SABR

Player endurance records

By Pete Palmer

This article was published in the 1972 Baseball Research Journal.

One measure of player endurance is consecutive games played. Another measure, which could be considered a superior one, is highest percent of scheduled games played in ten consecutive years. Only five of the highest rated players in the percent calculation compiled long consecutive game streaks.

Lou Gehrig is unquestionably the highest ranking player using either yardstick. He did not miss a game for 13 years (1926-38) and played 2130 consecutive games. Two other players with long streaks did not rank in the percent table. Joe Sewell missed only two games from 1921 to 1929, but missed 45 in 1930, finishing at 96.9 percent. Everett Scott played eight years (1917-24) without missing a contest, but over ten years he dropped to 94.1 percent. Billy Williams, the only other player with at least 1000 consecutive games, is continuing his fine record and ranks second on the percent listing.

Three other players with long streaks who rank in the percent tables are Stan Musial (895), Nelson Fox (798), and Richie Ashburn (730). But Eddie Yost and Gus Suhr, with streaks of more than 800 games, are not included. Neither is Charlie Gehringer who had two streaks of more than 500 games in one ten-year period, but in between missed 53 games in 1931. On the other hand, Willie Mays, who never played all his games in any one season, is high up on the percent list.

A good distribution of players from all periods is indicated. It should be noted that some 19th century players benefited from the fact that fewer games were scheduled in approximately the same number of days in those years.

The Chicago National League team of the 1880's had the most consistent lineup in history. Cap Anson at first, Nate Pfeffer at second, and Ed Williamson at third and short are all among the top percent players. Tom Burns, who switched with Williamson, played 94.9 percent from 1881 to 1890. King Kelly, who played right field and sometimes caught, played 96.1 percent from 1878 to 1887, with 1880 to 1886 for Chicago. George Gore, the centerfielder, Abner Dalrymple, the leftfielder, and Frank Flint, the catcher, also had fine records. Five pennants were won during those years.

A more modern Cub combination, Ron Santo and Billy Williams, had the best record of any two players with, one club over the same period, averaging 98.8 percent for 1961 to 1970. In 1618 games, Williams missed 14 end Santo 23, a tremendous record of consistency over a long schedule.

Extending the period to 15 years finds only six players over 95 percent. They are Cap Anson (1878-92), Roger Connor (1880-94), Melvin Ott (1929-43). Nelson Fox (1950-64), Willie Nays (1954-68), and Henry Aaron (1955-69). Two others had exceptionally busy schedules over 15 years, but had their records disrupted by military service -- Eddie Collins in World War I and Stan Musial in World War II.

Those 20 players who had the highest percentage of games played over a ten-year-period (through 1971) are listed below:

 

Player Years Games Played Games Missed Percent Played Longest Streak
Lou Gehrig 1929-1938 1543 0 100 2130
Billy Williams 1962-1971 1614 10 99.4 1117
Nelson Fox 1952-1961 1544 15 99 798
Cap Anson 1881-1890 1142 12 99
Stan Musial 1946-1955 1533 17 98.9 895
John Morrill 1881-1887 957 13 98.7 302
Ron Santo 1961-1970 1595 23 98.6 371
Richie Ashburn 1949-1958 1524 22 98.6 730
Roger Connor 1880-1889 1083 17 98.5
Geo. Van Haltren 1891-1900 1389 22 98.4
George J. Burns 1914-1923 1487 25 98.3 459
Willie Mays 1954-1963 1536 26 98.3
Jim O'Rourke 1876-1885 819 14 98.3 319
Jimmy Foxx 1929-1938 1495 30 98
Brooks Robinson 1960-1969 1578 33 98 483
Sam Crawford 1906-1915 1507 33 97.9 472
Hugh Duffy 1889 -1898 1350 30 97.7
Paul Hines 1877-1886 886 21 97.7
Henry Aaron 1955-1964 1534 37 97.6
Melvin Ott 1929-1938 1498 38 97.5

Iron man of the majors since Billy Williams ended his string of 1117 games on September 2, 1970, is Sandy Alomar of the Angels. His streak now stands at 458 games.

 

This article originally appeared in the 1972 "Baseball Research Journal."

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