4. New York Packers
In April 1985, New York City controller Harrison Golden called a news conference to announce the city was buying the Green Bay Packers, using city retirement funds to replace the Giants and Jets, who had skipped to New Jersey the previous decade. Reporters from the New York Post and New York Daily News already had phoned in the story to their papers, when a press aide for Golden announced the ruse. The Post said if its press had already started running, it would have cost the paper $100,000 to correct.
3. Iron Man marathoner
In 1981, the Daily Mail, a London tabloid, reported that Japan's Kimo Nakajimi had entered the London Marathon but because of a translation error thought he had to run for 26 days, not 26 miles, and was still somewhere out on the roads of England, determined to finish the race. The story was packaged as a “MAIL EXCLUSIVE.” I should hope so.
2. Sidd Finch
George Plimpton's April 1, 1985, story in Sports Illustrated proved the mighty bounds that people will believe. Former Harvard student, Buddhist monk-in-training, raised in a British orphanage, adopted by a archaeologist who later died in a Napal plane crash, learned to throw a baseball 168 mph while traveling in Tibet, in training camp with the Mets but conflicted by a desire to have a musical career playing the French horn. Plimpton found nothing too outrageous for some people to believe. On April 8, Sports Illustrated reported that Finch had retired from baseball. On April 15, SI reported that the story was fiction.
1. Plainfield Teacher's College
What started as simple call-in of scores to the New York and Philadelphia papers grew fangs as stockbroker Morris Newburger and radio announcer Bink Dannenbaum concocted all kinds of juicy details about fictional Plainfield Teacher's College and its star quarterback, Johnny Chung, a “Herculean Hawaiian.” For six weeks, coverage grew and grew, with papers reporting that Chung ate a bowl of rice between halves for extra energy and the team's “W” formation, which required the ends to face the backfield.