A few years ago, I told ZYMBOT the story below. He broke my little heart because he thought I made it up.
In August 1987, Dave Bresnahan's dream of making it to baseball's major leagues was fading. At 25, this journeyman catcher was batting .149 and struggling to remain in the class-AA minor leagues. That's when he had an idea to liven-up a meaningless, late-season game.
In his spare time, Bresnahan bought a bag of russet potatoes at the local Weis Supermarket. After he found the best candidate, he sculpted it into the shape of a baseball. He hid the orb-like spud during a game and waited for an opportune moment. When an opposing runner took a lead off third base, Bresnahan mimicked a pick-off attempt and intentionally threw the potato/ball past his third baseman. The runner trotted home...only to be tagged-out by Bresnahan with the real ball.
BRESNAHAN'S ANTICS GOT HIM FINED BY THE LEAGUE AND RELEASED BY THE TEAM. HE NEVER PLAYED ORGANIZED BALL AGAIN.
Bresnahan's on-field action earned him a certain level of notoriety. Soon he got national TV exposure in the sports world when he was interviewed by Marv Albert. And his celebrity status went global when he appeared on the "DAVID LETTERMAN SHOW." To cash-in on this unforeseen public relations bonanza, his former team, the Williamsport (Pennsylvania) Bills, (Cleveland Indians affiliate), showed that they didn't hold a grudge. They held a "Dave Bresnahan Day," and formally retired his #59 uniform number.
THE ACTUAL POTATO/BALL (above) WAS OFFERED...AND REJECTED IN 2000, BY THE BASEBALL HALL OF FAME. THEY CALLED IT AN AFFRONT TO THE INTEGRITY OF THE GAME.
The foundations of baseball are currently being throttled by differing opinions on how to treat performance-enhancing drug users. Plus, the integrity of the game has always been marred by gambling, corked bats, scuffed balls and stealing the opposition's signs. So, instead of adding Dave Bresnahan to the unemployment line, I think he should be hired by MLB as a special, fun at the ballpark consultant. Or at least thanked, for reminding us that baseball is a game.
YOU CAN SEE THE REACTION TO MY IDEA FROM THE "NATIONAL POTATO ASSOCIATION," SPOKESPERSON. NOTICE, HE'S NOT WEARING HIS ANGRY EYES !
ZYMBOT unfortunately overlooked the obvious...that my story was designed to entertain him. And while its true I am apt to embellish, after all, nobody ever accused me of writing non-fiction...he should realize that cleverly chosen enhancements are the key to being entertaining.
In my own defense, I used no poetic license and exaggerated nothing. I do admit to one factual error, I told ZYMBOT that Bresnahan was the grandson of Hall-of-Famer Roger Bresnahan...when in reality, the elder Bresnahan was his great uncle.
ROGER BRESNAHAN WAS THE FIRST CATCHER INDUCTED INTO COOPERSTOWN. IN THE EARLY 1900's, HE ORIGINATED SHIN GUARDS FOR CATCHERS AND PROTECTIVE HEAD-GEAR FOR BATTERS.
Now I have to worry if ZYMBOT is going to challenge the Mr. Potato Head thing? After all, we all know Mr. Head is the chairman of the Potato Association and not their spokesperson.
Something tells me, ZYMBOT won't believe this next tale, about the "Racketeer-Nickel," either.
In 1883, the US Mint issued a new five-cent coin with the head of Lady Liberty on the front and a Roman "V" on the reverse. Many people thought this coin was an error since it didn't have the word, "cents" anywhere on the coin.
THE LACK OF THE WORD CENTS OPENED A DOOR FOR THE UNSCRUPULOUS.
Enterprising opportunists devised a method of gold-plating these coins. Reeds were then cut into the smooth rims by hand. The humble nickel already had a similar size and weight as a five-dollar gold piece. So this perforation made it easy to be foisted upon the naive.
The most famous criminal case concerning altered coins in US history involved a deaf-mute named Joshua Tatum. It has been estimated that he "earned" $15,000.00, (a fortune in the 1880's), by targeting unsuspecting merchants. His typical mode of operation was simple, select ten-cents worth of goods...pay with one of his mutilated nickels...receive $4.90 change.
After 3,000+ successful missions, Josh Tatum's luck ran out and he was arrested. However, he was acquitted because he never said his payment was a $5.00 gold piece, nor did he ever ask for change, (remember, he was a deaf-mute). That my dear friends is where the expression, "Getting Joshed," comes from.
US Mint officials were flooded with complaints of bogus $5.00 gold pieces. They were appalled by their own negligence and stopped production.
Today the 1883 "V" nickel, nicknamed the "Racketeer Nickel," is hoarded by collectors. So contemporary con-artists...a.k.a., coin dealers, to satisfy the desire for this cherished plum, has begun making their own forgeries by gilding 1883 nickels and charging $30.00 for them in average condition.
I guess some people don't mind being joshed. After all many others still believe in the tooth fairy or that Lincoln was always honest and Washington never told little fibs. However, there is one ardent naysayer to the Josh Tatum affair.
Patrick Feaster, a graduate student of folklore at Indiana University wrote an article on February 25, 2007. In it, he verifies that 1883 nickels were gilded and passed-off as $5.00 gold pieces. However, his research turned-up nothing on the existence of Joshua Tatum. He believes the Tatum-spin was manufactured because there is no mention of him in the annals of coin counterfeiting history...until it suddenly began popping-up in mid-1960's coin magazine articles.
Feaster found it inconceivable that such a rich story...that should have concrete arrest records and court proceedings...would have gone so long without being chronicled. He also points out that the application of the term, getting joshed, to this case, doesn't appear in print until 1970. Feaster contends that the expression itself is considerably older than 1883. So if he's right, the phrase is more of a folk etymology than a true explanation.
Patrick Feaster's further investigation included the US census of 1880. In it, he discovered only four individuals in the whole country were named Joshua Tatum...and then none of them were registered as a deaf-mute.
He closed his article by mentioning that the "invention" of Josh Tatum coincides with the US Secret Service's new policy of confiscating Racketeer Nickels from irate coin collectors because gold-plated coins were technically illegal to privately own at the time. So to take advantage of the controversy, resourceful writers made-up the Josh Tatum urban legend.
Can you picture ZYMBOT's bushy eyebrows raised in disbelief? I can. While he's grappling for the right words to tell me off...I'll say, "What's the matter...you never been lied to before?"