It’s been 30 years since the famous George Plimpton-inspired, Sports Illustrated-abetted April Fool’s Day hoax about a former Tibetan monk who could throw a baseball 168 mph.
But the legend lives on in an ESPN documentary, the first part of which airs tonight at 5 p.m. on ESPN Sports Center (Part Two runs on Friday, April 3, same show, same time). The entire film will run on Sports Center at 9:30 p.m., Monday, April 6, directly against the NCAA basketball finals. The entire film is also viewable online at Grantland.com starting today (April 1, no foolin’).
So what is the Oak Park connection in all of this? Joe Berton, retired Julian Middle School teacher, who, back in 1985 played the role of Sidd Finch in the hoax, which fooled many (partly because Joe looked so authentic — he still does). You can read all about his role in the accompanying story that ran in Wednesday Journal on Aug. 30, 2000.
Berton sent the following heads up via email (we assume it’s true, thought today you never know):
“We’ve been having some fun working on a film on the story behind the Sidd story. The film crew was out here last fall and they shot additional stuff with some of the Mets guys and my photographer friend Lane Stewart.
Hard to believe it was 30 years ago!
The film is titled, Unhittable: Sidd Finch and the Tibetan Fastball.