Thursday, March 15


(when I see this picture, anytime, it brings back memories - mystical in a way - for awhile I believed)

Spring is in the air. And with baseball fast approaching, it’s time to mention the unbelievable story of one of the most incredible rookie baseball players, EVER.

Non-sports fans, stay with me for a bit. It will be worth it. Trust me... Ha.

It’s spring training, 1985, St Petersburg Florida, New York Met training camp.

A pitching prospect that hadn’t decided whether to commit to a baseball career or one playing the French horn.

His name was Sidd Finch (Sidd being short for Siddhartha, an Indian mystic).

Sidd had never played baseball before.

He pitched with a hiking boot on his right foot and with a bare left foot.

The fastest previously recorded pitch clocked in at 103 mph.

His pitches could reach speeds of 168 mph.

All of this was expertly covered by well known author, George Plimpton (The Paper Lion)

John Fogerty, Centerfield

If you have some time and like fantasy, read the following. I smile thinking of it:

Long version as originally written (yes, I have the Sports Illustrated (one of my first ebay purchases)): Sidd Finch

A shorter version of the story is here or below this video.

The Who, Won’t get fooled again.

I just had to add, I saw them at Majestic Hills, Lake Geneva. Keith was still alive and he busted up one set of drums so bad they had to roll in another set. (they were on a skid or something??) My memory says he never missed a beat. Sure. I'm thinking he did miss one and I didn't notice.

I worked my way to the front. It was a small venue. I was about 15 feet from the stage. Roger swung the mike over the audience (and since I was so close I could have caught it). For a finale, they DID destroy their guitars. Pete finished in a frenzied glory. Lots of smoke, feedback and a little shock. Never saw anything like that before.

Sidd Finch.

In its edition for the first week of April, 1985 Sports Illustrated published an article by George Plimpton that described an incredible rookie baseball player who was training at the Mets camp in St. Petersburg, Florida. The player was named Sidd Finch (Sidd being short for Siddhartha, the Indian mystic in Hermann Hesse's book of the same name), and he could pitch a baseball at 168 mph with pinpoint accuracy. The fastest previous recorded speed for a pitch was 103 mph.

Finch had actually never played baseball before. He had been raised in an English orphanage before he was adopted by the archaeologist Francis Whyte-Finch who was later killed in an airplane crash in the Dhaulaglri mountain region of Nepal. Finch briefly attended Harvard before he headed to Tibet where he learned the teachings of the "great poet-saint Lama Milaraspa" and mastered "siddhi, namely the yogic mastery of mind-body." Through his Tibetan mind-body mastery, Finch had "learned the art of the pitch."

Finch showed up at the Mets camp in Florida, and so impressed their manager that he was invited to attend training camp. When pitching he looked, in the words of the catcher, "like a pretzel gone loony." Finch frequently wore a hiking boot on his right foot while pitching, his other foot being bare. His speed and power were so great that the catcher would only hear a small sound, "a little pft, pft-boom," before the ball would land in his glove, knocking him two or three feet back. One of the players declared that it was not "humanly possible" to hit Finch's pitches.

Unfortunately for the Mets, Finch had not yet decided whether to commit himself to a career as a baseball player, or to pursue a career as a French Horn player. He told the Mets management that he would let them know his decision on April 1.

Sports Illustrated received almost 2000 letters in response to the article, and it became one of their most famous stories ever. On April 8 they declared that Finch had held a press conference in which he said that he had lost the accuracy needed to throw his fastball and would therefore not be pursuing a career with the Mets. On April 15 they admitted that the story was a hoax.

George Plimpton actually left an obscure hint that the story was a hoax within the article itself (the non-obscure hint being that the story was absurd). The sub-heading of the article read: "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." The first letter of each of these words, taken together, spells "H-a-p-p-y A-p-r-i-l F-o-o-l-s D-a-y."

In an odd follow-up, a baseball team in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, after reading the Sports Illustrated article, tried to invite Finch to its annual banquet. They received a reply that read, "The challenge is reaching the Eightfold Path of right belief or the ninth inning with the proper relief. May you have peace of mind." They announced that they interpreted the reply to mean that Finch would be attending their banquet. It is not known whether Finch did attend.


Toccata said...

Your right that was worth reading. Loved the ending. Won't say what it was so as not to spoil it in case someone clicks on your comments first.

Now that would have been a concert. That must have been exciting. I have their original Tommy on album. Odd note but saw Tommy done by a ballet company when I was little and was absolutely mesmerized by it. Thought ballet was the coolest thing ever so then my mom took me again only this time it was Swan Lake and I was bored silly and fell asleep.

Johnny Yen said...

I remember this story! I'd never known the details-- thanks for filling those in for me.

I guess the first clue for everyone should have been when he announced he was going to make his decision on April 1.