I got yer fake news

Joe Hermitt pranced into the newspaper composing room, slapped a Sports Illustrated on a light table, flipped it open and began to read. We never saw him so happy and we quickly learned why: Sidd Finch.
As we gathered around, Joe, a die-hard New York Mets fan, read the story broke in that issue by famed writer George Plimpton. The Mets had a secret weapon in their spring training camp in St. Petersberg, Florida, a kid (well, he was actually 28 years old, but a virtual unknown to baseball) who, according to the article, could “change the course of baseball history.”
Sidd Finch, some sort of mystic who dropped out of Harvard to study Eastern religions in Tibet, could throw a baseball 168 miles per hour.
That was the official reading on the JUGS gun, a radar device used to measure the speed of pitches. Up to that time, the fastest thrown pitch was 103 mph, accomplished by both Goose Gossage and Nolan Ryan.
And here was Sidd Finch, burying that mark.
Apparently a minor league manager had discovered him, or at least was the first to encounter him. Sidd, he said, walked up to him after a game and said something like, “I have learned the art of the pitch.” Then he pointed to a soda bottle on a fence about the same distance away as the mound is from home plate, rared back and fire a ball at it. According to the coach, that soda bottle exploded as if hit by a bullet.
The problem was Sidd was not at all sure he wanted to be a ball player. His parents were missionaries and he had a strong pull toward a spiritual life. Money did not impress him.
This was 1985 and you may be wondering why you never heard of Sidd Finch. Did he reject baseball in favor of a monastic life or what?
The answer begins when the publisher of our newspaper walked in and asked what all the commotion was about. We all started talking at once: fastballs and JUGS guns and Sports Illustrated and Joe Hermitt’s big smile and Joe’s beloved Mets.
Let me see that, the publisher, Bill “Pidge” Watson, said grabbing the magazine. He took one glance at the cover and tossed it back to Joe. “That’s an April fools joke,” he said and walked away.
Indeed, the date on the magazine was April 1, but how could this be a joke? The article ran for several pages and included photos of spring training, Sidd Finch on a camel in Tibet, and quotes from all sorts of ball players and coaches and even Sidd’s college roommate, who was then a stockbroker with Dean Witter.
This was no April Fools joke.
Except that it was.
A few days later, Sports Illustrated sheepishly admitted they had faked the whole thing. They were sheepish because so many people had believed it. And if so many people believed it, this was bad for journalism. If Sports Illustrated so easily could deceive most of America, what else in the news was not true?
All media has going for it is credibility. If that is damaged even in the slightest, as it was by the Sports Illustrated “joke,” how could we expect the public to believe us ever again?
In their defense, Sports Illustrated said, “But we pointed out quite clearly this was a joke.”
The title of the article was:
The curious case of Sidd Finch.
The sub-head read:
He’s a pitcher, part yogi and part recluse. Impressively liberated from our opulent lifestyle, Sidd’s deciding about yoga … and his future in baseball.
The first letters of the first 18 words spell: Happy April Fools Day.
Damned if they don’t.

Ed Ackerman