April 1, 2005

Sidd Finch -- 20 Years Later

Alan Schwarz in today's Times:
It was 20 years ago this week that Sports Illustrated ran one of its most celebrated articles, "The Curious Case of Sidd Finch" - in which George Plimpton crafted a 14-page exposé on a bizarre, out-of-nowhere Mets phenom who fired baseballs at a stupefying 168 miles an hour. "Crafted," of course, is what Plimpton truly did - the story was pure fiction. It instantly became its generation's "War of the Worlds," leaving thousands of frenzied fans either delighted at the April Fools' prank or furious at being duped. ...

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. The sports editor of one New York newspaper berated the Mets' public relations man, Jay Horwitz, for giving Sports Illustrated the scoop.
A couple of years later, sadly, Plimpton turned the article into a full-length novel. I admit that I have not read the book -- although the actual SI article sits in a box somewhere in Redsock Manor -- but it strikes me as a terrible decision, on par with Spinal Tap actually going on tour, playing actual concerts.

You can read Plimpton's April 1, 1985 article here.

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