The Greatest April Fool’s Day Hoax Ever

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Sidd Finch was an incredible rookie baseball player who was training at the New York Mets camp in St. Petersburg, Florida in 1985. As described by legendary writer George Plimpton in Sports Illustrated, Finch (Sidd being short for Siddhartha, the Indian mystic in Hermann Hesse’s book of the same name) could pitch a baseball at 168 mph with pinpoint accuracy. The fastest previous recorded speed for a pitch was 103 mph.

Finch had never played baseball before. He had been raised in an English orphanage before he was adopted by the archaeologist Francis Whyte-Finch who was later killed in an airplane crash in Nepal. Finch briefly attended Harvard before he headed to Tibet where he learned the teachings of the “great poet-saint Lama Milaraspa” and mastered “siddhi, namely the yogic mastery of mind-body.” Through his Tibetan mind-body mastery, Finch had “learned the art of the pitch.”

Finch showed up at the Mets camp in Florida and so impressed their manager that he was invited to attend training camp. When pitching he looked, in the words of the catcher, “like a pretzel gone loony.”

He frequently wore a hiking boot on his right foot while pitching, his other foot being bare. His speed and power were so great that the catcher would only hear a small sound, “a little pft, pft-boom,” before the ball would land in his glove, knocking him two or three feet back. One of the players declared that it was not “humanly possible” to hit Finch’s pitches.

Unfortunately for the Mets, Finch had not yet decided whether to commit himself to a career as a baseball player, or to pursue a career as a French horn player. He told the Mets management that he would let them know his decision on April 1.

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Although the story was unbelievable on its face, Sports Illustrated received almost 2,000 letters from readers in this pre-Internet age who wanted to know more.

On April 8, the magazine 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 it admitted that the story was a hoax.

Photograph by Lane Stewart/Sports Illustrated

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