1. April 28, 2012: Harper’s debut
Harper became the youngest player to make his major league debut since 2005 and went 1 for 3 with an double and an RBI at Dodger Stadium. The Nationals lost, 4-3, on Matt Kemp’s walk-off home run in the 10th inning.
“Oh, man, this is beautiful,” Harper said afterward. “This is unbelievable coming out here. It’s just a blessing having this night.”
2. May 6, 2012: Stealing home
After Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels drilled Harper in the back with a 93-mph fastball with two outs in the first inning, Harper went first-to-third on a Jayson Werth single. Before the game, Werth and third base coach Bo Porter told Harper that Hamels had a tendency to make lazy pickoff throws to first base when runners were on the corners.
Harper remembered that lesson with Chad Tracy at the plate. On Hamels’s second pickoff throw to first base, Harper bolted for home and slid in safely ahead of Laynce Nix’s throw. On his way to the dugout after the first stolen base of his career, Harper looked back at Hamels, who admitted afterward that he drilled Harper on purpose and was subsequently suspended for five games.
“It became a perfect storm, truly,” Harper later said of the play. “It was just like, boom, boom, boom. One thing happened, one thing happened, and it led to the steal of home. Fans were going crazy. The team was going crazy. I don’t know if Tracy was very excited, because he had an RBI chance against Hamels. It was fun. It was a cool opportunity. I’m actually kind of happy now that he did drill me, so I could have that opportunity.”
3. May 14, 2012: First home run
In his 15th career game, Harper hit Padres starter Tim Stauffer’s 2-1 pitch over the center field fence for his first career home run. After rounding the bases in about 18 seconds, Harper was congratulated by his teammates in the dugout as 19,434 fans stood and roared in approval. Jayson Werth encouraged the rookie to acknowledge the curtain call, and Harper obliged, returning to the top step of the dugout, turning around and pointing toward the crowd.
“I’ve got no words for it,” Harper said after the game. “Hopefully it’s one of many.”
4. June 12, 2012: “That’s a clown question, bro.”
Harper went 3 for 4 with his seventh home run in a 4-2 win at Toronto. Afterward, a reporter asked Harper whether he would celebrate by drinking a beer because the legal drinking age in Canada is 18. Harper, a devout Mormon, doesn’t drink alcohol.
“I’m not answering that,” Harper said. “That’s a clown question, bro.”
The phrase appeared on T-shirts and Sen. Harry M. Reid used it on the Senate floor. Denver Beer Co. brewed a small batch of Canadian lager, named it “Clown Question Bro” and used it to raise money for a fallen policewoman. Solace Brewing in Sterling has since brewed an imperial IPA called “Clown Question.”
5. April 1, 2013: Opening Day homers
Coming off his rookie of the year season, Harper accounted for both of the Nationals’ runs in a win over the Marlins on Opening Day with a pair of solo home runs.
Fans wouldn’t stop cheering or sit down after Harper’s second homer, which prompted chants of “M-V-P!” In the dugout, Harper asked veteran Chad Tracy whether he should take a curtain call.
"I don’t think he even waited for an answer,” Tracy said.
6. July 25, 2013: First walk-off home run
Harper snapped the Nationals’ six-game losing streak with a two-run home run in the ninth inning off Bryan Morris.
“I’m serious, I couldn’t care less about whether it went over the fence or if it was a double off the wall,” Harper said after the first walk-off home run of his major league career. “I don’t really remember any of the play. I kind of do. But I’m just very happy that we won the ballgame.”
7. Aug. 7, 2014: Walking off the Mets
Mired in a slump that led to Manager Matt Williams answering questions about whether the Nationals would ever consider sending Harper back down to the minors, Harper hit a two-run, 13th-inning walk-off home run into the visitors' bullpen.
“I knew it was gone,” said Harper, who was chased around the infield by Denard Span after being mobbed by his teammates at home plate. “I felt it.”
8. Aug. 10, 2014: Disrespecting the ‘A’
Harper dragged his foot through the Braves logo printed in the dirt behind home plate at Turner Field before his first at-bat. The Braves' TV announcers, who were among Harper’s biggest critics over the years, were convinced he did it intentionally.
“That’s the last thing on my mind when I’m walking up to the plate,” Harper said afterward. "I really had no idea. When [a team staffer] came up to me, I had no clue that I did anything. Seriously, that’s the last thing on my mind going to face [Aaron] Harang or [Craig] Kimbrel or somebody like that. I had no idea why that was such a big deal. Of course, that’s the last thing on my mind.”
Accident or not, Braves fans were upset. Harper respected the 'A' in Washington’s return to Atlanta later in the year.
9. Oct. 3, 2014: HR off Hunter Strickland
With the Nationals trailing the Giants, 3-0, in the bottom of the seventh inning of Game 1 of the NLDS, Harper turned on a 97-mph fastball from Hunter Strickland and deposited it into the third deck, some 445 feet away.
“Have you ever hit a ball that far before?” a reporter asked after the Nationals' 3-2 loss.
“Maybe in college or high school,” Harper replied.
Harper’s blast is marked with a red seat at Nationals Park. Harper would hit another home run off Strickland four days later, this one into McCovey Cove at San Francisco’s AT&T Park. Strickland was so bothered that Harper had the nerve to take a moment to admire his no-doubters on the way to first base that he decided to hit him with a pitch to spark a brawl when they faced off again in 2017. (More on that below.)
10. Feb. 25, 2015: ‘Where’s my ring?’
After the defending National League East champions signed Max Scherzer to bolster their already strong rotation, Harper expressed confidence during a meeting with reporters at spring training.
“To be able to have a guy like Scherzer come in, I just started laughing,” Harper said. “I was like, ‘Where’s my ring?’ It’s just stupid. It’s absolutely how stupid how good our staff is. To add a Cy Young, to add a guy that is unbelievable in the postseason."
Harper also made a promise.
“I’m going to bring back a title to D.C., no matter what,” Harper said. “And I’m getting chills thinking about it. I absolutely want to do that for this city, this town. I don’t care how long it takes me. I’m going to stick and do what I need to do to help this organization win, and they showed me what they wanted and how they wanted to do it, and got that deal done. I’m here for the next two years definitely, and I’m excited to get going this year and do the things I need to do to bring a title back to D.C. and hoist that trophy over the monuments.”
11. May 6, 2015: Three-homer game
Harper hit 42 home runs en route to the NL MVP award in 2015, including six during a three-game stretch in May. On May 6, Harper homered in his first three at-bats off Marlins starter Tom Koehler, and each blast was followed by a hair flip. At 22, Harper became the youngest player to hit three home runs in a game since Boston’s Joe Lahoud accomplished the feat on June 11, 1969.
“That’s what I expect out of myself,” said Harper, who joined Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn and Alfonso Soriano as the only Nationals to homer three times in one game. “Of course, you’re not going to do that every single day. You’re not going to hit three homers, or whatever, and drive in five. But that’s the type of player I need to be."
Three days after his three-homer barrage, Harper walked-off the Braves with a home run that earned him a chocolate syrup shower.
12. June 2, 2015: But first, let me take a selfie
Eight months before he declared baseball was “tired” and embarked on a mission to make the sport fun again, Harper borrowed a fan’s phone and took a selfie in the outfield before a game at Nationals Park.
“I went over there and said, ‘Hey, toss me the phone and I’ll do it for you,’ ” Harper told the AP, describing the photo as “pretty good.”
13. Sept. 27, 2015: The Papelbon brawl
Harper’s MVP season featured a dugout scuffle with Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon, who had been acquired at the trade deadline, on Fan Appreciation Day at Nationals Park. Papelbon didn’t take too kindly to Harper not running out a fly ball in the eighth inning and had some words for the outfielder before things escalated. Papelbon returned to the Nationals the following season but was released in August.
14. Nov. 19, 2015: Meh-mays
During a “SportsCenter” interview with ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt after accepting his NL MVP award, Harper was asked whether he would rather be as bald as Van Pelt or never again reach double-digit home runs.
“I don’t even want to answer that right now,” Harper replied, “because I know how many meh-mays are going to be out there, of me with a bald head. So, um, I really probably would take the bald head."
15. April 14, 2016: Grand slam for No. 100
“It was pretty awesome,” Harper said. “It was my mom’s birthday today, so being able to hit her a homer was definitely huge. I love these fans. I love this organization. It’s a thrill to be able to do it in front of the home crowd, and I’m glad I was able to do it here."
Harper is a ridiculous 18 for 40 with eight home runs and 19 RBI in his career against Teheran.
16. Aug. 24, 2016: Katie Ledecky’s human medal rack
Harper stood by the mound and held Ledecky’s medals while she threw a ceremonial first pitch at Nationals Park. Ledecky sent Harper a thank-you note and included the swim cap, which she said “could help contain his hair as he was rounding third base.”
17. May 29, 2017: Hunter Strickland brawl
With the Nationals leading 2-0 in the top of the eighth inning, Strickland drilled Harper with a fastball. Harper proceeded to charge the mound and throw his helmet in Strickland’s direction.
“I was just trying to go after him, with the helmet or just myself,” Harper said. “I was just trying to do what I needed to do to keep it going I guess. I don’t know. In that situation, you see red. You just try to do the best you can and get out of there and not get crushed by one of their teammates coming in.”
The brawl produced a lot of memes. Unfortunately it also ended the career of former National Michael Morse, who suffered a concussion when he collided with Giants teammate Jeff Samardzija en route to the mound.
“I’m kind of thankful that Mikey Mo and Samardzija collided, because Samardzija saw blood a little bit, I thought,” Harper said of his former teammate afterward. “I’m very thankful for Mikey Mo.”
18. Oct. 8, 2017: NLDS home run vs. Cubs
The Cubs led the Nationals, 3-1, in the eighth inning of Game 2 of the 2017 NLDS when Harper came to the plate with a man on. Harper’s upper deck home run off Carl Edwards Jr. tied the game and awakened the nervous Nationals Park crowd. Three batters later, Ryan Zimmerman hit a three-run homer that provided the final margin in a 6-3 win that evened the series.
“Didn’t think he was going to throw a pitch over the plate, to tell you the truth,” Harper said. “I thought he was going to throw a curveball back down in the dirt. I thought about taking the whole way. And then I saw the loop in the curveball, and said, ‘Why not? Swing as hard as you can.’”
19. July 16, 2018: Home Run Derby
Wearing a D.C. flag headband and with his dad serving as his pitcher, Harper edged out Kyle Schwarber for the Home Run Derby title with an incredible final round. (No, Harper and his dad did not cheat.)
“That’s the kid you see out there tonight, and I was fortunate to share that with you guys and show that to the fans,” Harper said afterward. “This wasn’t only for me and my family and everybody like that, but this is for, you know, the cook, the guy that works the front and the people that work upstairs. I mean, this is the whole city of D.C. I was very fortunate to be able to bring this back to them and do it here.”
20. Sept. 26, 2018: Final home game
Harper was on deck when Trea Turner grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the seventh inning of Washington’s 2018 home finale. An hour later, the game was called due to rain. Harper finished 0 for 4 with two strikeouts in a 9-3 win.
“It really wasn’t a farewell kind of treatment. It was just a normal day,” Harper said afterward. “. . . You never know what’s going to happen. My heart lies here. If I’m going to play somewhere and have some fun and enjoy it, then hopefully those plans are for me to stay where I’m at. If I’m not, I’m not sure where it’s going to be.”
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