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.