One of the most remarkable streaks in major sports continues, still, unmatched in its own sport over the last 30 years, and with few peers in others.
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Kansas is assured of at least a share of another Big 12 men’s basketball regular-season championship, now 12 in a row, a streak that has come to define Bill Self’s program and annoy most non-KU fans around Kansas City.
By now, those who care (and many who don’t) know all the ways to illustrate the accomplishment: Self has won more titles than he’s lost games at Allen Fieldhouse, the seniors on the first championship team (holdovers from Roy Williams) are now middle-aged men with kids, and next year’s freshman class was in kindergarten when the streak started. In November, the fourth presidential election since the streak began will take place.
All of which got us thinking about other records, and where this Kansas mark ranks. The only rule: The mark does not have to be a national record but must be held by an athlete or team from the Kansas City area. The only other rule: We have almost certainly missed something here, probably a guy who returned 14 interceptions for touchdowns in a half, and we now look forward to hearing how wrong we are with this list.
In descending order:
▪ 10. Jim Ryun’s world record in the 800 meters. This one comes with qualifiers — he actually ran 880 yards, which is 18 feet longer, so his time has been converted from 1 minute, 44.9 seconds to 1:44.3. There are also collegians who’ve run faster times outside college competition. But, still. This mark turns 50 years old in June.
▪ 9. Jeff Wolfert, 185 of 185 on extra points at Mizzou. Is this cheating? Maybe. But it’s a record that can never be broken. According to the Sports-Reference database, only two other college kickers have kicked more extra points without a miss than Wolfert, a Blue Valley West graduate.
▪ 8. Brian Shay, Emporia State, 9,301 career all-purpose yards. Shay rushed for more yards in his last three seasons with the Division II Hornets than Ricky Williams did in four years at Texas. Shay’s NCAA all-divisions, all-purpose record was broken by Villanova’s Brian Westbrook, who went on to star in the NFL.
▪ 7. Shawnee Mission Northwest boys cross country’s 14 straight Kansas state championships. Maybe you didn’t know the coach with the state’s longest championship streak was Van Rose, not Bill Self. By the time SM Northwest’s streak ended in 2008, it was the second-longest streak on record in the country, and the freshmen on that team were infants or not yet born when it began.
▪ 6. Wilt Chamberlain, 52 points in a college basketball debut for Kansas. This one is a little obscure, and done partly in recognition that we could fill a top 10 list with all of his records in the NBA — 100 points in a game, 50.4 per game in a season. In the interest of staying local, we’ll use this one from KU, where he averaged 29.9 points and 18.3 rebounds.
▪ 5. Al Oerter’s four Olympic gold medals in the discus. Oerter was an athlete at Kansas when his streak started, so he’s included here. He won his first gold at 19, and his last at 31. Think about it like this: Michael Phelps could win a fourth gold in the 200 medley and 100 butterfly this summer in Rio. But he came out of retirement to do it, and would need to do it again in four years, at the age of 35, to break the mark shared by Oerter and Carl Lewis.
▪ 4. Bud Lathrop’s 955 wins as a Missouri high school boys basketball coach. Lathrop is now coaching part time at East Christian, which is not a member of the Missouri State High School Activities Association, but is said to be approaching 1,000 career wins. But just using Lathrop’s 955 wins achieved mostly at Raytown South, a coach would need to average more than 25 wins over 38 seasons to break it. Last year, only two schools in Missouri’s largest class won 25 games.
▪ 3. Lynette Woodard’s 3,649 career points at Kansas. That’s only 18 points shy of Pete Maravich’s NCAA Division I men’s record. Woodard’s career came before NCAA women’s basketball play officially began, so if you’d rather use Jackie Stiles’ 3,393 points at what is now Missouri State, that’s probably fine, too. Her total is higher than every man other than Maravich, too.
▪ 2. Derrick Thomas’ seven sacks in one NFL game. This is one of the more unbreakable records in the NFL. In a quarter-century since Thomas set the mark, only three men have come within a sack and a half — and one of those was Thomas (another was former Raytown and Mizzou star Aldon Smith). Even in an era of declining offensive-line play and dynamic pass rushers, Thomas’ mark has hardly been threatened, and if nothing else, it’s hard to imagine an opposing offensive coordinator not doubling a rusher after a while. Of course, Chiefs fans of a certain age will remember the sack Thomas didn’t get at the end of that game in 1990.
▪ 1. Missouri baseball, 0.65 team ERA in 1964. Absurd, right? Last year, UCLA led the country with a 2.17 ERA. On average, it took the ’64 Tigers four games to give up 2.17 earned runs. Those were wood bats back then, so there is not a direct comparison, and the mark is something like college’s version of Cy Young’s 511 wins — a sign of a different time, and a mark likely to live longer than any of us.
▪ Gary Spani’s 543 career tackles at K-State. Spani was also the Chiefs’ career tackles leader until Derrick Johnson broke his mark last fall. The FBS record of 545 is held by Northwestern’s Tim McGarigle, but tackles weren’t an official NCAA stat until 2000. Ohio State’s Marcus Marek collected 572 tackles during 1979-82.
▪ Harry Ice’s 30 yards per carry in a game. This one’s a little obscure, but the Missouri back rushed for 240 yards in eight carries against Kansas in 1941. If we set a minimum of five carries in a game, it’s hard to imagine this one being broken soon.
▪ Steve Balboni’s 36 home runs for the Royals in 1985. OK, just kidding. But baseball’s lowest franchise single-season home-run mark is 30 years old.
▪ George Brett’s 3,154 hits with the Royals. A complete list of the players with more hits with one franchise: Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Derek Jeter, Stan Musial, Carl Yastrzemski, and Cal Ripken. Good list.