Steve Gardner, USA TODAY
Published 6:43 a.m. ET May 28, 2020
SportsPulse: Aside from his legendary career on the track, NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty is equally known for his graciousness when it comes to signing autographs for fans and he tells USA TODAY Sports why.
Sure, some sports are back. But “sports” as we know them are largely still on pause due to the coronavirus pandemic. Today is Day 78 without sports. ⚾️🏀🏒🏉⚽️⛳🎾🏁
For all the incredible athletic ability and artistry that attracts us to sports, there’s also an (almost?) equal attachment to the numbers within the game. First of all, we have to keep score to know who wins. Second, we often form a bond with the jersey numbers the competitors wear. And third, the numbers help us remember the athletes’ greatest accomplishments.
Think about it for a second. Take any sport and there’s a record, a total, a distance that all you need is the number … and you know instantly what it represents.
For example, Babe Ruth’s record of 714 career home runs was once ingrained in generations of baseball fans’ brains. But once Hank Aaron passed him, the importance of 714 faded. Are there still numbers like that which have stood the test of time?
Let’s see. We’ll give you a sport and arguably its most iconic statistical number … is the connection obvious? (answers below)
Here we go.
1. NBA: 100
2. MLB: 56
3. NFL: 2,003
4. NHL: 894
5. NASCAR: 200
6. Golf: 18
7. Track & Field: 4:00
8. Gymnastics: 10.0
9. Tennis: 24
10. Soccer: 1,281
10 sports. 10 iconic numbers. Got ’em all?
1. Wilt Chamberlain’s unbelievable 100 points in one NBA game, a record that still stands.
2. Joe DiMaggio’s record 56-game hitting streak has never seriously been challenged since he set it in 1941. He’s been No. 1 twice as long as Ruth was atop the home run list.
3. He’s best known for other things now, but O.J. Simpson was the first player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season when he accomplished the feat in 1973. With the help of a 16-game regular season, six other running backs have topped the 2,000 mark since, but the Juice was the first. (What other NFL records would fit the category?)
4. If it’s hockey, it has to be Wayne Gretzky. His 894 goals are 93 more than Gordie Howe totaled in his career.
5. Richard Petty’s 200 victories in NASCAR’s premier series is a record that’s easy to remember and almost impossible to beat. Second-place David Pearson has 105.
6. On the other hand, Jack Nicklaus’ 18 major golf championships has been the goal Tiger Woods has been chasing ever since he turned professional. With 15 of his own, there’s still a chance Tiger can catch the Golden Bear.
8. Until Romanian Nadia Comaneci, no gymnast in Olympic competition had ever received a perfect 10.0 for any routine. At the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal, Comaneci made history not once, but seven times.
9. Like Nicklaus, Margaret Smith Court has set a high bar for one of this generation’s greatest athletes to shoot for. Her 24 Grand Slam singles titles in tennis is currently one more than Serena Williams has won.
10. In soccer, Pele is still the gold standard. The Black Pearl totaled 1,281 goals in his splendid international career from 1956-74.
Sports video of the day
Thinking a little more about storied numbers in football, the greatest records don’t really stick in our collective memory banks. Jerry Rice’s 208 touchdowns? Don Shula’s 347 coaching wins?
But what if we fudged it a little and said … 99-and-a-half?
May 28 in sports history
- 1957: The National League officially approves the proposed move of the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants to the West Coast.
- 2003: Legendary NHL goaltender Patrick Roy announces his retirement after 289 career victories and four Stanley Cup titles.
- 2006: Barry Bonds hits his 715th home run, passing Babe Ruth for second place on the career list. He would go on to surpass Hank Aaron’s 755 the following season and finish as MLB’s all-time leader with 762 homers.
Sports on TV
NASCAR: After last night’s rainout, the Cup Series will try again tonight at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Alsco Uniforms 500. Coverage starts at 7 p.m. ET on FS1.
MLB (classic): MLB Network goes back in time to the 1988 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Oakland A’s. At 9 a.m. ET, relive the classic Game 1 as Kirk Gibson’s memorable home run makes the difference. Then, there’s Game 2 at 11 a.m. ET, Game 4 at 1 p.m. ET and Game 5 at 3 p.m.
Dodgers fans can get another replay of Game 1 at 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT.
NHL (classic): NBC Sports Network has its Hockey Happy Hour at 5 p.m. ET with Game 5 overtime shootout in the 2015 Western Conference Finals between the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks.
NBA (classic): The record-setting 73-win Golden State Warriors take center stage tonight with NBA TV’s pop-up broadcast of their Game 6 victory in the 2016 Western Conference Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Klay Thompson pours in a game-high 41 points in this pop-up broadcast, starting at 6 p.m. ET.
Then, stick around until 9 p.m. ET for Game 7 of those same 2016 Western Conference Finals for another broadcast sprinkled with pop-up facts as the Warriors complete their comeback from a 3-1 series deficit.
Follow Steve Gardner on Twitter @SteveAGardner.