Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Friday, April 01, 2005

April Fools Tribute

On April 1, 1985, Sports Illustrated published an article, "The Curious Case of Sidd Finch." Sidd, of course, for Siddhartha. Finch perhaps for its seventh OED definition: "little lie." In this article, written by the late George Plimpton, wrote of a lanky westerner who had learned through yogic meditation to hurl objects at speeds previously unimaginable. This 168-mph hurler, it was rumored, had been brought to the New York Mets spring training camp under a veil of secrecy.

It was a classic gag, that had the New York metro area buzzing and more than a few baseball managers and execs hitting commissioner Peter Ueberoth with panicked phone calls and screeds about the danger such a pitcher would pose. And all the while, the acronym spelled out by the article's subtitle told the tale:

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

Here's an excerpt from the article:

Asked what influences might have contributed to Finch's style and speed, Stottlemyre said, "Well, cricket may have something to do with it. Finch has taken the power and speed of the running throw of the cricket bowler and has somehow harnessed all that energy to the pitching rubber. The wrist snap off that stiff arm is incredible. I haven't talked to him but once or twice. I asked him if he ever thought of snapping the arm, like baseball pitchers, rather than the wrist: It would increase the velocity.

"He replied, very polite, you know, with a little bob of the head: 'I undertake as a rule of training to refrain from injury to living things.'

"He's right, of course. It's Ronn Reynolds I feel sorry for. Every time that bail comes in, first you hear this smack sound of the ball driving into the pocket of the mitt, and then you hear this little gasp, this ai yee! -- the catcher, poor guy, his whole body shakin' like an angina's hit it. It's the most piteous thing I've ever heard, short of a trapped rabbit."

The whole Sidd Finch thing came about when I was a early-teen Mets fan. It had legs in my family for a couple of days. And the story still has some currency; if I bring it up, I know it'll lead to a long nostalgic discussion about how we all were duped. Plimpton was a neat guy, and this was one of his more entertaining moments.

You can read the original, relatively brief Sports Illustrated article here. It's very entertaining.

UPDATE: I added the long excerpt.


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