GQ pulled a fast one on its readers in its May issue.
The story of a 13-year old numbers wunderkind who manages a small town baseball team is a hoax, made up entirely from the imagination of GQ articles editor Jason Gay.
The article, “The Boys of Summer,” profiles Jonathan Nettles Floyd, a child born on April 1, 1994, who is the general manager of the Ash Fork Miners, a team in the Desert Cactus Independent League. Floyd has developed a unique statistic to evaluate player’s ability—the ISH and the OSH, or infield stolen hits and outfield stolen hits. Supposedly, Floyd has a 9-year-old assistant, and is being heavily courted by the New York Yankees.
But the boy, the team, the Desert Cactus Independent baseball League, and the entire story are all fake. There actually is a town called Ash Fork, population 400, just north of Phoenix, but it does not have a minor league baseball team. Instead, the players and ballpark facilities shown in the story are home to the Yuma, Ariz., Golden Baseball League, run by commissioner Kevin Outcalt. And Outcalt did more than lend his baseball field for the story. He also lent his 13-year-old son Chris Outcalt—who is photographed as young Floyd in the piece.
“Everything’s 100 percent made up,” admitted Gay.
Those who read the story carefully will find some signals of GQ’s trickery.
Floyd’s birthday is April Fool’s Day; players include Irving Clifford, second basemen George Frey and James Plimpton, and manager Billy “Stack” Stackhouse. Irving Clifford is a reference to writer Clifford Irving, best known for writing an unauthorized fake autobiography of Howard Hughes; George Frey and James Plimpton are transposed names of fake memoirist James Frey and George Plimpton, author of “The Curious Case of Sidd Finch,” a novel about a fictitious baseball pitcher with a 200 mile per hour fastball.
Stackhouse, meanwhile, references both “Candid Camera” and MTV’s prank program “Punk’d” in an “interview” with Gay. Finally, Gay’s bio at the end of the story says he is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, which he is not.
“The hard part about doing a piece like this is you want to walk that careful line between having fun with and being playful and shouting fire in a crowded theater,” explained Gay. “You want to have the spoof reveal itself the deeper you read into the piece.”
Gay, incidentally, also wrote a satirical presidential background check of Stephen Colbert in the same issue. But he notes that pranking the reader will not be a regular gig. “You obviously can’t do this every month, because people will get irritated by you. You pick your spots.”
GQ will reveal the spoof to readers in its July issue. As for the June issue, Gay guarantees, “every other word in GQ is true.”