Friday, April 01, 2005

The Natural

In two days and seven hours the first pitch will hit the catcher's mitt, opening the 2005 season. There will be no "Baby" Bonds and the dark shroud of steroids will linger over most of the season. For those dejected by baseball's ignominious decline, the NYTs captures the ethereal sway the game once had on America with revisiting the curious myth of Sidd Finch.

In 1985, George Plimpton captured the essence of baseball's American allure with his talltale of the Mets pitching prospect, Sidd Finch, as an April Fools' hoax for Sports Illustrated. Here's Plimpton's character described by the NYTs Alan Schwarz:
Sidd Finch was an aspiring monk who spent much of his orphaned youth in England, went to Harvard, dropped out after one semester and learned to pitch in the mountains of Tibet, flinging rocks and meditating. He was discovered by a Mets minor league manager who watched in awe as the gawky string bean would wind up - he looked like Goofy in the old Disney cartoons - and throw pitches so fast and accurate that they vaporized soda bottles standing 60 feet away. The radar guns read an unfathomable 168; Nolan Ryan's heater was just a changeup compared with this kid's.
What baseball enthusiast doesn't get goosebumps thinking such a phenom lurks out there still, just ready to be scooped up, and placed on their hometeam's mound one hot, humid, summer night.

Go Mets!