What is the Greatest Sport Achievement?
Richard J. Garfunkel
There is a difference between a skill event, or a one-time effort, or a cumulative, game, season or career accomplishment. To me the greatest skill event, among the sports is to pitch a perfect game. Over the tens of thousands of games, encompassing the whole history or baseball, there have only been 11 I believe. Every pitcher starts with the opportunity. They all have an equal chance. But an unassisted triple play has to have the right circumstances, and it is not a matter of skill, but luck.
In the same way, hitting for the cycle is more luck than skill. In today's smaller ballparks, triples have become a rare and lucky commodity. To me the hardest thing to do in sports is to hit off a Nolan Ryan or Sandy Koufax, or a Bob Feller or a Roger Clemons. But people did get home runs off these greats. In other words, on a one-time basis, almost everything can be done. Winning the batting or pitching Triple Crown is rare, but lucky. You cannot control your fellow players who could out perform you in one category or another. But that seasonal feat is rare and hard to accomplish. Hitting .400 has only been done twice since 1930, Bill Terry, 1930 in the NL and Ted Williams, 1941 in the AL. Many players have approached that mark but have failed. But the difference between hitting .391 and .400 over 550 at bats is 5 hits or one per one hundred at bats.
Certainly there are seasonal marks that will always be difficult, or impossible to break. Johnny vander Meer pitched two consecutive no-hitters. Could someone pitch three? Cy Young's 511 victories! A player today would have to win 25 games each season for 20 years! Impossible! The Triple Crown of Racing is rare but each race is mutually independent. Yes, a racer has to beat a different, but sometimes similar, field of horses, but the real effort is the strain on the winning horse in running three tough races in 6 weeks time. Once a horse has one the first two, the odds on winning the third are not high. Just divide the previous Triple Crown winners into the number of horses that have one the first two races.
Therefore one effort, versus, a seasonal or career effort is much different. Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series, against the Dodgers, was the greatest game feat in sport's history. He pitched it under tremendous pressure, in front of 70,000+ fans, in the World Series, against a great and famous hitting team filled with all-stars and future Hall-of-Famers. They included; Snider, Robinson, Campanella, Reese, members of the Hall and Hodges, Furillo and Gilliam proven stars.
No one field goal, or soccer score, or home run, or catch, or touchdown run or, clutch game-winning basket could replicate that feat. Maybe Wilt's 100 points in a game, or Michael Jackson's 68 points against Bird, or Joe Adcock's four homers and a double, or Jim Brown's 43 points in a football game against Colgate, or Jesse Owens' world records in the Big Ten championships, or Red Grange's 6 touchdowns, or Gayle Sayers 6 touchdowns, along with a number of others could be mentioned. But to pitch a perfect game in the World Series venue against a great dynasty like the 1950's Brooklyn Dodgers is probably unequaled.
The Yankees winning 5 straight World Series from 1949-53 will probably never be broken. Even the great Yankee teams of the late 1990's could not approach that mark. It is possible, but surely improbable that any team could accomplish or usurp that feat. In the same way the Celtics streak in pro basketball and the UCLA basketball string of NCAA championships will probably never be approached!