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