"A lot of people got mad, in particular Leland Searcy, who had the record. The feeling was that this fella must've doctored the cow chip—put a solid object in there of some kind, bolts or something, because there is no way in tarnation that a cow chip can go that distance."
The Beaver officials were so unbelieving of the mystery man's astonishing toss (SI is certain that it was Finch, because of his habit of removing one shoe) that they disallowed it. "I felt sort of sorrowful seeing that stranger walk off into the sunset," Jakes told SI. "It could have been the greatest thing that ever happened in Beaver, but the way people reacted he's lucky he didn't get ridden out of town on a rail. Folks thought he was making a mockery out of our cow chip contest, said he was one of them pariahs. What made me feel better about him leaving that way was he had this fine-looking young woman with him who was wearing a red cowboy hat with a feather stuck in it. She was holding him around the waist as they walked out of town."
SI's editors theorized that Finch might have returned to England, his native country, and suspected that, given his extraordinary throwing ability, he might have given cricket a try. Evidently, as the magazine was able to discover, he did so four years ago with a village team in Staffordshire. Simon Darrell III, a local cricket authority, remembers the afternoon.
"Only saw him that one day," says Darrell. "Flint, was it? Oh, Finch! Yes. Of course. Extraordinary chap. Interesting situation. Absolutely deadly. Chippy Collins positively white-faced when he went to the wicket to face him. Trouble with Finch was, couldn't bowl the ball properly. The arm has to be absolutely stiff. Can't bend the elbow. We call that 'chucking.' Quite illegal, and the umpire calls out, 'No ball.'
"Chap only wore one shoe. Never saw a man run up to the wicket wearing only one shoe. Reminded me a bit of Fiery Fred Truman, England's fast bowler. They say Jeff Thompson, that Australian hippie chap with the big flop of hair, was the fastest, just under 160 kilometers an hour, but I would say this fellow—Finch, was it?—was much faster. You couldn't see the ball. Hard to believe. Like a rifle shot hit the stumps, bails flying all over the place, but always the umpire calling out, 'No ball.' 'No ball.' 'No ball.' Quite sad, really. Leggatt, the captain, finally took him off, put him out at third man at the boundary, ignominious fielding position out there, only for chaps who can't catch anything hit their way. The rains came just before tea. Smashing American girl was with him. Wore a T-shirt that said BOOM BOOM on the front."
Darrell sent SI an interesting note a few days later. "May I add this," he wrote. "Frankly, Finch did not seem to me to be 'chucking it.' With that arm windmilling that fast, it was hard to tell whether the elbow was bent. The thought crossed my mind that everyone around the grounds that afternoon just thought that it would be best if he were not seen there again. Not good for the game."
The cricket episode happened in 1996. There were no confirmed reports after that, merely rumors. Finch was variously said to be living quietly in the large London town house he had inherited from his father, sporting on the beaches of Fiji with a breathtaking blonde, coaching astronauts on weightlessness for trips in space. One rumor suggested he had returned to a monastic life in Bhutan. But SI is now of the opinion that some episodes reported in recent weeks by its correspondents in England suggest that Finch is engaging in new athletic pursuits.
Item: On the 3rd of February, Mrs. Julia Applegate of Sussex reported to the police that while knitting in the parlor on the second floor of her home, what appeared to be a cannonball burst through a window in a splinter of glass shards and rumbled across the floor, knocking over a birdcage stand. Mrs. Applegate, who had just put down a memoir of the Duke of Wellington to take up her knitting, shouted, "Napoleon!" (this by her account), apparently under the impression the French army was attacking the neighborhood.
Item: Quite nearby on the following day, Cynthia Bosworth, a schoolteacher, was walking with her grandmother in a fen when, with a slight whisper, a spear embedded itself in the turf not a yard away. The grandmother looked skyward and evidently (this according to her granddaughter) harking back to the days of the German air raids, remarked, "Goodness, what will they think of dropping on us next!"
Item: Last spring, in the Staffordshire village of Rugeley, at a pub named The Hat and Hounds, a game of darts was in progress. A stranger entered the premises with a striking young woman whose accent no one could identify. She kept egging her companion on to join the game and eventually, somewhat wearily, he agreed. The scoring had to be explained to him.