Simply Baseball Notebook's Forgotten In Time

William "Dummy" Hoy

Hilton Smith
Larry Doby
Seattle Pilots
1994 Expos
Ray Chapman
Flashes in the Pan
Steve Blass
St. Louis Browns
Wally Pipp
Rocky Colavito
Dom DiMaggio
Ellis Valentine
Bill Buckner
Jim Bottomley
The Federal League
Stuart 'Slim' Jones
Billy Hamilton
Ed Delahanty
Eddie Waitkus
George Davis
Riggs Stephenson
1920 White Sox
Luke Easter
Herb Washington
Eddie Robinson
Bobby Mathews
Jimmy Ryan
A.G. Spalding
"Dummy" Hoy
Albert Belle
Jack Quinn
Ken Williams
Al Oliver
Jack Taylor
Fred Lindstrom
Jim Thorpe


Washington Nationals 1888-89, 92-93
Buffalo Bison (PL) 1890
St. Louis Browns (AA) 1891
Cincinnati Reds 1894-97, 1902
Louisville Colonels 1898-99
Chicago White Sox 1901

Every baseball fan is familiar with the hand signals that umpires use for ball, strike, safe, out, etc. Few however realize that these signs came about because of William "Dummy" Hoy.  Hoy, a deaf-mute who played in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries also happens to be one of the finest all-around players not in the Hall of Fame.

William Ellsworth Hoy was born on May 23, 1862 in Cincinnati, OH.  At the age of 2, he was stricken with spinal meningitis, which left him almost completely deaf.  As a result, his speaking skills never fully developed.

Despite the handicap, Hoy was both bright and athletic.  He decided to pursue a career in baseball after getting four hits against a professional pitcher while playing with his hometown amateur team.

In 1885, Hoy was offered a tryout as catcher by the Milwaukee Brewers of the Northwestern League.  When the Brewers offered him just $60 a month for his services, Hoy took it as an insult.  Instead of signing, he left for Oshkosh who had an opening in their outfield.

Oshkosh was impressed enough to offer him $85 monthly to play centerfield.  When the Brewers caught word of this they sent a representative to match the offer.  When Hoy was handed their revised offer, he grabbed a pad and pencil and quickly wrote "I wouldn't play for you for a million a month!"

It soon became apparent that Hoy was a natural in the field.  His strong arm and speed allowed him to play a shallow centerfield.  At the plate however, it was a different story.  Pitchers realized they could quick-pitch Hoy when he glanced back at the umpire to see whether the previous pitch was a ball or strike.  As a result, he hit just .219 in 1885.

Before the 1886 season Hoy worked out a system in which the third base coach would signal to him what the previous pitch had been.  Hoy gained his revenge on the pitchers that season by tearing up the league with a .367 average.

Soon the umpires saw the value in hand signals. They would not only let the other players on the field know what was going on, but also the fans.  Soon an early form of the signs that are used today were used in parks all around the country.

By 1888, Hoy was ready for the big leagues and was signed by the National League's Washington Senators.  In his rookie season, he established himself as one of the top lead-off hitters in baseball.  He led the NL in steals with 82, scored 77 runs, hit .274, and finished fifth in the league with a .374 on-base-percentage.

On June 19, 1889, Hoy etched his name into the record books when he became the first player to throw out three players at the plate in one game.  Following that season, he jumped to Buffalo of the newly formed Players League.  Hoy played well there, scoring 107 runs and hitting .298, but the league folded after one year.

From there, Hoy headed to St. Louis, where he played with the American Association's St. Louis Browns.  While he spent just one season in St. Louis, Hoy did make an impression by leading the league with 119 walks and scoring 136 runs.

Hoy returned to Washington in 1892, and played two more solid seasons there before being sold to the Cincinnati Reds prior to the 1894 season.  Playing in his hometown, Hoy was extremely popular with the fans, who admired his hustling style of play. In four seasons with the Reds, his longest stint with one team, Hoy hit .299, .277, .298, and .292, while stealing 27, 50, 50, and 37 bases.

Before the 1898 season, Hoy was dealt to the lowly Louisville Colonels.  While he played his best baseball there, hitting over .300 both years, the Colonels struggled and disbanded after the 1899 season.

After sitting out the 1900 season, the 38-year-old signed with the Chicago White Sox of the new American League.  On May 1, 1901, Hoy hit the first grand slam in the league's history.  He is one of only 29 men that played in four major leagues (National League, Players League, American Association, and American League).

After hitting .294 and leading the new league with 86 walks, Hoy jumped back to the Reds for one final major league season.  On May 16, 1902, Hoy stepped into the batter's box against the New York Giants Luther "Dummy" Taylor, who was also a deaf-mute.  It remains the only time in history that two deaf players have faced each other. The colorful Taylor and Hoy struck up a friendship that lasted well beyond their playing days.

The season ended early for Hoy, who was hitting .290, when he was released on August 7.  At age 42, he decided to head out west and play with Los Angeles of the Pacific Coast League (a high minor league) in 1903.  The veteran stole 42 bases that year, and played in all 211 of the team's games.  He retired following the season.

In his major league career, Hoy hit .287 with 2,044 hits, 1,426 runs, and 594 stolen bases in 1,796 games.  He also posted a stellar .386 career on-base-percentage.

Following his playing days, Hoy returned to the Cincinnati area and became a successful dairy farmer.  In 1924, he sold the farm and took a management position with the Goodyear Tire Company.

In 1951, Hoy became the first inductee of the American Athletic Association of the Deaf's Hall of Fame.  At the 1961 World Series, he was chosen to throw out the first pitch of Game 3 at Crosley Field in Cincinnati.  That honor ended up being a last hurrah for Hoy.  Shortly after he was hospitalized.

On December 15, 1961, in Cincinnati, Williams Ellsworth "Dummy" Hoy suffered a stroke and died.  He was just over sixth months shy of his 100th birthday.

-David Zingler, May 2004


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