1 fun highlight for each new HOF candidate

December 26th, 2021

The 2022 MLB Hall of Fame ballot includes 13 fresh faces. All of these players left a memorable -- and perhaps historic -- mark on the sport. We marveled at their on-field abilities, which earned them their opportunity for enshrinement.

But baseball, as you know, is often weird, and these Hall nominees experienced their fair share of weird, quirky or embarrassing moments on the diamond. So, in celebration of this baker’s dozen of new Cooperstown candidates, let’s look back at one such moment from each player’s career.

The 2022 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take place on July 24 in Cooperstown. This year’s ballot was released by the BBWAA on Nov. 22, and voters have until Dec. 31 to submit their ballots. Election results will be announced live on MLB Network on Jan. 25, 2022.

Carl Crawford
Speed was Crawford’s calling card. He led the American League in stolen bases four times and racked up at least 45 steals in seven of his first eight full seasons. Crawford’s speed was also evident in the outfield, and the 2010 Gold Glove Award winner needed to act fast to snare an Ichiro Suzuki line drive in 2012. As Crawford started in on the ball, he slipped on the Yankee Stadium turf. However, he averted disaster by using cat-like quickness to reach across his body and snag the hot shot, saving an extra-base hit.

Crawford used that athleticism to lead all qualified outfielders with 80 Defensive Runs Saved from 2003-10. Coincidentally, Ichiro ranked second on that list (78).

Prince Fielder
Do you remember the afternoon when Fielder sent a shockwave through Miller Park? It was Sept. 6, 2009, and Fielder had just cinched a 2-1 victory for the Brewers over the Giants with a walk-off homer. As he rounded first base, Fielder pointed toward Milwaukee’s dugout, but it's soon clear that this is more than a mere acknowledgment of his teammates; the slugger had something up his sleeve. All of the Brewers crowded around the plate as Fielder made his way home. The big man then leaped on the dish and everyone collapsed to the ground as if they had just been blown over by a force of nature. Fielder, jersey untucked, spread his arms wide over his head as the cheers from the Milwaukee faithful rained down upon him.

All behold the power of Prince!

Ryan Howard
Howard racked up 1,475 hits during his 13-year career. None of them was like the single he recorded during a 2015 game in Toronto. At first glance, it appears Howard had simply beaten the defensive shift with a swinging bunt up the third-base line. Yet the broadcast replay showed that the ball clearly deflected off of Howard’s left knee while he was in the batter’s box. But Howard gave no indication of this -- he broke for first like it was business as usual -- and the Blue Jays didn't challenge the play. In the end, it looked like a clean knock in the box score.

Howard is often lauded for his prodigious power; he crushed an MLB-best 262 homers from 2006-11. But we have obviously not paid enough attention to his acting acumen.

Tim Lincecum
Lincecum won the National League Cy Young Award in 2008 and 2009, becoming the eighth pitcher in MLB history to claim the award in back-to-back seasons. The 2010 campaign was a little more of a challenge for Lincecum as his ERA and FIP each increased by almost a full run. He did lead the NL in strikeouts for the third straight year, but his K/9 rate slumped from the season prior. Needing to change something up after the Dodgers greeted him with three runs in the first inning of his July 20, 2010, start in L.A., “The Freak” unleashed a pitch to Casey Blake that was downright freakish.

It’s really a shame that Statcast wasn’t around in 2010 to give us the movement numbers on that 12-to-6 curve.

Justin Morneau
Morneau didn’t hit the most or the longest home runs during the 2014 Home Run Derby. In fact, he hit only two homers. But one of them likely couldn’t have been replicated by anyone in the contest that night even if they tried. Morneau, who was the 2006 AL MVP with the Twins, returned to Minnesota for the Derby and received a hero’s welcome as he stepped to the plate. His first dinger traveled an estimated 409 feet and was stopped only by a flag in right field.

Morneau would go on to win a batting title that season with the Rockies, but this is arguably the more impressive feat. Shouldn’t he have won a car or something for nailing that target at Target Field?

Joe Nathan
“Now pitching for the Texas Rangers: No. 9, right-hander Tony Romo.”

Nathan is a man of his word. This can not be questioned. The six-time All-Star who tallied the eighth-most saves in MLB history held up his end of the bargain when he lost a friendly bet to fellow Rangers reliever Mike Adams in 2012.

Adams, a Dallas Cowboys fan, and Nathan, who roots for the New York Giants, agreed prior to the Sept. 5 matchup between the NFL rivals that the loser of the bet has to wear the uniform of the winning team's quarterback. Dallas prevailed, 24-17, meaning Nathan had to dress up as Romo. A few days later, he hit the field prior to a game in full getup and did not spare a single detail.

Nice form on that tackle in the open field, too.

David Ortiz
Ortiz is a member of the 500-home run club, a three-time World Series champion, the author of some of the most clutch hits in MLB history and widely regarded as one of the game’s best ambassadors. Something that may not show up on his Hall of Fame reel, however, is the infamous bullpen phone incident at Baltimore’s Camden Yards in 2013. After being ejected from a game in the seventh inning for arguing balls and strikes, Ortiz took his bat and absolutely went to town on the phone in the Red Sox’s dugout. Take cover, Dustin Pedroia!

A scary scene in the moment, the Orioles put a light-hearted spin on the episode a few years later when they presented the demolished phone to Ortiz as a retirement gift.

Jonathan Papelbon
Papelbon began his career with 26 consecutive scoreless postseason innings, the second-longest such streak in AL/NL history. He was selected to six All-Star games. He recorded the final out of the 2007 World Series for the Red Sox. He ranks 10th all-time with 368 saves and has a career 2.44 ERA.

But who knew he was apparently a fan of Corey Hart? No, not the former Brewers outfielder. The ‘80s Canadian pop star.

Of course, Papelbon’s penchant for Irish dancing was well established in 2007.

Jake Peavy
Adam Dunn was not the most fleet of foot. After all, they don’t call you “Big Donkey” because you’re fast. But on April 15, 2014, Peavy wasn’t taking any chances. After Dunn drew a fourth-inning walk, Peavy fired a pickoff throw to first. Never mind that Dunn had stolen only three bases over the previous five seasons and was standing about six inches off the bag.

The pickoff attempt was understandably unsuccessful. So, Peavy got the ball back -- and did it again.

Dunn homered off of Peavy in his previous at-bat that night, which probably explains Peavy’s tongue-in-cheek pettiness here. Or maybe the 2007 NL pitching Triple Crown winner is prescient; Dunn recorded the final stolen base of his career just four days later.

A.J. Pierzynski
Pierzynski is responsible for the most consequential play on this list. It’s a play that led to a lot of confusion but ultimately helped the White Sox win a World Series.

Everyone thought Game 2 of the 2005 ALCS was headed to extra innings after Pierzynski struck out swinging on a ball in the dirt. Everyone, that is, except for Pierzynski, who took off for first base and reached on what was ruled as a dropped third strike. Pinch-runner Pablo Ozuna stole second and then scored on Joe Crede’s 0-2 double to left.

The White Sox won their next seven games en route to snapping their 87-year championship drought. Pierzynski, a 19-year MLB veteran, contributed more than just one heads-up play during that postseason; he drove in nine runs and posted a .912 OPS.

Alex Rodriguez
A-Rod was already a bona fide star by Sept. 1, 1996. With only 185 MLB games under his belt, the 21-year-old entered that night’s contest against the Orioles with a .375/.427/.673 season slash line. He came up with two men on in the fifth inning with the score tied 1-1 between the two Wild Card contenders. But before Rodriguez had a chance to do damage, Orioles manager Davey Johnson decided to play some mind games and asked for A-Rod’s bat to be confiscated.

No worries. Ken Griffey Jr. lent his bat to the phenom, who deposited a three-shot over the wall in left-center.

Rodriguez was the AL MVP runner-up in ‘96. His 36 homers that year stand as the third-most in AL/NL history from a player in his age-20 season.

Jimmy Rollins
Rollins took home the NL MVP Award in 2007 after leading the league with 139 runs and hitting a career-high 30 homers. One of those home runs was a simple low liner to center against the Marlins, but some good fortune and Rollins’ speed turned what should have been a single or maybe a hustle double into the third inside-the-park home run of his career.

J-Roll used that speed to pick up 20 triples and 41 steals that year as well. He is the only player in AL/NL history to put together a 20-triple, 30-homer, 40-steal season.

Mark Teixeira
There was a real buzz surrounding a 2014 Spring Training Game between the Red Sox and the Yankees. It had nothing to do with the rivals on the field though. We’re talking about bees here, people. Lots of them. But leave it to Teixeira, a five-time Gold Glove Award winner, to try to provide some defense. He offered up a couple of bottles of honey to help distract the swarm.

No word on if Teixeira’s tactic helped, but it couldn’t have hurt. The three-time All-Star should know plenty about bees after he spent three years as a Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket.