Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
The phenomenon the three young batters faced, and about whom only Reynolds, Stottlemyre and a few members of the Mets’ front office know, is a 28-year-old, somewhat eccentric mystic named Hayden (Sidd) Finch. He may well change the course of baseball history. On St. Patrick’s Day, to make sure they were not all victims of a crazy hallucination, the Mets brought in a radar gun to measure the speed of Finch’s fastball. The model used was a JUGS Supergun II. It looks like a black space gun with a big snout, weighs about five pounds and is usually pointed at the pitcher from behind the catcher. A glass plate in the back of the gun shows the pitch’s velocityâaccurate, so the manufacturer claims, to within plus or minus 1 mph. The figure at the top of the gauge is 200 mph. The fastest projectile ever measured by the JUGS (which is named after the oldtimer’s descriptiveâthe “jug-handled” curveball) was a Roscoe Tanner serve that registered 153 mph. The highest number that the JUGS had ever turned for a baseball was 103 mph, which it did, curiously, twice on one day, July 11, at the 1978 All-Star game when both Goose Gossage and Nolan Ryan threw the ball at that speed. On March 17, the gun was handled by Stottlemyre. He heard the pop of the ball in Reynolds’s mitt and the little squeak of pain from the catcher. Then the astonishing figure 168 appeared on the glass plate. Stottlemyre remembers whistling in amazement, and then he heard Reynolds say, “Don’t tell me, Mel, I don’t want to know….”
Finch was almost surely a disciple of Tibet’s great poet-saint Lama Milaraspa, who was born in the 11th century and died in the shadow of Mount Everest. Burns told them that Milaraspa was a great yogi who could manifest an astonishing phenomenon: He could produce “internal heat,” which allowed him to survive snowstorms and intense cold, wearing only a thin robe of white cotton. Finch does something similarâan apparent deflection of the huge forces of the universe into throwing a baseball with bewildering accuracy and speed through the process of siddhi, namely the yogic mastery of mind-body. He mentioned that The Book of Changes, the I Ching, suggests that all acts (even throwing a baseball) are connected with the highest spiritual yearnings. Utilizing the Tantric principle of body and mind, Finch has decided to pitch baseballsâat least for a while.
So why have you never heard of the young pitcher the New York Mets kept secret two decades ago? Because Finch was an April Fool’s joke in grand fashion, complete with a massive profile in Sports Illustrated written by the legendary George Plimpton. Maybe you remember this, but I was a bit young.
The subhead 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 â and his future in baseball.” The first letters of these words (through “yoga”) spell out “Happy April Fools Day.” Despite this clue and the obvious absurdity of the article, many people believed Finch actually existed. The magazine printed a much smaller article in the following April 8 issue announcing Finch’s retirement. It then announced it was a hoax on April 15.
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April 1, 2008 | 1:11 pm
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is said to be the only unforgivable sin. I’ve never understood exactly what that looks like, or met anyone who could explain it to me, but I’m fairly certain that if you were the unfortunate, you wouldn’t pay the price until death.
Sadly, the same can’t be said for those who blaspheme Islam in the Muslim world. Just ask Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, the 23-year-old Afghan journalist, sentenced to death for his words, of which the exact nature I can’t find online. He’s appealing, and Reporters Without Borders said he caught a break yesterday when his case was moved to Kabul.
“His request for transfer to Kabul has finally succeeded, allowing Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh to be separated from other detainees in the vast Pul-i-Charki jail, in the east of the capital. His transfer to Kabul has given rise to hopes that his appeal will not be influenced by religious fundamentalists, as was the case when he was sentenced to death for âblasphemyâ by a court in Mazar-i-Sharif, on 22 January 2008.â
April 1, 2008 | 10:55 am
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
Jonah Goldberg, who I have been prudent enough to never quote here, watched that anti-Islam film I mentioned Friday, “Fitna,” and found himself fixated on fish. He, who in most other cases is very close to crazy in his logic, explains:
During a 1991 visit to Istanbul, a buddy and I found ourselves in a small restaurant drinking, dancing and singing with a bunch of middle-class Turkish businessmen, mostly shop owners. It was a hilariously joyful evening, even though they spoke nearly no English and we spoke considerably less Turkish.
At the end of the night, after imbibing unquantifiable quantities of raki, an ouzo-like Turkish liquor, one of the men came up to me and gave me a worn-out business card. On the back, he’d scribbled an image. It was little more than a curlicue, but he seemed intent on showing it to me (and nobody else). It was, I realized, a Jesus fish.
It was an eye-opening moment for me, though obviously trivial compared with the experiences of others. Here in this cosmopolitan and self-styled European city, this fellow felt the need to surreptitiously clue me in that he was a Christian just like me (or so he thought).
Traditionally, the fish pictogram conjures the miracle of the loaves and fishes as well as the Greek word IXOYE, which not only means fish but serves as an acronym, in Greek, for “Jesus Christ the Son of God [Is] Savior.” Christians persecuted by the Romans used to draw the Jesus fish in the dirt with a stick or a finger as a way to tip off fellow Christians that they weren’t alone.
In America, the easiest place to find this ancient symbol is on the back of cars. Recently, however, it seems as if Jesus fish have become outnumbered by Darwin fish. No doubt you’ve seen these too. The fish symbol is “updated” with little feet coming off the bottom, and “IXOYE” or “Jesus” is replaced with either “Darwin” or “Evolve.”
I find Darwin fish offensive. First, there’s the smugness. The undeniable message: Those Jesus fish people are less evolved, less sophisticated than we Darwin fishers.
The hypocrisy is even more glaring. Darwin fish are often stuck next to bumper stickers promoting tolerance or admonishing random motorists that “hate is not a family value.” But the whole point of the Darwin fish is intolerance; similar mockery of a cherished symbol would rightly be condemned as bigoted if aimed at blacks or women or, yes, Muslims.
As Christopher Caldwell once observed in the Weekly Standard, Darwin fish flout the agreed-on etiquette of identity politics. “Namely: It’s acceptable to assert identity and abhorrent to attack it. A plaque with ‘Shalom’ written inside a Star of David would hardly attract notice; a plaque with ‘Usury’ written inside the same symbol would be an outrage.”
But the most annoying aspect of the Darwin fish is the false bravado it represents. It’s a courageous pose without consequence. Like so much other Christian-baiting in American popular culture, sporting your Darwin fish is a way to speak truth to power on the cheap.
Whatever the faults of “Fitna,” it ain’t no Darwin fish.