Recently, a new poster on the Net 54 Message Boards was encouraged (by me) to post the “white whale” story he had posted on other message boards. It’s a crazy tale about a “rare” Jose Canseco card and an Alabama grocery store. He crafted it very well and even though he let us in on the joke rather quickly, some readers who weren’t paying close attention or didn’t read until the very end bought the story hook, line and sinker.
It got me to thinking about one the greatest and subtlest hobby jokes every pulled.
My good friends Frank and Vivian Barning, former publishers of Baseball Hobby News, along with Dr. Geoffrey Green (if I recall his name correctly) published a story about an unknown World War II set issued by Arsenal Gum. This story, too, was done with flair and offered great photos of the best baseball players serving our country. It looked like an amazing story from an era when precious few card sets were created.
Of course, there was only one small detail, which I did not discover till at least 15 years after the fact. The cards only existed in someone’s fertile imagination and were never produced. I heard a story that at least one famed hobby dealer was furious when he heard about the deception and I’ve got to admit, I spent years quietly searching for Arsenal Gum cards. When I first really started digging into the Beckett Almanac, I asked Frank about them and that’s when I found out the whole story. Part of me was annoyed and part of me was laughing at myself for spending so much time looking for Bigfoot.
There is one card of a fictitious player that I’d really like to have. This spring marks the 30th anniversary of the famed Sports Illustrated story about Sidd Finch, he of the 166 mile-per-hour fastball. The story and photos, in the April 1, 1985 SI, is still talked about today. It was eventually made into a novel.
“Sidd” was the brainchild of the incredible George Plimpton and his concocted saga reeled in a couple of big league GMs, newspaper sports editors upset the Mets had given SI the “scoop” and countless gullible fans—including me. The first letter of each word in the story’s subhead gave away the joke and the cover date apparently sailed over a lot of heads.
But I’d still like a 1985 Topps Sidd Finch card.
And may all your April Fools gags work out that harmlessly and that well.