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April 1, 2010

Sidd Finch: 25th anniversary of the April Fool's prank


Before April Fool's Day slips away, take a few minutes to relive the "The Curious Case Of Sidd Finch," one of the best hoaxes in journalism history -- and a lot funnier than the spaceships in War of the Worlds. This is the 25th anniversary of the George Plimpton's story in Sports Illustrated about a mysterious baseball phenom. The headline said: "He's a pitcher, part yogi and part recluse. Impressively liberated from our opulent life-style, Sidd's deciding about yoga—and his future in baseball."

Indeed, the Harvard-educated pitcher was said to throw with a perfectly straight arm, like a catapult, but his fast ball traveled at 168 miles per hour. He was touted as a potential savior for the N.Y. Mets, but his eccentricities made it just as likely that he would withdraw to a mountaintop in Tibet. It's a great piece of writing from Plimpton, whose first-hand sports experiences produced a number of books including "Paper Lion" and "Shadow Box."

A lot of folks assumed the story was true. I was a huge Mets fan at the time, but can't recall whether I was snookered. After Sports Illustrated received hundreds of letters about Finch, the magazine finally revealed the hoax. One clue was from the headline shown above: the first letters of the words spell out Happy April Fools Day.

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 4:17 PM | | Comments (1)


I had a subscription during that time and I remember thinking to myself how unbelievable this is. But it must be true. Afterall, it's in SI! It was brilliant the way he had Dykstra and some bullpen catchers attesting to the phenom. The story was wierd enough to be true (all but the 168mph part). I will always remember that story every April 1st.

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About the blogger
Dave Rosenthal came to The Baltimore Sun as a business reporter in 1987 and now is the Maryland Editor. He reads a wide range of books (but never as many as he'd like), usually alternating between non-fiction and fiction. Some all-time favorites: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole; Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupery; and anything by Calvin Trillin or John McPhee. He belongs to a book club with a Jewish theme.
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