Top Ten Rangers moments of 2017: No. 3. 21 comments

Top Ten Moment #3: Adrian Beltre moves the on-deck circle.


There’s that old adage that no matter how many times you go to the ballpark, you will always see something you’ve never seen before.

One of my favorite stories happened in 1987.

Dave Bresnahan was a 25-year-old back-up catcher for Williamsport Bills of the Double-A Eastern league. He was batting .150. It was late in a meaningless season in a career that was going nowhere. It occurred on him that there’s not a whole lot of room in major league baseball for light-hitting part-time catchers in their mid-twenties who haven’t even made it past the second lowest level of the minors. He knew his career was about to end.

So, he helped it along.

Before the game, he had a wild notion. He peeled a potato down to the size and shape of a baseball, then hid it in his back up glove in the dugout, waiting for the right moment.

It came in the fifth inning, with an opposing runner on third and two outs. Bresnahan called time, told the umpire the webbing in his mitt had split and got a new one from the dugout. It had the hidden potato.

He went into his customary crouch behind the batter, called the next pitch and, when it arrived, he popped up and fired down at the runner at third who was leading off. Only it wasn’t the ball he threw past the third baseman and into left field, allowing the runner to trot home for the run. It was the potato.

A trick that was soon discovered when, to his complete surprise, the runner saw Brasnahan standing there, waiting on him, ball in hand, big smile on his face, to tag him out.

The runner hadn’t noticed that the “ball” split into three pieces when it hit the outfield.

Once the umpiring crew figured out what had happened, they called the runner safe, and charged Bresnahan with an error. His manager wasn’t amused. He yanked him out of the game. Later that night, the Cleveland Indians, the parent team to Williamsport, released Bresnahan for “conduct detrimental to the integrity of the game,” ignoring the fact that even more detrimental to the integrity of baseball were the Indians themselves, who were on the verge of losing 101 games in 1987, their tenth finish of last or second-to-last in the past eleven years.

This being minor league baseball, and anything for a buck, the next season they retired Bresnahan’s number in a game where attendance was just $1 as long as you brought a potato.

Thirty years later, in July of 2017, Adrian Beltre one-upped Dave Brasnahan, in a move that only an uptight second base umpire couldn’t love.

The Rangers were getting pounded by the Miami Marlins 18-4. It was the bottom of the eighth inning in a game fans hung around only to see one more at-bat in Adrian Beltre’s chase to 3000 hits. He had already walked, homered and hit two doubles and was four hits shy of 3000.

While on deck in the bottom of eighth he was standing where he normally stands, where he has stood while on deck his entire career, where so many other major league hitters stand, which is to say not in the conventional area in the on-deck circle where he had been hit a few times early in his career and where he felt unsafe, but almost directly behind the batter.

For some reason, after Beltre has logged over 11,000 plate appearances doing the exact same thing, second base umpire Gerry Davis finally decided he had a problem with where Beltre was standing.

He told him to stand in the on-deck circle. So Beltre did what anyone would do in that situation. He complied with the umpire. By dragging the on-deck circle to where he was standing. Gerry David ejected him immediately. Which caused Rangers manager Jeff Banister to come out of the dugout to argue the ejection. Which led to Davis ejecting Banister.

Marlins pitcher Drew Steckenreider, who was pitching in just his tenth Major League game, wasn’t sure how he was supposed to act. “He’s a great guy and a great player,” Steckenreider said. “It’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. I didn’t, honestly, know how to react out there. I went over and stood next to (third baseman Derek) Dietrich and we just laughed with our gloves over our faces.”

It was certainly the funniest thing to happen in a major league ballpark this season, and in a Rangers season desperate for highlights, this is one of the top. Which speaks to how funny this incident was and how bad the Rangers season was.