SI Vault
Great Pretenders
David Epstein
June 04, 2007
Busy? Bored? Send in a ringer
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
June 04, 2007

Great Pretenders

Busy? Bored? Send in a ringer

View CoverRead All Articles

WELTERWEIGHT Zab Judah's conference call with reporters last week sounded like a standard prefight presser. "You are going to see blood, guts and sweat," Judah (right) thundered, describing the damage he plans to inflict upon WBA belt holder Miguel Cotto on June 9. "You are going to see somebody hit the floor." How do you really feel, Zab?

Actually no one can say because, unbeknownst to the media, the " Judah" on the other end of the line was a stand in: the fighter's father, Yoel. (When several writers said afterward that they thought his voice sounded strange, the promoter promised to do another call.) The stunt sparked more classic trash talk—"I've been saying all along that Judah was a fraud," Cotto said—and was a reminder of other athletes who weren't the real deal.

Thoroughbred trainer Tom Smith, who takes pleasure in foiling press attempts to cover his horses, buys a claimer named Grog. The attraction? Grog bears a striking resemblance to his media darling Seabiscuit (below). Smith logs in Seabiscuit as Grog on workout schedules and hoodwinks photographers at Seabiscuit's stable. Several times Smith grandly tells a groom to "bring the old Biscuit out," and unsuspecting newspapers publish photos of Grog.

Not yet a household name—or face—speedy Angels outfielder and future Gold Glove winner Gary Pettis pulls a fast one on a Topps photographer: His 14-year-old brother, Lynn, poses for his trading card (below). The shot makes it into Topps's '85 set; "It's one of those practical jokes ballplayers have been playing for years," explains a company spokesman. It's also an Angels tradition. Topps's 1969 card for third baseman Aurelio Rodriguez is actually a picture of batboy Leonard Garcia.

Senior forward J.R. Rider, the nation's second-leading scorer, is suspended for UNLV's first-round NIT loss after it's discovered that a tutor wrote several of his papers for an English course. The tip-off, aside from the unusual quality of the work? On three of the papers Rider's first name, Isaiah, is spelled ISIAH. "I've got a better question," Rider responds when asked by a reporter if he did the work himself. "Why don't you write about all my 30 point games?"

During a 76ers-Wizards game, ESPN reporter Jim Gray tells a national audience that he just called malcontented Philly guard Allen Iverson, who is sitting at home, and was told Iverson wants to be traded to the Timberwolves. It's a scoop—and a scam. Later that night Gray goes back on TV to say the person he spoke to wasn't Iverson. "I thought I was talking to him," Gray says later. "I feel badly, but I don't feel like I did anything wrong."