It was a jaw-dropping moment, first reading about an unknown pitching prospect who could somehow throw a baseball 168 miles per hour.
It couldn’t be true … but the story was right there in the hallowed pages of Sports Illustrated, written by legendary journalist George Plimpton, in the April 1, 1985 issue.
The Curious Case of Sidd Finch was a fascinating tale of a quirky 28-year-old Harvard dropout who pitched in hiking boots and played the French horn. It just wasn’t true. Yet the story was so superbly written that readers – especially an impressionable college student and aspiring sports journalist – desperately wanted to believe it.
Perhaps the greatest sign of Plimpton’s genius as a writer was that he telegraphed the joke for all to see – in the first letter of each word in the article’s subhead:
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.
HAPPY APRIL FOOL’S DAY.
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Plimpton, who died in 2003, wasn’t exactly a sportswriter. He was what came to be known as a “participatory journalist” – a novice who takes part in high-level activities and then writes about it.
Among his sports-related experiences:
So today we celebrate George Plimpton with a behind-the-scenes look at his netminding technique. Spoiler alert: It’s not good.
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What to watch
ESPN 2 gets in on the Sidd Finch fun with a 30 For 30 Short, “Unhittable: Sidd Finch and the Tibetan Fastball” at 7:30 p.m. ET. Meanwhile, ESPN brings back the 2016 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, with Game 5 at 7 p.m. ET and Game 7 at 9:30 p.m. ET.
MLB Network has dubbed Wednesday #WalkoffWednesday, so it’s showing replays of some memorable playoff walk-offs:
NBC Sports Network has back-to-back Sunday Night Football games featuring the Denver Broncos, led by quarterback Peyton Manning. At 7 p.m. ET, the 2012 Broncos host the Pittsburgh Steelers. Then at 9:30 p.m., Manning returns to Indianapolis in 2013 to face his former team for the first time.
CBS Sports Network continues to air some of the best NCAA tournament classics:
- 7 p.m. ET: 2015 Final Four: Wisconsin vs. Kentucky
- 9 p.m. ET: 2015 Final: Duke vs. Wisconsin
- 11 p.m. ET: 2001 Final Four: Duke vs. Maryland
NFL Network will feature three legendary defensive stalwarts on its “A Football Life” series, starting with Derrick Thomas at 7 p.m. ET, followed by Dexter Manley at 8 p.m. and Mike Singletary at 9 p.m.
NHL Network has its Franchise Classics series with a St. Patrick’s Day 2009 clash between the Chicago Blackhawks and New Jersey Devils at 9:30 p.m. ET. Then at 11:30 p.m. ET, a replay of Game 6 of the 2000 Stanley Cup Final between the Devils and the Dallas Stars.
NBA TV is airing highlights of Zion Williamson’s much-anticipated debut with the New Orleans Pelicans at 7:30 p.m. ET, followed at 8 p.m. by the Miami Heat-Atlanta Hawks game from Feb. 20 in which Trae Young exploded for 50 points.
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April 1 in sports history
1919: The Stanley Cup Final between the Montreal Canadiens and Seattle Metropolitans had to be canceled due to a worldwide flu epidemic.
1930: Chicago Cubs catcher Leo Hartnett breaks the altitude record when he catches a baseball dropped 800 feet from the Goodyear blimp over Los Angeles.
1970: Federal Bankruptcy Referee Sidney Volinn declares MLB’s Seattle Pilots bankrupt, permitting the sale of the franchise to car dealer Bug Selig, who moves the Pilots to Milwaukee and renames them the Brewers.
1978: Mike Bossy of the New York Islanders becomes the first NHL rookie to hit the 50-goal mark when he scores No. 50 and 51 in a 3-2 win over Washington.
1985: In one of college basketball’s greatest upsets, No. 8 seed Villanova stuns top-ranked Georgetown 66-64 in the NCAA Tournament title game.
1993: Reigning NASCAR Winston Cup champion Alan Kulwicki dies in a plane crash on his way to Bristol Motor Speedway.
1996: Umpire John McSherry collapses and dies of a heart attack during an MLB opening day game in Cincinnati.
2007: American Michael Phelps breaks his own world record in the 400-meter individual medley to win a record seventh gold medal at the World Swimming Championships in Melbourne, Australia.
Games we’re missing
- Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs
- Chicago White Sox at Cleveland Indians
- Los Angeles Angels at Texas Rangers
- Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles
- Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers
- Washington Nationals at Miami Marlins
- Cincinnati Reds at Toronto Blue Jays
- New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays
- Philadelphia Phillies at New York Mets
- St. Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers
- San Francisco Giants at Arizona Diamondbacks
- Houston Astros at Oakland Athletics
- Atlanta Braves at San Diego Padres
- Colorado Rockies at Los Angeles Dodgers
- Minnesota Twins at Seattle Mariners
- Charlotte Hornets at Orlando Magic
- New Orleans Pelicans at Washington Wizards
- Miami Heat at Boston Celtics
- Detroit Pistons at Brooklyn Nets
- New York Knicks at Memphis Grizzlies
- Dallas Mavericks at Minnesota Timberwolves
- Phoenix Suns at Oklahoma City Thunder
- Toronto Raptors at Milwaukee Bucks
- Cleveland Cavaliers at Utah Jazz
- Indiana Pacers at Los Angeles Lakers
- Philadelphia Flyers at New York Rangers
- Montreal Canadiens at Nashville Predators
- Dallas Stars at Anaheim Ducks
Follow Gardner on Twitter: @SteveAGardner