Friday, February 22nd, 2019

Sidd Finch – 25 Years Later

April 1, 2010 by  
Filed under Baseball Writing

One of the biggest media hoaxes in modern times was perpetrated on a baseball-starved country 25 years ago today.

On April 1, 1985, Sports Illustrated printed a bio piece, written by George Plimpton, about an unknown phenom–Sidd Finch–who was trying out for the Mets and could throw a baseball 168 miles per hour, even though he wore only one shoe, a work boot, when he pitched.

According to the story, Finch grew up in an English orphanage and was adopted by an archaeologist who later died in a plane crash in Nepal. After briefly attending Harvard University, he went to Tibet to learn “yogic mastery of mind-body,” which was the source of his pitching prowess.

As improbable as it may seem, scores of people (included yours truly) believed the story.  With our 24/7 world of facebook, twitter, blogs, etc…this type of hoax would be impossible today.

Sports Illustrated

The Curious Case of Sidd Finch

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

Issue date: April 1, 1985

By George Plimpton

The secret cannot be kept much longer. Questions are being asked, and sooner rather than later the New York Mets management will have to produce a statement. It may have started unraveling in St. Petersburg, Fla. two weeks ago, on March 14, to be exact, when Mel Stottlemyre, the Met pitching coach, walked over to the 40-odd Met players doing their morning calisthenics at the Payson Field Complex not far from the Gulf of Mexico, a solitary figure among the pulsation of jumping jacks, and motioned three Mets to step out of the exercise. The three, all good prospects, were John Christensen, a 24-year-old outfielder; Dave Cochrane, a spare but muscular switch-hitting third baseman; and Lenny Dykstra, a swift centerfielder who may be the Mets’ lead-off man of the future. 

Read the rest of the article here…

The Con:

The story was accompanied by photographs of Finch, including one featuring a young Lenny Dykstra and another of Finch talking with the Mets’ actual pitching coach, Mel Stottlemyre. The Mets played along with the hoax, even providing a uniform for Joe Berton, a junior high school art teacher from Oak Park, Illinois, who posed as “Finch” for the photographs (usually with his face averted from the lens).

The Big Reveal:

If you look at the first two sentences of the article:

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

The first letter of the each of the beginning words spelled out Happy April Fools Day!

The Museum of Hoaxes rated the Sidd Finch story as the #2 April Fools hoax of all time..

Sports Illustrated received almost 2000 letters in response to the article, and it became one of their most famous stories ever. On April 8 they declared that Finch had held a press conference in which he said that he had lost the accuracy needed to throw his fastball and would therefore not be pursuing a career with the Mets. On April 15 they admitted that the story was a hoax.

George Plimpton, who died in 2003, turned the success of the story into a full-lenth book: The Curious Case of Sidd Finch: A Novel

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