Joe Berton as himself in 2000, and as Sidd Finch in 1985File 2000/Staff

Editor’s note: In today’s Tribune, Christopher Borrelli writes about the famous 1985 Sports Illustrated April Fools Day hoax, “The Curious Case of Sidd Finch,” the story of a rookie Mets pitcher with a mean 168 mph fastball. Last year — the 25th anniversary of the hoax, Wednesday Journal revisited the man behind the prank, Oak Park’s Joe Berton. This article originally appeared in the March 30, 2010 issue of Wednesday Journal.

Twenty-five years ago tomorrow, Sports Illustrated published its famous April Fools Day hoax, “The Curious Case of Sidd Finch,” by George Plimpton. The story involved a reclusive yogi at the New York Mets spring training camp who could throw a 168 mph fastball (with one foot bare), a skill he developed chasing snow leopards away from yak herds at the Tibetan monastery where he lived. He was also an expert French horn player. As outlandish as all that might sound, it completely fooled a large portion of the reading public when it appeared on April 1, 1985.

The article contained photos of the mysterious young pitcher, and the model was none other than Oak Park’s Joe Berton, who teaches art at Julian Middle School (he’s retiring at the end of this school year). A friend, the photographer assigned to the story, thought Joe would be perfect as the mysterious yak herder.

To celebrate the anniversary, Scott Ascher, owner of America’s Historic Roundhouse, a 70,000-square-foot “entertainment facility” at 205 N. Broadway in Aurora, will induct Siddhartha (Joe Berton) Finch into his America’s Legends Museum from 6 to 9 p.m. on April 1. Berton’s Mets jacket and the boots he wore during the photo shoot will be memorialized in a display case. Joe hopes some of his former students will stop by.

“Sidd” will sign autographs for no fee, so bring your mitts and bats. Ascher, by the way, formerly owned the Sidd Finch Restaurant in Oak Brook. For more information, call 630-892-0034.

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