Most unlikely record holders

Another thread I started mostly out of curiosity.

It’s a general rule that sports record holders are either the all-time greats (e.g. Karl Malone, Roger Federer, Jack Nicklaus, Wayne Gretzky, Richard Petty) or phenomenally good at a certain aspect of the game (Dennis Rodman, Barry Bonds, Ricky Henderson).

And then there are journeymen, raw phenoms, roster-fillers, and plain ‘ol underachievers who happen to be in the right place at the right time, who’d be undistinguished except for that one shining mark. In some cases, a mark that will never be surpassed.

Who are the most unlikely, improbable, or flat-out unbelievable record holders of all time?

Let’s keep this discussion to positive records (no Detroit Lions). Include team records only if the team has never amounted to much, not just had a few horrible stretches (no San Francisco 49ers, either).

My starting picks:

Kaio – Most Makuuchi division wins (865 so far) If he gets at least 2 wins in July, he’ll also have the record for most total wins, currently 1045. (He either has or will have a bunch of other records, but those are the big ones.)
Credentials: His early career reads like a manga cliche. He never had much interest in sumo as a kid and was essentially forced to join Tomozuna-beya. However, he quickly developed an aptitude for the ancient and honorable sport, not to mention several powerful rivalries. It took just under four years for him to reach sekitori status, and he never looked back.
His greatest strength was his left hand, which was so strong that he could crush an apple with it, earning him the nickname “The Human Juicer”. If he got a left-hand belt grip and decent forward momentum, he was practically unbeatable.
Unfortunately, injuries and questionable focus meant that he could collapse at any time. He has almost never been able to string together three strong tournaments in a row, and he’s often had to take time off for injury. (In one incredible stretch in 2001, he went championship, dropout, championship, dropout.) This inconsistency ensured that he would never be promoted to yokozuna.
How he did it: Dependable technique, Tiger Woods-esque recovery ability, the current lackluster level of the current sanyaku, and the fact that Japan doesn’t really have anything better right now. There have been some slight grumblings that he’s hung on too long, but nothing’s come of it. Plus he didn’t get promoted to yokozuna (see below). He’ll retire when he damn well feels like it, and right now it looks like it’ll be quite a while yet.
Possible X-factor: Never underestimate rivalries as a motivating factor. He entered sumo at the same time as Akebono, Wakanohana, and Takanohana, and later had a spirited clash with Musoyama, and to a somewhat lesser extent Dejima and Musashimaru. His competitive fire was stoked to an inferno early and has never abated.
Breakable?: Right now the only one with any realistic chance is Hakuho, who has 508 Makuuchi wins and is absolutely lapping the field right now. However, he’s a yokozuna, meaning that as soon as he can’t keep up the pace, he has to retire. A yokozuna also has to retire if he brings dishonor to the rank, which can happen with shocking suddenness (as Asashoryu learned firsthand). My prediction is that when they both retire, whoever has the records keeps them.

Vinny Testaverde – Most consecutive seasons with a touchdown pass (21), most receivers throwing a touchdown pass to (70)
Credentials: An old-school pocket passer, he was the lynchpin of the 1986 University of Miami offense. Buoyed by a standout receiving corps and a somewhat less than punishing schedule, he led the Hurricanes to an 11-0 regular season record and became the first Hurricane to win the Heisman Award. Unfortunately, he’d find the NFL much tougher going; he became one of the streakiest quarterbacks in history, equally capable of passing his team out of a game as into it, and he never stayed in one place for long. Although he had some flashes of brilliance throughout his long career, he will never seriously be considered one of the greats.
How he did it: Strangely (or perhaps fittingly) enough, it’s what he didn’t do that allowed this record. He didn’t scramble a lot and risk injuries. He didn’t abandon the long ball even after another interception. He didn’t get frustrated or discouraged. Most importantly, he didn’t go to prison, go through a ruinous divorce, get involved in a gang shootout, get suspended, take a long hiatus for some ludicrous personal reason, or develop any number of stupid, shameful, destructive habits. This ensured that for a long, long time there’d always be a team somewhere willing to take a chance on him.
Possible X-factor: There were three years the touchdown streak was in jeopardy, 1999, 2005, 2006; he only had one TD pass in each. Reportedly, he was so well respected by then that each of the teams was willing to let him in long enough to keep the streak going. See, courtesy does pay!
Breakable?: Nowadays a quarterback getting playing time for 21 seasons would be an incredible accomplishment. It’ll be quite a while before anyone challenges these marks, if ever.

Antonio Cromartie – Longest play (109 yards)
Credentials: Flashy, bigmouthed feast-or-famine prospect a la Randy Moss. Classic good-but-not-as-good-as-he-thinks-he-is case. Capable of making spectacular plays and singlehandedly changing the outcome of a game, but hampered by both mental and physical breakdowns.
How he did it: A field goal return for a touchdown is extraordinarily rare for the same reason an unassisted triple play is; it requires one-in-a-million conditions and one team absolutely falling asleep on the play. The truly remarkable thing about the play was how easy it was; Cromartie only had to avoid one lazy tackle and was untouched all the way. Nothing more than being in the right place at the right time.
Possible X-factor: The victim was the Vikings. A franchise with a long history of being victimized. Four Super Bowl losses. The catastrophic Herschel Walker deal. An easy field goal by an ace kicker missed, costing them an NFC Championship. Anything can go wrong with this franchise and all too often does.
Breakable?: No, obviously…that’s the beauty of it.

Scott Skiles – Most assists in a game (30)
Credentials: Lessee here… [does search] …led Plymouth High School to Indiana State Championship…First Team All-America selection at Michigan State…1990 NBA Most Improved Player Award…aaaand that’s about it. Other than that, he’s best known as that dumpy white guy who’s partnered with Shaquille O’Neal in the original NBA Jam.
How he did it: Good question.
Possible X-factor: Ummm…he’s always been a good passer, he just needed a chance to prove it?
Breakable?: It looks secure, mainly because you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in the NBA with any interest in breaking it. Not quite as dubious as most NIT championships, but certainly nothing to put on a Hall of Fame plaque either.

Johnny Vander Meer’s record of two consecutive no-hitters is seen as unbreakable, and it probably is. And nobody thinks he’s the best pitcher ever or anything like it.

Skiles was a decent point guard. His stats aren’t very impressive. I was going to say that maybe it’s not his fault because he played on a lot of bad teams - he played 10 seasons, and if you leave out his rookie year, only one team finished over .500. Then again, those teams all had the same point guard. :wink:

Anyway I found Skiles’ own account of the game. Details that matter include that the team Orlando was playing (Denver) was just terrible, although Orlando was almost as bad, and Denver had both bad defense and a fast-paced offense. So that created a lot of possessions and scoring opportunities. Skiles also scored 22 points to go with his 30 assists, so he was handling the ball a lot and nobody was doing anything to stop him.

It’s true that it’s not looking like this record will be threatened any time soon. Only two guys have had 22 or more assists in a game. The better of those was by Ramon Sessions, who had 24 in a game in 2008. There are some great point guards in the league right now, but most of them can score better than Skiles could, so they’re not necessarily going to dish it out as often. I think the game is played at a slower pace (partly because there is less room on the court with so many tall, long players) and more guys can create their own shot. I think Rajon Rondo could do it if the Celtics became a faster-paced team. He really seems to prefer assists to points. Steve Nash was in the ideal environment for challenging the record with the Suns of years gone by, but his career high is only 23 assists.

Testaverde was the first pick in the 1987 NFL draft so someone thought he had talent once upon a time. it may have been a weak draft, Rod Woodson (10th player selected) is the only Hall of Famer so far.

In baseball I will nominate Earl Webb for setting the single season record in doubles in 1931 with 67. He was only a full time player for three years and in the other two he had 30 and 28. He had 56 in a minor league season at Los Angeles but he played in 188 games (PCL seasons were around 190 games).

Another baseball choice is John Owen “Chief” Wilson. He holds the single season record for triples with 36 in 1912 A big league regular, his second highest mark was 14 the following year. Also of interest is no one in the minors ever had more, even in the super-long PCL seasons.

Blast, I was going to mention Owen Wilson.

I’ll throw in Dale Long, who set the record (since tied, but never broken) for most consecutive games hitting a home run (8). He had some decent years, and even made the All-Star Team once, but certainly he’s not a name you’d expect to hold a home run record of any sort.

Ahmad Rashad set a Cromartie type record: he had a 98-yard reception, and didn’t score. I wonder if a RB ever did that?

The most successful nation in rugby union at the Olympoc Games, with two gold medals, is the USA.

Bill Muelleris the only major league baseball player to hit two grand slam home runs in the same game as a switch-hitter, from opposite sides of the plate. Mueller is a pitcher with a total of 85 career home runs.

Mueller was not a pitcher, he was a third baseman. But he was certainly never known as a power hitter.

Fernando Tatis hit 2 grand slams in the same inning. The rest of his career? Just another guy.

Arnold Palmer once held the record for fastest circumnavigation of the world, in a then-new Learjet.

It’s been broken now, of course, but for ages Roger Maris had the record for home runs in a season[sup]*[/sup], despite being an otherwise mediocre player.

More than a fifth of his career homers were hit in '61.

Frank Reich, while never in the top rank of quarterbacks, had the record for biggest comebacks in both NCAA and NFL history. (His NCAA record has since been surpassed.)

Maris was hardly mediocre – he was AL MVP in 1960, the year before he hit 60 home runs. His lifetime OPS+ is 127 (144 as a Yankee, which matches Harmon Killebrew), which makes him a better than average ballplayer. He was certainly not a great player, but was a very good one.

How about Bobo Holloman? Threw a no-hitter in his first major league start. Lifetime pitching record: 3-7 lifetime, ERA 5.23, ERA+ of 81. Out of baseball the next year.

The other pitcher who did this was Bumpus Jones. He was even worse: 2-4 lifetime, 7.99 ERA, ERA+ of 57.

Davey Johnson of the Braves tied Rogers Hornsby record for most home runs by a second baseman with 42 (he hit another as a pinch hitter). Johnson never hit more than 18 HRs before or afterwards.

Otherwise mediocre? Ok, taking away that season, he was a six time all star and one league MVP in 10 seasons. Not hall of fame, but certainly not mediocre.

I humbly request reassingning my factoid from “Most unlikely record holders” to “mundane sports trivia.”

Who broke the record Nemo? :slight_smile:

And I don’t know if it’s a record but he also won the batting title that year hitting primarily in the eight hole.

Tuffy Rhodes is another unlikely record holder for most HRs in a season in Japan. He tied the record of 55 and didn’t see a strike the rest of the season to ensure that Sadaharu Oh kept his share of the record. Rhodes didn’t quite live up to his billing in MLB with the Cubs.

Bill Fischer was a mostly mediocre pitcher who in 1962 established a record of 84 1/3 innings without giving up a walk. He had pretty good control but only in 1959 was he in the top 10 in fewest walks per 9 innings, finishing ninth.

Drew Stanton, then quarterback of the Michigan State Spartans, came back from a 35 point deficit to beat the Northwestern Wildcats on October 21, 2006.

OK, so calling Maris “mediocre” was maybe a bit strong, but he’s certainly a lot more mediocre than, say, Babe Ruth.