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The Birth Of Umpires' Signals: WILLIAM "DUMMY" HOY


    Because this former Cincinnati Reds outfielqer was deaf and couldn't hear an umpire's call, the art of hand signals in umpiring was developed.


    The clock is turned back to the 19th century, to 1886. The town was Oshkosh, Wisconsin. William E. "Dummy" Hoy, 24, was a deaf and mute center fielder playing professional baseball for the first time.


Umpires in that era announced balls and strikes verbally. But because of Hoy, they began lifting their right arm for strikes and

their left for balls. Today, an umpire's gestures are a colorful part of any baseball game.


Deaf from the age of three after suffering spinal meningitis, Hoy never let his handicap prevent him from reaching greatness.


He was discovered playing baseball in his hometown of Houcktown, Ohio, a little village near Findlay, Ohio, in the northwestern part of the state.



    He spent two years at Oshkosh. In 1888 he went to Washington, then in the National League. Finally, in 1894, he wound up as a center fielder for the Reds and spent four years as an outstanding flyhawk for the Reds.

When he played in Washington, he raised his nephew, Paul Hoy Helms, the son of his sister. Helms went on to become a famous sportsman and baker and founded the Helms Athletic Foundation in Los Angeles.


Hoy's own son Carson became a well-known Cincinnati personality, serving as a prosecuting attorney and later as a judge.


As a player, Dummy Hoy was regarded as one of the sharpest in the game. He had the knack of being in the right spot at the right time. Once, while playing with Washington, he threw out three runners at home plate in the same game.


Hoy liked the nickname "Dummy" and insisted that people refer to him by that name.




   On his 95th birthday, he sent a message to the sportswriters who had been referring to him as William E. Hoy. "Tell them," Hoy penned, "to call me 'Dummy' again, like always."


Hoy never let advancing age stand in his way. When he was 98, he finally began using an ebony cane he had received as a gift while playing in Oshkosh in 1886. "Only a few days ago I decided to carry a walking stick," Hoy wrote on his 98th birthday. "A gold, square-headed ebony cane given me by Oshkosh fans. I imagine a sporting editor who presented it would be surprised to learn the outfielder of the 1886 Oshkosh team began his ninety-ninth year by carrying that treasured stick."


When he was 99, Hoy was on hand for the Reds Opening Day game and he threw out the first ball. He repeated that event in the World Series that year when the Reds played the New York Yankees.


On December 15, 1961, Dummy Hoy died. At the time of his death, he had lived to be the oldest ex-major leaguer. It was indeed a phenomenal life for this ballplayer who couldn't hear or talk.  




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