Thursday, April 02, 2009

Sidd, 24 Years On

This week's Sports Illustrated (the annual baseball preview) includes a reminder of the legendary April Fool's joke that the magazine orchestrated 24 years ago, when George Plimpton published "The Curious Case of Sidd Finch." The article spoke of a mysterious, reclusive pitching prospect who had arrived at the Mets' spring training camp. He could throw the ball "about 150 mph," but he was being hidden from view behind "a large canvas enclosure."

To establish the curiosity of Finch, Plimpton quoted actual players and coaches, and the piece was accompanied only by the terrifically loony photo at left. (You can see the full photo here.) Plimpton's novelistic level of detail (and he later expanded the article into a full-length novel) is one reason readers may have been taken in, despite the date on the magazine's cover. You can read the full thing here. Here's a taste of those details:
The registrar's office at Harvard will release no information about Finch except that in the spring of 1976 he withdrew from the college in midterm. The alumni records in Harvard's Holyoke Center indicate slightly more. Finch spent his early childhood in an orphanage in Leicester, England and was adopted by a foster parent, the eminent archaeologist Francis Whyte-Finch, who was killed in an airplane crash while on an expedition in the Dhaulagiri mountain area of Nepal. At the time of the tragedy, Finch was in his last year at the Stowe School in Buckingham, England, from which he had been accepted into Harvard. Apparently, though, the boy decided to spend a year in the general area of the plane crash in the Himalayas (the plane was never actually found) before he returned to the West and entered Harvard in 1975, dropping for unknown reasons the "Whyte" from his name. Hayden Finch's picture is not in the freshman yearbook. Nor, of course, did he play baseball at Harvard, having departed before the start of the spring season.


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