Dummy Hoy made history as the first deaf major league baseball player. He’s also not famous just because he was deaf; he was also a remarkably talented and skilled baseball player.
I had only heard a few things about Dummy Hoy during my college career. I wish I would have heard more! Dummy (gosh, I hate calling him that) was anything but dumb. Baseball is known as America’s sport, and Hoy had a lot to do with what happens in baseball today. I think he is truly remarkable and deserves to be in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Dummy Hoy’s real name is William Ellsworth Hoy but he was also known as Dummy, Billy Hoy, and Bill Hoy. Back then, the word “dumb” was used to describe someone who could not speak. Hoy actually referred to himself as “Dummy” instead of William and often corrected people. That is how he got that nickname.
Hoy was born in Houckstown, Ohio, on May 23, 1862. Due to an illness in his childhood, he lost his hearing. However, he wasn’t going to let this loss keep from achieving his dream.
He graduated from the Ohio School for the Deaf and started his professional career in 1886 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Hoy went on to play for five different major league teams as an outfielder for fifteen years.
During that time, he racked up some amazing statistics. He was a rookie in the majors, but led the National League in stolen bases.
Playing for the Chicago White Sox, Hoy hit a grand-slam home run in 1901. This was the first ever grand-slam in the American League.
Dummy has also been widely credited with creating the hand signals that are still used in baseball today. When he started his baseball career, the Umpire shouted all the calls. When Hoy was up to bat, he asked his third-base coach to raise his right arm to indicate a strike and his left arm to indicate a ball, as the story goes.
Soon, the coach was also signaling the opposing team’s balls and strikes to Dummy when he played outfield. Gradually, hand signals became common use in baseball among the players, managers, and umpires.
He even inspired a sort of sign language in the crowds. With Dummy being such a loved player as an amazing outfielder, a consistently great hitter, and exciting base-stealer, the crowds would jump up and wildly wave their arms to cheer for him when he made a great play.
Dummy Hoy finished his career in Los Angeles playing for the Pacific Coast winter league, after playing 1,792 games (a record!) in the major leagues. He finished with stats of:
- 2,000 hits
- 1,400 runs
- 594 stolen bases
- .287 batting average
- .386 on-base percentage
Hoy’s very last play secured the 1903 pennant for his team.
In 1951, Dummy Hoy was the first player to be entered in the American Athletic Association for the Deaf’s Hall of Fame.
To this day, people are fighting to get him inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Hoy died in 1961 at the age of 99.
It truly is amazing to see a deaf person bring so much history into baseball. And most people don’t even know about it!