Over the years, players across every level of baseball have tried to find a way to outsmart the opposition. On this day in 1987, Cleveland Indians farmhand Dave Bresnahan came up with his own take on the "hidden ball trick," involving a potato.
If the name Bresnahan looks familiar, it is likely because of Hall of Fame catcher Roger Bresnahan. One of the finest catchers in the game just after the turn of the century, he is also credited with inventing several items we take for granted these days, like shin guards and a batting helmet. However, in terms of game action, his great nephew Dave Bresnahan upstaged any of the Hall of Famer's accomplishments.
A backup catcher for the Cleveland Indians AA team, the Williamsport Bills, the 25 year old Bresnahan seemed highly unlikely to follow in his famous forefather's footsteps. Yet, that did not mean that he lacked his great uncle's sense of ingenuity. Prior to a game against the Reading Phillies, Bresnahan took a potato and carved it into a baseball, keeping it around for the perfect moment.
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That came in the fifth inning. He returned behind the plate after a time out, the potato secreted in his glove. With a runner on third, Bresnahan threw the potato wildly down the third base line in a 'pickoff attempt,' while holding the real baseball. As expected, the runner came home, where he was greeted by the Bills catcher holding the actual ball. It was truly a brilliant moment in the history of baseball.
Unfortunately, neither the umpires nor the Cleveland Indians agreed. Bresnahan was charged with an error after the potato was located, and the run was allowed to score. The following day, he was fined $50.00 by his manager, and then released by the Indians for "an affront to the integrity of the game." Yet, the Cleveland teams of the time were somehow not making a mockery of baseball itself?
That would also prove to be the last game that Bresnahan played in the minors. Given his .210/.344/.282 batting line and 34 extra base hits over four seasons, it is easy to imagine that his career was on life support anyway. The potato being thrown in an attempt to trick a runner into an out was just the final straw.
Dave Bresnahan using a potato as a facsimile baseball was a brilliant idea. Unfortunately, the Eastern League, and the Cleveland Indians, disagreed, ending his baseball career.