So the Indians have won 21 consecutive games. Can you beat that?
Is it better than Jennie Finch’s 60 straight pitching victories, 2001-02, at Arizona? Was it more difficult than Tucson High winning 52 straight baseball games from 1942-46?
Does it stir your emotions?
When UCLA blew its 88-game basketball winning streak on a winter afternoon in 1974, my mother walked downstairs and asked what all the screaming and yelling meant.
“UCLA is actually losing,” I said. “Don’t you just love it?”
Bill Walton still moans about that loss to Notre Dame on virtually every Pac-12 TV broadcast. It was 43 years ago.
I am more attracted by the Phillies’ 23-game losing streak of 1961, an MLB record. I think it’s more newsworthy to be really bad than really good. The ’61 Phils were so bad that Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Roberts went 1-10.
Here’s a streak for posterity: From 1973-79, Jerry Kindall’s Arizona baseball team went 39-0 against New Mexico. The Wildcats outscored the Lobos 349-133 and it wasn’t home cookin’. The Wildcats went 18-0 in Albuquerque during that long shower of W’s.
In the 39th straight victory, Arizona’s lineup included future major-leaguers Terry Francona and Brad Mills, who are now, the manager and bench coach, respectively, of the incomparable Indians.
The Lobos declined to schedule Arizona for the next 12 years. Finally, in 1991, when Tucson High grad and former Pima College baseball coach Rich Alday became the Lobos’ coach, the series resumed.
New Mexico won 5-3 in Tucson.
“As soon as the kids heard about the streak,” said Alday, “they wanted to be the ones to stop it.”
The most romanticized winning streaks in Southern Arizona history are Arizona’s 81-game basketball blitz at Bear Down Gym, followed four decades later by a 71-game string of success at McKale Center.
But from 1969-73, a few miles up the highway from Thatcher, a Hoosiers-like 75-game winning streak — home, road and neutral courts — became one likely never to be bettered in Arizona.
The Pima High School Rough Riders, a Class C school in the middle of nowhere, went 75-0, which included 19 victories against Class B and Class A schools. The degree of difficulty will probably never be understood by anyone other than PHS coach Stan Smith.
About half of those 75 games were played in inhospitable Southern Arizona venues against Patagonia, St. David, Sahuarita, Thatcher, Valley Union, Fort Thomas and in Lordsburg, New Mexico. Can you imagine what type of home cookin’ — small-school officiating — brewed when the Rough Riders hit the road?
Nearby Thatcher, a larger school with an imposing basketball heritage, played Smith’s Rough Riders 10 times in the 75-game streak. Lost ’em all. A testament to Pima’s 75-0 streak is that it survived Thatcher’s best shot, winning games 54-52, 62-59, 57-51 and 63-58.
Talk about earning it.
In 2002, Arizona’s Lorena Ochoa won seven consecutive college golf tournaments. During those seven events, the UA played against 83 teams, which means about 400 other golfers teed it up. Ochoa beat ’em all, from September until late May, at which time she finished No. 2 in the NCAA finals.
Is Cleveland’s 21-game (and counting) streak any better?
From 1942-46, Tucson High won a state-record 32 consecutive football games.
It outscored opponents 807-81 and it didn’t beat up on struggling neighborhood chums like today’s Rincons and Catalinas, which weren’t yet established.
The Badgers of ’42-46 didn’t beat another Tucson school in its 32-0 streak. Amphitheater was Tucson’s only other high school, and the Panthers weren’t yet of the size to schedule Tucson. So the Badgers’ yearly schedule included Phoenix Union, which was the state’s athletic titan of the day, Phoenix St. Mary’s, Mesa, North Phoenix, Douglas, Yuma, Bisbee and Glendale.
Only 15 of those 32 games were won in Tucson, which further created a legacy of excellence. The Badgers played such a difficult schedule that the 32 victories were sandwiched by a 1942 loss to Santa Barbara High School and ’46 setback to El Paso Austin High School.
When the Badgers won No. 32, a state championship showdown against the Mesa Jackrabbits, a crowd of 7,500 filled a Mesa stadium to watch sainted running back Wilford “Whizzer” White take on THS’s 31-game streak.
Tucson won 9-0, but not before a goal-line stand for the ages, stopping the Whizzer four times from inside the 6-yard line to preserve a late 6-0 lead.
Some streaks can’t be diminished, which is certainly the case for the ’45 Badgers and the ’73 Rough Riders.
And some streaks are best forgotten, as the Futile Phillies of ’61 would attest.
From 2000 to 2003, Arizona lost 13 consecutive Pac-10 home football games, a league record for home-field futility. It cost both Dick Tomey and John Mackovic their jobs.
You never know when a streak is ready to bust or bust out.
As Arizona’s home football losses mounted in 2003, Francona was employed as a bench coach by the A’s.
A few months later, he was hired as manager of the Red Sox.
A year later, the Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years. That was a streak-breaker like few others in sports history.