32 years ago today, George Plimpton crafted one of the best hoaxes in history. After attempting to write a piece on previous April Fools’ day jokes in sports without much success, Mark Mulvoy, Sports Illustrated’s managing editor, gave George Plimpton permission to concoct his own April Fool’s day prank.
Plimpton’s article, originally published in the April 1, 1985 issue of Sports Illustrated, claimed that the New York Mets had a player in spring training camp named Hayden Siddhartha (Sidd) Finch who could throw a fastball 168 miles per hour. The article also stated that Finch pitched with a single hiking boot on, had “…learned the art of the pitch” in Tibet, and had never played baseball.
(Sports Illustrated Photo)
Despite the absurdity of the article (and the publishing date), many people took Plimpton’s article as fact. Several fans contacted Sports Illustrated asking for more information, and two general managers even called Peter Ueberroth, the commissioner at that time, to ask how their batters would face Finch without getting injured.
Each time I recall the story of Sidd Finch, I muse over how people possibly could’ve accepted such an elaborate ruse as truth. Perhaps what made the article seem realistic was Plimpton’s interspersal of minute details, such as Finch’s aptitude for the French Horn, his scouting report, and his Harvard acceptance.
Over 30 years later, the story of Sidd Finch lives on in baseball lore.