Exactly 25 years ago today, readers of Sports Illustrated were introduced to Sidd Finch, a mystic and mysterious pitching prospect who, it was said, could throw baseballs at speeds up to 168 MPH. Writer George Plimpton explained how Finch had learned "the art of the pitch" in the snowy mountains of Tibet, appeared and disappeared in the Mets' spring training camp, played French horn, and pitched wearing only one shoe, a hiker's boot.
The full story can be found here or in our excellent collection, The Best of Plimpton (which includes many of his "participatory journalism" essays and profiles of various personalities he encountered over the years).
Plimpton detailed the Mets' efforts to court Finch as he decided whether to commit to baseball, allowing for his various eccentricities on the basis of his almost supernatural pitching abilities. Half-shadowed pictures of Finch with various Mets players and staff accompanied the article, which prompted thousands of letters of response from readers wanting to know more...Would Finch sign? Who was this guy? And how in the world were batters going to face 150+ MPH pitches coming at them? The answers, it turned out, were all hidden in the subtitle to Plimpton's article (note that the first letter of each word spells out a message): He's a pitcher, part yogi and part recluse. Impressively liberated from our opulent life-style, Sidd's deciding about yoga -- and his future in baseball. In other words, Happy April Fool's Day -- ah, fib!