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September 02, 2007

20 years of the potato

Twenty years ago this past Friday, Dave Bresnahan, a minor-league catcher, pulled off what's considered one of the top baseball pranks ever. He took a potato, sculpted it to look like a baseball, and deliberately threw it over the head of the third baseman in an effort to pick a runner off third. When the runner ran home, Bresnahan was waiting with the real ball. Everyone thought it was funny, but he was fined by the manager and released by the team, dropped like a (dare I say it?) hot potato.

The other day, he was back at Williamsport, Pennsylvania, to commemorate the event. An article describing this in more detail is here.

I once used this incident to illustrate the problem of statutory gaps, situations that seem to be not covered by the statute although similar situations are. I quoted Bresnahan, who said he'd checked the rule book first. It said that if a pitcher threw anything other than a baseball, it was a balk, but it said nothing about a catcher, and that's what he was.

If Dave Bresnahan happens to be checking his press in the next few days and discovers this, I hope he'll be amused.