Friday, April 01, 2005

Remembering "The Curious Case of Sidd Finch"

Twenty years ago today, one of journalism's great April Fool's Day jokes sprang from the pages of Sports Illustrated.

The respected sporting magazine reported that the New York Mets found an amazing pitching prospect by the name of Sidd Finch, a one-time aspiring monk who spent an orphaned youth in England, attended and dropped out of Harvard, and then learned to pitch in Tibet. The kid threw 168 mph. The young pitching phenom's only earthly possessions were a French horn and a food bowl, reported George Plimpton.

Readers bought it hook, line and sinker, says the NY Times.

When Sports Illustrated hit the newsstands several days before the April 1 cover date, "The Curious Case of Sidd Finch" staggered baseball and beyond. Two major league general managers called the new commissioner, Peter Ueberroth, to ask how Finch's opponents could even stand at the plate safely against a fastball like that.

(For his part, Plimpton always loved how the seventh definition of "finch" in his Oxford English Dictionary was "small lie.") As word spread over several days that the first letters of the article's secondary headline read, "Happy April Fools'," the jig was up.

Twenty years later, the guy who posed for SI's photos of "Sidd Finch" is still recognized by baseball fans who say, "Hey, you're Sidd Finch!"

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