The Cleveland Indians are on the precipice of history. Or are they? With Cleveland sitting on 20 straight wins, a debate has formed over which club holds the legitimate record for longest winning streak in baseball. The Indians could tie that mark Wednesday, or have to wait until next week to make history.
It’s a bit complicated, but we’ll try to sort it out. While some view 21 games as the record — which is held by the 1935 Chicago Cubs — some quick research reveals another team has won more games. In 1916, the New York Giants reeled off a 26-game winning streak.
Twenty-six is more than 21, so what’s the issue?
Well, the Giants’ streak is complicated by a tie. In the middle of the team’s streak, one of their games ended in a tie after nine innings due to a thunderstorm. The team played a double-header the following day and won both games, either continuing the streak or starting a new streak depending on how you look at it.
Steve Hirdt, executive vice president at the Elias Sports Bureau, told the Associated Press that he considers 26 to be the record, and that a tie shouldn’t break up a win streak.
”The Giants’ 26-game winning streak has existed since the beginning of time,” Hirdt said. “I do not know why certain people are looking at the 21 now and holding that up as the record or alternately trying to parse language so that they can somehow exclude the 26.
”It’s the longest winning streak, it’s the record for most consecutive wins, etc., because a tie game breaks neither a winning streak or losing streak for a team because it always gets replayed unless the season ends first.”
Games resulting in ties were not counted toward official statistics. While that Giants game ended in a tie, it didn’t count. It is on the team’s Baseball-Reference page listed as a tie, though. You’ll note that the team’s end of season record does not include ties.
The team kept playing games the next day and kept winning. The 1880 Chicago White Stockings had the same issue. The team won 21 straight games, but that streak was interrupted by a tie.
The reason the 1935 Cubs’ 21-game win streak stands out is because that’s the longest unbroken win streak. There were no ties, just 21 straight wins.
This issue did crop up during the 2002 Oakland Athletics’ 20-game streak. The New York Times mentioned the Giants’ 26-game streak as the record, but when A’s manager Art Howe was asked about it, he gave the following quote.
Howe was asked about whether the A’s should hold the distinction of longest winning streak if they won their 22nd straight on Saturday. ”A tie is like kissing your sister, right?” he said. ”Well, they kissed their sister in the middle somewhere.”
Yeah, we don’t know … though it’s worth noting that same article mentions that there’s some thinking the Giants’ streak should be viewed as an “unbeaten streak rather than a winning streak.”
In the MLB.com promo for Wednesday’s game, 21 straight wins is referred to as the “modern record.” It appears that’s what the league will go with.
No matter how you look at it, a 21-game winning streak would come with some type of qualifier. Either it’s the “modern” record. Or it’s the “longest uninterrupted winning streak.”
Still, it’s an impressive streak, but not the record … or not the all-time record … just the modern record. See how it gets confusing?
As usual, we leave all matters of intense debate to you, the commenter. If the Indians pull out a win Wednesday, do they have the record? Will you give them the record with a qualifier? Or will you refuse to acknowledge the record unless they win 26?
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