2020: In the midst of a worldwide coronavirus pandemic, a Russian plane filled with medical supplies touches down in New York City, days after U.S. President Donald Trump speaks by phone with Vladimir Putin. A State Department spokesperson tells the media that the U.S. purchased the supplies, which includes ventilators and personal protective equipment. The decision to buy supplies from a longtime adversary—and the lack of transparency around the decision—is met with confusion and is viewed by former diplomats as a propaganda victory for Moscow, which uses the transaction to help create the perception that the U.S. is reliant on Russia.
2009: Car & Driver magazine publishes a fake news story on its Web site, claiming that U.S. President Barack Obama advised GM and Chrysler that they must cease participation in NASCAR after the 2009 season if they hope to receive additional financial aid from the government. In spite of the fact that the subhead of the story includes the disclaimer “Happy April Fools’ Day! This is a joke. Lighten up, people,” several talking heads (including conservative pundit Ann Coulter) take the story seriously, and Car & Driver is soon shamed into pulling the article and issuing an apology for taking things “too far.”
2009: New York University sends out acceptance emails to 489 applicants to the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, all of whom should have received rejection letters. An hour later, the school sends out a second email, informing the applicants they aren’t welcome after all.
1996: Home plate umpire John McSherry collapses and dies seven pitches into the Cincinnati Reds' season opener versus the Montreal Expos. The game is postponed, prompting Reds owner Marge Schott to say she “feels cheated.”
1985: Sports Illustrated publishes an article by George Plimpton entitled “The Curious Case of Sidd Finch,” which chronicles the story of a 28-year-old New York Mets pitching prospect capable of throwing a 168 mph fastball. Equally notable, the gangly, six-foot-four hurler pitches wearing a heavy hiking boot on one foot while the other remains bare. The article also reveals that Finch (portrayed in photographs by Joe Berton, a junior high school art teacher from Illinois) is torn between making a living as a big league pitcher and a career playing the French horn. Countless SI readers, media types, and baseball insiders fall for the hoax before word spreads that the first letters of the article’s subhead—He’s a pitcher, part yogi and part recluse. Impressively liberated from our opulent life-style, Sidd’s deciding about yoga, and his future in baseball—spell out “Happy April Fools Day.”
1873: The British White Star steamship sinks off the coast of Nova Scotia, killing 547 people.