themselves in the good fortune of beings +5 in the turnover column? 132-2. The Cleveland Browns? No idea how many wins, probably not many since that's not really their jam to begin with. I don't even understand how a team can come back in a game where they're losing the turnover battle that badly. It's not as if the Browns are throwing picks right back to you, that's a literal impossibility for this stat to hold true. So they're forcing turnovers, shitting their pants for three downs, and then punting it right back. One time they held their shit together enough to squeak out a tie. They should raise a banner.
Not only players can put up absurd stats. Shoutout Giles Pellerin for being a true superfan back when that title was earned and not printed on a t-shirt in bulk for anyone to buy. Per the New York Times:
Pellerin traveled more than 650,000 miles by plane, train and automobile -- visiting more than 50 cities, including Tokyo -- and spent upward of $85,000 in following the Trojans, according to the U.S.C. athletic department.
In the 1930's, Pellerin's streak almost ended well before reaching epic proportions. On his way to a game at Notre Dame, his car's water pump broke outside Oklahoma City, 36 hours before kickoff. It was fixed, and he made the game.
Then there was his honeymoon with his bride Jessie. He postponed it eight months so he could celebrate at a U.S.C. game in Hawaii in 1935.
In 1949, Pellerin was hospitalized for an appendectomy five days before a home game. The day of the game, he told nurses he was going to take a walk on hospital grounds. Instead, he went to the Los Angeles Coliseum, saw his beloved U.S.C. rout Oregon, 40-13, then returned to the hospital before anyone realized he had been missing.
That's a streak worth celebrating. This man put his life on the literal line for his team several times over the better part of a century so he could soak in some USC Trojan football. He told his wife that sex could wait, the squad comes first. This man would have moved heaven and Earth to watch this team toss some pigskin around on a Saturday afternoon, and that's more than enough to make it on to this list.