By: Christina Buccafurni (04/27/16)
William “Dummy” Hoy (May 23, 1862 – December 15, 1961) is known for being the most accomplished deaf baseball player to play in Major League Baseball. He was born in Houckstown, Ohio and lost his hearing during childhood due to an illness. The word “dumb” meant someone who couldn’t speak (yet Hoy was known for a soft high pitched squeaky voice) “so he was nicknamed “Dummy”. This didn’t seem to bother Hoy, as when people would refer to him as William, he would correct them and ask them to call him “Dummy”. He played center field for several teams. He held records in his league during his career and is even credited for creating the hand signals for safe and outcalls that are still used today.
Hoy graduated from the Ohio School for the Deaf then went on to play for 5 different major league teams. Through his baseball career, he led the National League in stolen bases. While playing for the White Sox, he hit the very first grand slam home run in the American League. When Hoy was at bat, he asked the 3rd base coach to use his right hand to show if the ball pitched was a strike and his left to indicate a ball. The coach also did this for Hoy while he was in outfield and it just started to catch on. Hand signals are still used by umpires, coaches and players to this day. He even inspired the crowds to use certain hand signals when they cheered for him in particular, they would jump and wave their hands around to show him their excitement rather than screaming or cheering. Hoy’s very last play in baseball actually secured the pennant for the season.
I am a huge fan of baseball and found Hoy’s story both inspiring and amazing. I am embarrassed and saddened that I have never heard of William “Dummy” Hoy until I started to research “Famous Deaf people in History”- especially since he literally added history to the game. Had he never played, who knows how the umpires would show strikes and balls and how coaches would communicate plays with the players. Through all of his challenges, Hoy still broke records and made an impression on the deaf community and my favorite sport- baseball. He was the first member elected into the American Association of the Deaf Hall of Fame and there are still many people fighting to have him inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. I really hope he makes it here. I think his story is inspiring and just plain cool.