The Major Leagues recently honored Jackie Robinson, the first African-American player in baseball, by having all the players where Jackie’s number (42) for one game. There can be no debate that Robinson was a great hero, who had an immeasurable impact on baseball. I got to thinking about other players who helped change the face of the big leagues. That led me to the story of William Hoy.
William Hoy was one of the first deaf people to play Major League Baseball. Hoy, who went by the nickname “Dummy,” joined the big leagues in 1888, at the age of 26. Hoy lost his hearing at a young age after suffering from meningitis, but went on to graduate at the top of his class from the Ohio State School for the Deaf. Later, after opening his own shoe repair store, he switched tracks and made baseball his career.
Hoy played professional baseball for more than 14 seasons, racking up over 2,000 career hits and nearly 600 stolen bases. In fact, at the time of his retirement in 1902, Hoy had the third most stolen bases in MLB history. Even now, over a hundred years later, he’s still number 18 all time.
But that isn’t all — Hoy is credited by many for creating the “safe” and “out” gestures used by umpires in games. The reason was obvious — he couldn’t hear, so he needed some other way of knowing what was going on in the game. He asked his third base coach to raise an arm if a ball was a strike. The practice caught on. Those same basic gestures are still used today in every level of baseball.
No doubt he was a heckuva baseball player. But, according to dummyhoy.com, he was also an incredibly likable and honest person. Apparently, during a game in which the sky had turned dark, Hoy was ruled to have caught a fly ball hit by the opposing team. The other team protested and when the umpire asked Hoy if he had really caught the ball, he admitted that he had not. “The umpire called the batter safe. Hoy’s teammates were furious. Hoy was satisfied that he had told the truth.”
According to a site dedicated to his memory, Hoy would often tell people that he had two goals in life. One, to live to be a hundred years old. And two, to make it into the baseball hall of fame. He almost accomplished the first goal. He passed away in 1961, at the age of 99. Just a few months before he died, he threw out the first pitch in game three of the World Series.
Hoy’s other goal, to be enshrined as one of baseball’s best ever in Cooperstown, was never achieved. But people are still trying. Hoy’s fans ask that others email the Hall of Fame directly. From a statistical point of view, Hoy was certainly far above average. But as a man who helped mold the game into what it is, America’s Pastime, he is one of the all time greats.
Thanks for reading,
If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!