Iron man (sports streak)

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An Iron man is an athlete of unusual physical endurance.[1] This durability is generally measured by an athlete's ability to play without missing a game for an extended period of time, sometimes even for an entire career.[2] Some of the more notable athletes with significant streaks in sports history includes baseball's Lou Gehrig and Cal Ripken Jr.,[2] American football's Brett Favre[3] and Joe Thomas, [4] basketball's A. C. Green,[5] ice hockey's Doug Jarvis,[6] and stock car racing's Jeff Gordon.[7]


The term "iron man" as it pertains to sports longevity has origins from Major League Baseball pitcher Joe McGinnity, who was known for pitching in back-to-back doubleheaders and leading his league in innings pitched four times in five seasons from 1900 to 1904. He also played professionally until age 54. His nickname was "Iron Man", although he said the name originated from his off-season work at his family's foundry business.[8]

In 1939, an athlete noted for endurance was recognized as an "iron man" by the Boston Post when Lou Gehrig's streak of 2,130 consecutive games ended when he asked his manager to take him out of the lineup because of his fading abilities. Gehrig had been a consistent performer on the field, attaining a yearly batting average of at least .300 throughout his career until the previous season, when he fell to .295.[9] A common characteristic of an iron man is the ability to play through injury. Gehrig displayed this trait in 1934 when his streak was in jeopardy of being snapped at 1,426 games. He was injured during a game and was pulled from the lineup. The next day, after receiving heat treatments and massages for a stiff back, he was able to get a hit before leaving the contest.[10] Gehrig's record stood for 56 years until surpassed by Cal Ripken Jr. in 1995.[11][12] After Ripken's record-breaking streak garnered attention from the media,[13] the NBA's A.C. Green received attention, in 1997, for his own streak of consecutive games played, as he was approaching Randy Smith's record.[14] In 1999, Brett Favre set the record for consecutive starts by a quarterback when he started his 117th consecutive game, surpassing the mark established by Ron Jaworski.[15] In 2009, Favre would surpass Jim Marshall's starts streak at any position with his 271st consecutive start.[16]

An iron man streak can also end for disciplinary reasons. In 2015, Matt Kenseth was suspended after he caused a crash that ended Joey Logano's race. NASCAR issued a two-race suspension, effectively ending his streak at 571,[17] leaving him ineligible for pursuing Jeff Gordon's 797-race streak.

In international cricket, players can be taken out of the squad for injuries, discipline, poor form, or illegal bowling action or unfavourable conditions for certain bowlers, or simply as a healthy break when they are rested during long tours or in a calendar year with hectic schedules. In 2016, Brendon McCullum finished his international career having started in 101 consecutive tests from debut, which is notable not only because he was never dropped for poor form or poor health, but because New Zealand has a far leaner schedule than Australia and England; even though he is nowhere near Allan Border's actual record of 153, they were not from debut.[18] Brendon McCullum also started 122 consecutive One-Day Internationals from 2004–2010, the same as Mahela Jayawardene of Sri Lanka with 122 each, but the record is held by Sachin Tendulkar whose streak was snapped by an injury.[19]

In 2017, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning was benched in favor of Geno Smith, snapping his start streak at 210, which was the longest streak among active players.[20] As of 18 October 2021, Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has the longest active streak among quarterbacks and Ndamukong Suh of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers holds the longest active streak among all players.

Iron man leaderboard[edit]

League Type Player Streak Yrs Eq Held since Surpassed Streak Active pursuant(s) Streak References
ICC TC Matches started Alastair Cook 154 12.26 2018 Allan Border 153 Nathan Lyon 56 [18][21]
ICC TC Matches started from debut Brendan McCullum 101 11.75 2015 AB de Villiers 98
ICC ODI Matches started Sachin Tendulkar 185 7.99 1998 Andy Flower 172 Mohammad Nabi 80 [19]
ICC T20I Matches started Mohammad Shahzad 58 7.10 2017 Angelo Mathews 55 Asghar Stanikzai 38 [22]
ICC TC/ODI/T20I Matches started Sachin Tendulkar 239 7.99 1998 Andy Flower 224 Several players <80 [23]
ITF Grand slams played Feliciano Lopez 72 18 2018 Roger Federer 65 [24][25]
MLB Games played Cal Ripken Jr. 2,632 16.25 1995 Lou Gehrig 2,130 Whit Merrifield 469 [26]
MLB Innings played Cal Ripken Jr. 8,264 5.67 1985 George Pinkney 5,152 Several players <1,450 [27]
NASCAR Races started Jeff Gordon 797 23.04 2015 Ricky Rudd 788 Kevin Harvick 710 [7][28]
NBA Games played A. C. Green 1,192 14.54 1997 Randy Smith 906 Mikal Bridges and Justin Holiday 227 [29][30]
NFL Starts at the quarterback position Brett Favre 297 18.56 1999 Ron Jaworski 116 Tom Brady 86 [15][31]
NFL Starts at any position Brett Favre 297 18.56 2009 Jim Marshall 270 Ndamukong Suh 159 [16][31][32]
NFL Games played Jeff Feagles 352 22.00 2005 Jim Marshall 282 Mason Crosby 236 [33][34]
NFL Snaps Joe Thomas 10,363 10.44 2017 [4][35]
NHL Games played Doug Jarvis 964 11.76 1986 Garry Unger 914 Keith Yandle 943 [31][36][37]
NHL Starts at the goaltender position Glenn Hall 502 7.09 1959 Tiny Thompson 306 N/A[a] [39]
NHL Complete games played Glenn Hall 502 7.09 1959 Alec Connell 257 [40]


  1. ^ No NHL goaltender has started all his team's games in a single season since Roger Crozier in 1964–65.[38] Additionally, no NHL goaltender has played every minute of all his team’s games in a single season since Eddie Johnston in 1963–64.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Iron Man - Definition of Iron man by Merriam-Webster". Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  2. ^ a b Randy Lutz. "Iron Man Competition: Brett Favre vs. Cal Ripken Jr. vs. A.C. Green". Bleacher Report. Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  3. ^ "Brett Favre set for tests with streak over". Retrieved September 20, 2021.
  4. ^ a b Joe Thomas' snaps streak ends after triceps injury
  5. ^ "Yearbook, Nov. 20: AC Green's record streak". Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  6. ^ "How to be an NHL ironman like Doug Jarvis". Archived from the original on January 29, 2013. Retrieved November 29, 2012.
  7. ^ a b "Jayski's® NASCAR Silly Season Site - Sprint Cup Series All-Time Starts". Jayski. Archived from the original on February 10, 2017. Retrieved September 27, 2015.
  8. ^ Doxsie, Don. "Joe McGinnity". Society for American Baseball Research. Retrieved May 13, 2021.
  9. ^ "LOU GEHRIG'S CONSECUTIVE GAME STREAK ENDS AT 2,130". Archived from the original on February 16, 2016. Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  10. ^ "Lou Gehrig's Streak Should Have Ended at Navin Field — Not Briggs Stadium". Archived from the original on September 20, 2011. Retrieved November 29, 2012.
  11. ^ "Today in History for 17th August 1933". Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  12. ^ "Ripken breaks record for consecutive games played". Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  13. ^ Lawrence Barreca. "Cal Ripken's 2131 night- A Record That Saved Baseball". Bleacher Report. Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  14. ^ Move over Cal Ripken. A.C. Green of the Mavericks
  15. ^ a b "Iron Man". Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  16. ^ a b "Columns". Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  17. ^ "NASCAR suspends Matt Kenseth for two races |". Retrieved November 4, 2015.
  18. ^ a b "McCullum's most satisfying ton". Stuff. Retrieved February 11, 2016.
  19. ^ a b "Records | One-Day Internationals | Individual records (captains, players, umpires) | Most consecutive matches for a team | ESPN Cricinfo". Cricinfo. Retrieved February 11, 2016.
  20. ^ "NFL Football Highlights, Clips & Analysis |". Retrieved December 1, 2017.
  21. ^ "Records | Test matches | Individual records (captains, players, umpires) | Most consecutive matches for a team | ESPN Cricinfo". Cricinfo. Retrieved February 11, 2016.
  22. ^ "Records | Twenty20 Internationals | Individual records (captains, players, umpires) | Most consecutive matches for a team | ESPN Cricinfo". Cricinfo. Retrieved February 11, 2016.
  23. ^ "Records | Combined Test, ODI and T20I records | Individual records (captains, players, umpires) | Most consecutive matches for a team | ESPN Cricinfo". Cricinfo. Retrieved February 11, 2016.
  24. ^ Lopez breaks Federer grand-slam record at Wimbledon
  25. ^ Top 10 ATP Players Who Have Played Most Consecutive Grand Slams
  26. ^ "NO-HITTERS, WALK-OFFS AND SHOHEI OHTANI: WHEN GOOD THINGS HAPPEN TO BAD TEAMS". Fox Sports. October 1, 2021. Retrieved October 4, 2021.
  27. ^ "Ripken's Record for Consecutive Innings Played - SABR". Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  28. ^ "NASCAR: Kevin Harvick at risk of being suspended?". Retrieved October 12, 2021.
  29. ^ "The Drill: Longest sports streaks". Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  30. ^ "Player Review 2021: Justin Holiday". Retrieved October 4, 2021.
  31. ^ a b c "The Drill: Longest sports streaks". Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  32. ^ "Yardbarker". Retrieved September 20, 2021.
  33. ^ "Giants punter Jeff Feagles retires after 22 seasons and record 352 consecutive games". Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  34. ^ "Packers, Bengals set record with 5 missed FGs late before Mason Crosby wins it for Green Bay". Retrieved October 12, 2021.
  35. ^ Joe Thomas is probably the 1st NFL player with 10,000 consecutive snaps.
  36. ^ "Jarvis the Iron Man - Historical Website of the Montreal Canadiens". Archived from the original on May 12, 2012. Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  37. ^ "Philadelphia Flyers' Keith Yandle taking near-record ironman streak one game at a time". Yahoo Sports. September 27, 2021. Retrieved October 4, 2021.
  38. ^ Weekes, Don (2003). The best & worst of hockey firsts: The unofficial guide. Vancouver: Greystone Books Ltd. p. 102. ISBN 1926685423.
  39. ^ Kreiser, John (October 6, 2016). "Oct. 6: Glenn Hall begins record streak". National Hockey League. Retrieved January 11, 2017.
  40. ^ "NHL Records - Goaltending Records". National Hockey League. Retrieved November 26, 2021.