6 More Prizes Not Awarded for Length

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Last week's announcement that President Barack Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize raised eyebrows around the world. Even his staunchest supporters seemed to admit that it was a bit odd the president would win such a prestigious award so early in his first term. We're not here to get political, though. Instead, let's take a look at some other big awards that weren't given out for length of performance or service time.

1. Rafael Palmeiro's Gold Glove

Some baseball fans will tell you that Gold Gloves are the ultimate measure of a player's fielding prowess. More statistically oriented modern fans would argue that the awards are essentially meaningless fluff that usually go to players who bat well rather than superlative fielders. The latter camp gets quite a bit of mileage out of one particularly egregious Gold Glove: Rafael Palmeiro claiming the 1999 award as the American League's best fielding first baseman.

Surprisingly, Palmeiro's Gold Glove wasn't a travesty because of any steroid rumors or creepy Viagra commercials featuring the slugger. Instead, the award was curious because Palmeiro simply hadn't played very much first base during the 1999 season—just 28 games to be exact. He spent the balance of the season serving as the Rangers' designated hitter. In any event, Palmeiro claimed his fourth Gold Glove that year despite not wearing a leather mitt all that often.

2. Dolores Gray's Tony

Compared to Dolores Gray's Tony, Palmeiro had to work himself to the bone for that Gold Glove, though. On September 8, 1953, the new musical Carnival in Flanders opened at Broadway's New Century Theatre. Critics felt the production's costumes and sets were amazing, and they had high praise for Gray's work as the musical's leading lady. Unfortunately, everything else about the production was awful, and the company packed it in after just six performances.

Gray's six performances were memorable to critics, though, and when awards season rolled around, they all remembered her. Gray won the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical for what remains the shortest-lived Tony-winning performance of all time.

3. Anthony Hopkins' Oscar

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When Anthony Hopkins won the 1992 Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs it was tough to criticize the Academy's choice to honor him. Hopkins' Lecter was one of film's most memorable villains—the American Film Institute later called Lecter the number one bad guy of all time—but Hopkins' work had another interesting feature: its brevity. Hopkins only appeared on screen for roughly 16 minutes of the film's 118-minute run time, which set a record for the least screen time of any Best Actor winner.

4. Judi Dench's Oscar

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If you think Hopkins brought home the hardware for just a little bit of work, Judi Dench's 1998 Oscar for Best Supporting Actress was even more impressive. Dench won the award for her role as Queen Elizabeth I in the film Shakespeare in Love, and while Dench's portrayal was undeniably solid, there just wasn't very much of it. She appeared on screen for just under eight minutes of the two-hour movie, but we guess it never hurts to get regal for a role. Dench probably also got a boost from a not-so-stellar field of competitors, most notably Kathy Bates in Primary Colors.

5. Penelope Fitzgerald's Man Booker Prize

Much like with acting, when it comes to literature quality usually trumps quantity. The late English author Penelope Fitzgerald knew that truth as well as anyone. In 1979 she won the Man Booker Prize, the British Commonwealth's highest award for a novel, for her brief novel Offshore. Although her novel only had a scant 132 pages of text, Fitzgerald beat out longer works by shortlisted authors like V.S. Naipaul and Fay Weldon.

6. Tathagat Avatar Tulsi's Doctoral Dissertation

Last August, Indian child prodigy Tulsi wrapped up his doctorate in physics at the tender age of 21. While that number is impressive, it's par for the course with Tulsi; he finished high school at age nine. Tulsi applied to the Limca Book of Records, India's Guinness equivalent, to prove that he was the youngest PhD in India, but he also made another claim: that he had the shortest PhD thesis in the country. Tulsi's thesis "Generalizations on the quantum search algorithm" was just 33 pages long.
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If you were the foreman of the Nobel jury, to whom would you have given this year's Peace Prize?

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October 13, 2009 - 6:44am
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