For the April 1, 1985, issue of Sports Illustrated, George Plimpton wrote “The Curious Case of Sidd Finch,” a profile on an incredible rookie baseball pitcher for The New York Mets. Sports fans took his April Fool’s Day joke seriously. Even other journalists were willing to believe a novice could throw a 168-mph fast ball, thanks to his Buddhist training (Sidd was short for Siddhartha, the title character of Herman Hesse’s novel) . To keep the hoax going, a nervous George Plimpton relied on a young Jonathan Dee, now a famous fiction writer but then an associate editor and Plimpton’s personal assistant at The Paris Review. Dee describes Plimpton’s tense days surrounding the hoax in this film outtake.
Watch Film Outtake: George Plimpton’s April Fool’s Hoax
Plimpton left a hint of the joke in his article’s sub-heading. The first letters of each of the words spell out:
“Happy April Fools Day – Ah Fib”
“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.”
Sports Illustrated only admitted the hoax on April 15. See the photos that accompanied the original article, and some that were never published on Sports Illustrated. The Museum of Hoaxes places Plimpton’s April Fool’s Day article at Number 2 of the Top 100 Hoaxes.
American Masters’ Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself premieres nationally Friday, May 16, 9-10:30 p.m. on PBS (check local listings).