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April Fools! The top pranks, hoaxes and hijinks in sports

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Jeremy Evans and Rudy Gobert laugh as the Utah Jazz hold their media day Monday, Sept. 29, 2014, in Salt Lake City at the Zions Bank basketball center.

Jeremy Evans and Rudy Gobert laugh as the Utah Jazz hold their media day Monday, Sept. 29, 2014, in Salt Lake City at the Zions Bank basketball center.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

April Fool’s Day is upon us, which means everyone better be prepared for pranks.

That includes the world of sports.

Sure, there’s the typical pie in the face or the photobomb, but these pranks take things to a whole new level … in a good-natured way, of course. From a pitcher who could throw at impossible speeds to the “Great Impostor,” here’s some of our favorite sports-related pranks, hoaxes and hijinks.

Rudy Gobert forgets the donuts

Here is one of the Utah Jazz rookie ten commandments: Thou shalt bring donuts to the pre-game shootaround. Rudy Gobert broke that commandment, and he paid the consequences.

He went to his SUV to find it filled with buttered popcorn.

”Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan,” Golbert tweeted after he saw his SUV. It took a leaf blower to clean the massive amount of popcorn out of his corny SUV.

Fooling Francoeur

During the 2014 season, outfielder Jeff Francoeur became the victim of a well-crafted dupe at the hands of some new teammates. 

Francoeur joined the Padres’ organization that season and was sent to the Triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas in April. His new teammates couldn’t help but prank the veteran into believing Chihuahuas pitcher Jorge Reyes was deaf. 

It all started, according to a team film chronicling the dupe, when the team yelled “heads up” during practice and Reyes, as instructed, stayed still. 

The gag only built from there, as El Paso players and coaches continued to convince Francoeur that Reyes had never spoken in his life. It didn’t matter if it was during practice or in intense moments during a game, the prank was in full force.

Reyes’ wife got into the act, telling Francoeur one night during a team dinner that her husband mainly communicated with her via text and hand signals.

As described by his teammates, Francoeur would make hand gestures and over-enunciate his words when communicating with Reyes.

The prank finally came to an end when the organization finished the film (linked above) and showed it to Francoeur. His reaction is epic.

Wyoming State

Ever heard of the Wyoming State Porcupines?

In the late 1970s, Wyoming State made history by making NBC’s basketball Top 25. According to Grantland’s Bryan Curtis, NBC’s Dick Enberg told his audience, “Hey, look at this. Here’s a new entry, Wyoming State. We don’t know a lot about the Porcupines, but they haven’t lost a game in three years.”

Of course, the so-called “Porcupines” hadn’t won a game in three years, either. In fact, Wyoming State University does not exist. Enberg, his partner Al McGuire and NBC pulled a fast one on their audience.

Kimo Nakajimi’s still running ...

The London Marathon started in 1981, and one of the most interesting stories to come out of that first race was about Japanese runner Kimo Nakajimi. The Daily Mail reported that Nakajimi was found still running days after the London Marathon had concluded. According to the article, a translation error led Nakajimi to believe that a marathon lasted 26 days rather than just over 26 miles.

Of course, the Daily Mail staff made the whole thing up. View pictures of the original article here.

Car in the infield

Cleveland Indians starting shortstop Jose Ramirez has a habit of parking wherever he pleases in the players’ parking lot, and his teammates decided to team him a lesson.

Last Thursday, fellow infielder Mike Aviles got behind the wheel of Ramirez’s BMW SUV and parked it at shortstop on the team’s main spring ball practice field in Goodyear, Arizona, according to cleveland.com

”I can’t reveal my sources,” Aviles told cleveland.com, “but it definitely worked out well. It was a nice parking spot. It was perfectly lined up at shortstop.”

Pete Carroll has a player arrested

While Pete Carroll was still coaching at USC back in 2008, his team meeting was interrupted as senior associate athletic director Brandon Martin called Carroll over to discuss something. Then, things got even more serious as a police officer came in and quietly chatted with the head coach and was handed a video tape.

”He abused a freshman?” Carroll asked the officer in disbelief.

Police officers then cuffed defensive lineman Everson Griffen and started to lead him out the door as Carroll put in the tape of Griffen’s alleged abuse. The players knew they’d been had as the tape showed Griffen knocking over freshman offensive lineman Matt Meyer in practice. The police led Griffen back to his seat and the team had a good laugh.

Carroll may demand the best from his players, but he clearly has a sense of humor as well.

Ken Griffey Jr.’s steak bet

Winning a bet against slugger Ken Griffey Jr. can lead to some interesting moments. Manager Lou Piniella found this out the hard way.

The bet was that Griffey couldn’t hit homers to right, center and left on three consecutive pitches. Griffey lost the bet and promised Piniella a steak dinner.

And boy did Griffey deliver.

Piniella came to his office to find his prize in his office shortly after. Instead of just a steak, Griffey delivered an entire living cow.

Be careful how you bet against Griffin.

Mark Cuban gets into a fight with a ref

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has been known for his antics over the years, so it’s not entirely implausible that he’d get into a fight with a NBA referee. The incident started with a shouting match, then moved to pushing. Then, well, Cuban and the referee need to work a bit on their fake fighting.

That said, it was still good enough to fool Mavericks assistant coach Del Harris. Harris looked seriously concerned as the “fight” was going on. The refs signaled Cuban’s ejection when the announcer said, “April fools!” to the crowd.

Billy Donovan drops Florida’s NCAA championship trophy

After winning the 2006 NCAA tournament, Florida head coach Billy Donovan probably wanted to find a way to motivate his players to forget what they had already achieved and move onto the 2006-07 season. So, during Midnight Madness he nonchalantly handed off Florida’s national championship trophy, which fell and broke into a thousand pieces.

The looks on his players’ faces testify that they thought the shattered trophy was the real McCoy. The joke was on them as Donovan dropped a replica.

That’s one way to keep a team hungry after winning a championship, and apparently it worked. Donovan’s Gators won the 2007 NCAA tournament as well.

The Great Impostor

Every sports fan dreams of suiting up and joining his or her favorite team on the court or field. While most fans wish on, Barry Bremen actually found his way into major sporting events.

The “Great Impostor” found a way to gate crash in unprecedented ways. Wearing a Kansas City Kings jersey, he warmed up with the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar before the 1979 All-Star Game. Later that year, he snuck into MLB’s All-Star Game dressed in a Yankees uniform and even managed to pose for a group photo with Nolan Ryan and other Hall-of-Famers before he was discovered and shown the door. Yet later in 1979, he infiltrated a Dallas Cowboys game dressed as a cheerleader. He was arrested and thrown out of the stadium.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Over his long career, he walked onto the field dressed as an umpire at a 1980 World Series game, posed as a line judge at Super Bowl XV, played a practice round of golf at the U.S. Open two separate times and even accepted an Emmy for Best Supporting Actress for Betty Thomas.

With the massive increase in security at sporting events over the last decade, it’s nearly impossible for anyone to match what Bremen accomplished. Unless someone finds a way to perfect the face-making machine from “Mission: Impossible,” we’ll probably never see another Bremen. Watch his ESPN 30-for-30 film here.

Sidd Finch, the Mets’ incredible pitcher

The incredible story of Hyden “Sidd” Finch was fit for a Disney movie.

Orphaned as a young kid in England, he was adopted and raised by archaeologist Francis Whyte-Finch. Tragedy struck young Finch’s life again as Whyte-Finch was killed in a plane crash in the Himalayas during Finch’s final year at Stowe School in Birmingham, England. After spending a year hiking the Himalayas, he enrolled at Harvard in 1975 only to withdraw from classes in spring of 1976.

Finch was unusual to say the least. He played the French horn in the bathtub, carried around a shepherd’s crook and spent some time in Tibet, presumably learning from monks in the mountains. It was there where he supposedly became a disciple of Lama Milaraspa, a poet-saint that through “siddhi” could perform remarkable feats, such as producing internal heat to allow him to survive extreme cold and snowstorms in the mountain.

While studying in Tibet, Finch learned to use his abilities to give him super-human ability to pitch a baseball. Then in the spring of 1985, Finch decided to demonstrate his pitching to the New York Mets under conditions of secrecy. During these secret workouts, Finch was reported to throw a baseball 168 miles per hour.

Unfortunately for Mets fans, the above story is just as true as Disney’s “The World’s Greatest Athlete.” Sports Illustrated’s George Plimpton invented “Sidd” Finch and published his story on April 1, 1985.

Kyle Kendrick traded to Japan

Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Kyle Kendrick was called into manager Charlie Manuel’s office back in 2008 and received some shocking news. Manuel leaned back, sighed and told Kendrick in a somber tone that Kendrick had been traded to Japan’s Yomiuri Giants.

Kendrick looked horrified as he heard the shocking news. He was completely incredulous as he spoke with his teammates about the trade. Even his agent confirmed that Kendrick was headed to Japan. Naturally, the Phillies held a press conference announcing the deal.

Then, as Kendrick was addressing the media, Brett Myers finally let the cat out of the back and yelled, “You just got punk’d!”

The amount of people involved in this prank, from the manager to Kendrick’s agent to members of the media is what makes this prank special.