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Tuesday, September 25, 2001
Updated: October 3, 1:15 PM ET
Readers' List: Greatest single-season record

From the Page 2 mailbag

On Monday, Page 2 ran its list of the greatest single-season records by individuals in sports history. We asked for your take, and you filled our mailbag with plenty of choices.

OUR TOP 10
Here's how the Page 2 staff ranked the greatest single-season records by individuals in sports history:

1. 70 homers (Mark McGwire, 1998)
2. 50.4 NBA scoring average (Wilt Chamberlain, 1962)
3. 92 NHL goals (Wayne Gretzky, 1981-82)
4. .424 batting average (Rogers Hornsby, 1924)
5. 44.2 points per game NCAA scoring average (Pete Maravich, 1966-70)
6. 48 touchdown passes (Dan Marino, 1984)
7. 130 steals (Rickey Henderson, 1982)
8. 215 NHL points (Gretzky, 1985-86)
9. 383 strikeouts (Nolan Ryan, 1973)
10. 191 RBI (Hack Wilson, 1930)

Honorable mentions: 2,105 rushing yards (Eric Dickerson, 1984), 26 touchdowns scored (Marshall Faulk, 2000), 41 wins (Jack Chesbro, 1904), 27.2 rebounding average (Chamberlain, 1961-62), 5,084 passing yards (Marino, 1984), 0.96 ERA (Dutch Leonard, 1914)

And by single-season records by individuals, we mean statistics or feats that were counted over the entire season. We purposely left off streaks, so we apologize to the dozens of you who rank Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak as the best single-season record. So hold your ire, we'll save streaks for a future list.

After going through nearly 800 e-mails, we've listed Page 2 readers' top 10 choices below. Be sure to vote in the poll at left to crown the greatest single-season records by individuals in sports history.


1. Wilt Chamberlain's 50.4 scoring average, 1962 (97 letters)
I gotta go with Wilt's 50.4 average. This average just speaks volumes about the man as a basketball player. It shows how much he dominated the game. Say what you will about Michael Jordan, no player could dominate a game like Chamberlain could.

Perhaps he couldn't average 50.4 points in today's game. I doubt it -- the level of play is just so much better all around than in Wilt's day, but that's what makes it so much more amazing. For someone to be that much better than the players who were still the best in the world at their sport is absolutely amazing.

One day, there will be another Jordan. However, as with Babe Ruth in baseball, basketball will never see another Wilt Chamberlain.
John Duckworth
Prague, Czech Republic

Wilt Chamberlain
Wilt Chamberlain's prolific scoring impressed most readers.
Wilt's 50 point per game average. If Wilt had an "off" night with 30 points, he had to come back the next night with 70 just to keep up!
Greg King
Philadelphia

Fifty is a ridiculous amount for a player to score in a game, but average it for a whole season? C'mon folks!

Big Mac's record is impressive, but parks are smaller these days (or so I hear), and let's not forget the andro (he probably could've hit 70 without them, but still ...). And let's not forget that Barry Bonds is cruising along and might even break that record. But Wilt's single-season scoring average will stay for a long, long time.
Faez Morad
Toronto


2. Oscar Robertson averages triple-double, 1961-62 (57 letters)
There has to be mention of the Big O's single season accomplishment. Oscar Robertson averaged a triple-double for an entire season.

This means that he not only scored for his team, but unlike Pete Maravich (who's on your list) actually passed the ball and did the dirty job of rebounding. His line for the 1961-62 season was 30.8 points, 12.5 boards, and 11.4 dishes. Most players would be more than happy to average just one of those statistics for the season, let alone all of them.

Robertson's phenomenal season must be included because, to me, it's more impressive than 50 points per game over a season.
Raphael
Callejo, Calif.

Oscar Robertson
Oscar Robertson, shown in 1970, averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists in 1961-62.
It does not have the glamour of some of the records that can be summed up with one number. However, Oscar Robertson's averaging a triple-double for the season is unthinkable in any era.

While people routinely flirt with hitting .400 in a season and average more than 30 points a game in a low-scoring era, no one even thinks about averaging a triple-double for a month, let alone an entire season.
David Zimmermann
Portland, Ore.

How can a man average a triple double- 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 11.4 assists per game for an entire season and be left off the list. These days, we get excited if a player averages double double or almost has a triple double.
Dan Schwartz
State College, Pa.


3. Wayne Gretzky's 215 points, 1985-86 (54 letters)
Me being a guy who's only been into hockey for a few years now, that just blows my mind. No one even comes close, and it's not like the game was dramatically different then, as is the case with many of the other records.
Matt Romig
Dallas

It's hard to decide which of Wayne Gretzky's records are the most impressive, but I'll say the 215 points. It's not so much that he put up higher numbers than anyone ever had, he put up numbers that no one thought were even possible.
Jeffrey Staggs
Baltimore


Wayne Gretzky
Wayne Gretzky's 215 points impressed more readers than his 92 goals.
4. Wayne Gretzky's 92 goals, 1981-82 (47 letters)
No contest. Wayne Gretzky upped the prior record of 76 held by Phil Esposito by 21 percent whereas McGwire beat Maris' 61 by 15 percent.

On top of that in 1998 when McGwire hit 70, he beat the next player, Sosa, by four homers or 6 percent. The next closest player to Gretzky in '81-82 was Mike Bossy with 64 goals, Gretzky manhandled him by 44 percent!

Finally, McGwire's 70 is in serious jeopardy only three years after he set it. Gretzky's goals record hasn't been remotely challenged since Brett Hull had 86 in 1991. Sorry, Big Mac, the Great One is the king of the single-season record.
Paul Sharp
Calgary, Alberta

It would have to be Great One's 92 goals in one season.

Look at the home run race, it is as if every year someone is in contention to break it. A true record must be untouchable to anyone, and looking at the NHL, it is lucky to be a 50-goal scorer.

Also, Wilt Chamberlain's average of 50.4 points a game should not be above Gretzky because of the talent he played against. Most of the centers Wilt played against were so much smaller than he was that he could just turn around and dunk on them at will. Yes, there were some great centers, such as Bill Russell, but come on, Gretzky was playing against the elite hockey players of NHL history. Super Mario in his prime, Mark Messier in his prime, Steve Yzerman and the list goes on.

The record should be held by someone who is so far above and beyond the greatest player in his sport that it can't be disputed, and that man is Gretzky. His 92 goals will never be touched and is the single most impressive achievement in sports history.
Gregg Braccili
Philadelphia


5. Mark McGwire's 70 home runs, 1998 (34 letters)
Home Run King because chicks dig the long ball.
Mark McGwire
Mark McGwire's home run record lost some luster because Barry Bonds might break it soon.
Jared
DeSoto, Texas


6. Rogers Hornsby's .424 batting average (28 letters)
Rogers Hornsby's .424 batting average in 1924 is absolutely ridiculous. Even in today's era of the live ball, no one can hit for such a high average.

Sixty-one was the magical home run record. That was broken three years ago and it might be broken again this year. But .424? I'm only 20, and I don't think that I'll see that record fall in my lifetime.
J Bertini
Bronx, N.Y.


7. Jack Chesbro's 41 wins, 1904 (27 letters)
The record that I think will never be broken is 41 wins in a season by Jack Chesbro in 1904. Today's pitchers don't even start 41 games, let alone win 41.

The fact that there hasn't been a 30-game winner since 1968 even further proves my point. With five-man rotations and an emphasis on the bullpen, this record won't be in danger of being broken ever.
Stephen Sickles
Rochester, N.Y.


8. Hack Wilson's 191 RBI, 1930 (21 letters)
There have been hundreds of sluggers and power hitters since Hack, and no one has come even remotely close to breathing in the direction of this record.

Why? Because the level of consistency required borders on almost superhuman. The man averaged well more than an RBI per game.

Guess what? It'll be there for the lifetime of my children and my children's children. Period!
E. Robinson
College Park, Md.


9. Rickey Henderson's 130 steals (14 letters)
Nobody will ever duplicate the Man of Steal's 130 stolen bases. Now players are leading the league in steals if they reach the 50 mark. That shows you the dominance Rickey Henderson showed on the basepaths in 1982. If I could pick a record that would never be broken; this would have to be the one.
Nicholas Redington
Fresno, Calif.


10. Dan Marino's 48 touchdown passes, 1984 (13 letters)
Dan Marino
Dan Marino led Miami to Super Bowl XIX after throwing for a record 5,084 yards and 48 TDs in 1984.
Unlike many of the other records, this one comes from the aspect that has changed the least of the sport that has changed the least over time.

The baseball records, although impressive, are either coming from a juiced-ball era, where shortstops are banging out 50 homers, or a pitchers' age, when starters lasted nine innings on a routine basis.

The passing game of football has remained the same throughout the years, and no one has even come close to touching Marino's record. Staying healthy in football is so difficult to do, and Dan did it in style. This record can only be broken by a superstar, and could never be reproduced by a fluke of a season, even by an average All-Pro.
Louis Friedel
Weston, Fla.


Honorable mention
Paul Hornung's 176 NFL points scored in 1960; Nolan Ryan's 383 strikeouts in 1973; George Sisler's 257 hits in 1920; Barry Sanders' NCAA 2,628 rushing yards in 1988; Tiger Woods' three golf majors in 2000