It seems like everyone tries to get in on the April Fool's Day fun, and the sports world is no exception. This isn't a recent development, either: You can go back a century and find sports figures dipping their toes into trickery and elaborate pranks.
Over the years, certain stunts have garnered much more attention than others. The most memorable pranks find the perfect intersection of audacious and barely believable, convincing us that maybe the impossible has, indeed, come true. The five greatest April Fool's stunts in sports history all have one thing in common: We were all fooled, at least momentarily.
1927 & 1930: Babe Ruth Shows His Sense Of Humor
Babe Ruth loved a good joke, apparently. The Great Bambino partook in not one, but two memorable April Fool's Day stuns. In 1927, he approached home plate and posed for the picture above, with Ruth looking poised to swing at a baseball even larger than himself. That photo remains one of the most comical and absurd baseball portraits of the era.
Three years later, he one-upped himself. A report from the Miami News-Record declared that Ruth had arrived at training camp in extraordinary shape. But his motivation to slim down wasn't necessarily for baseball: Instead, he was changing career paths and becoming a horse-racing jockey.
The newspaper reported Ruth as weighing just 108 pounds, and that if jockeying didn't pan out, he would look to become a flyweight boxer. Of course, Ruth never went the horse-racing route -- indeed, away from the baseball field he became better-known for his struggles to keep his weight under control.
1985: A Baseball Prodigy Is Found In Tibet
Starting a rumor is one thing. But what Sports Illustrated did in 1985 was well beyond misleading gossip: The magazine ran a full-length feature that proclaimed the discovery of a pitching prodigy in Tibet named Sidd Finch, who was capable of throwing a 168-mile fastball, and whom had been snatched up by the New York Mets.
That might sound like a clear prank storyline, yes. But SI ran the story as a feature like any other, and the story itself was authored by famed writer George Plimpton. In this case, the magazine made no attempt to wink at readers or hint that they might not be telling the truth.
Alas, Finch was eventually exposed as a sham, but not before the country was duped. If you're skeptical that people would believe such a tale, you can read the story here.
1988: Maradona Goes To Russia
Newspapers sure love to stir up trouble: In 1988, a Soviet Union newspaper revealed a major acquisition for Mascow's Spartak soccer club: The team would be signing global icon Diego Maradona to a multi-million-dollar contract.
American journalists were stunned, mainly because they never suspected a Soviet newspaper as willing to entertain a Western holiday built around deception. But an editor received a phone call from the Associated Press and insisted that their report was written "exactly as it should be understood."
The signing of a star like Maradona, to what was then a modest soccer club in a communist country, would have rocked the soccer world. Which was why it was such a brilliant prank.
2003: Mark Cuban Attacks A Referee
The Dallas Mavericks owner has always loved to go after the refs. In 2003, though, Cuban took it to the court and went way, way past the line. Considering his reputation of drawing fines for criticizing the refs, fans were shocked -- but not necessarily surprised -- when he walked onto the court and started a physical fight with a referee.
Cuban deserved at least a Golden Globe nomination: He sold the bit perfectly.
Never fear, everyone involved in the fracas was in on the joke, and Cuban has never reached the point of physical violence against an NBA ref.
So far, anyways.
2012: Derek Jeter Traded To The Mets
Surely the Yankees would never trade The Captain -- much less to their cross-town rival. But you might believe it if you read a 2012 story from The Complex, which asserted that Jeter has upset Yankees general manager Brian Cashman by admitting he was dating Cashman's stalker.
The Complex story doesn't exactly make a strong effort to sell the gag, but it got some help from a surprising place: Derek Jeter doesn't have a Twitter account, where the story quickly spread like wildfire with no prominent voice coming out to contradict the report. Finally, hours later, it came out that the story wasn't true. But for a few glorious/horrifying hours, a decent chunk of Yankees nation thought Jeter's womanizing ways had trainwrecked his Yankees career.
And if you know Yankees fans, you know they probably still aren't recovered from that scare.