On This Date in Sports August 31, 1987: The Great Potato Caper

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

Catcher Dave Bresnahan playing with the Williamsport Bills, a AA affiliate of the Cleveland Indians in the Eastern League, attempts to trick the opposing team using a potato. Bresnahan, a backup catcher, carved a potato to look like a baseball and snuck it on the field when the Reding Phillies got a runner on third. Attempting to fool Rick Lundblade, Bresnahan whipped the potato over the third baseman's head on a pick-off throw, following a pitch. When Lundblade came home, Dave Bresnahan applied the tag with the baseball. The umpires huddled and ruled Lundblade safe as the potato trick was mashed. 

Dave Bresnahan had the DNA of a catcher. His granduncle Roger Bresnahan was a Hall of Famer for the New York Giants at the turn of the century, becoming the first catcher to use shin guards during games. Drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 18th round of the 1984 draft out of Grand Canyon University, Dave Bresnahan was nearing the end of his career, playing sparingly in AA for the Williamsport Bills. Having studied the game, Bresnahan knew of a game a century earlier where a game against Yale player used a potato to decoy a base runner off the bag to apply a tag. Bored from riding the pines and the buses, Dave Bresnahan, a 25-year-old backup catcher on the verge of quitting, decided to attempt the trick himself.

Neither the Reding Phillies nor the Williamsport Bills were loaded with major league prospects; both were at the bottom of the Eastern League. Dave Bresnahan had intended the potato to be a joke. When Redding got a man on base, Bresnahan had decided it was time to pull out the potato. To do so, he had to sneak the spud onto the field. The tater, as inside his backup glove, inside a ready-made compartment. Faking that his normal glove was broken, Dave Bresnahan went to the dugout to put his plan into motion. With Rick Lundblade on third, Bresnahan took a pitch and snapped a throw over the third baseman's head. It was the potato. Undblade came home but was tagged out by the baseball. The umpires, though quickly huddled and solved the riddle, and ruled the runner safe. 

Williamsport manager Steve Swisher was not amused by Dave Bresnahan's potato caper and removed him from the game. Bresnahan was fined $50 and released the following day. He never played again professionally. Years later, he would be honored by the team in Williamsport having his #59 retired, as the story gave national attention to the team, and has become one of the fun moments of minor league baseball.