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Happy Birthday "Dummy" Hoy!

It was on this day (May 23) in 1862 that William Ellsworth Hoy was born.

Known professionally as "Dummy" Hoy, he played in the major leagues for seven seasons, mostly for the Cincinnati Reds.

Born on May 23, 1862, in Houcktown, Ohio, near Toledo. Hoy lost his hearing at the age of three due to meningitis. He graduated from the Ohio State School for the Deaf as class valedictorian in 1879. The school honored him with a plaque in March of 2023. WXYX-TV has a report on it here.

Hoy signed his first professional contract in 1886 with Oshkosh, Wisconsin and made the Major Leagues in 1888 where he played until 1902. He was the third deaf player in the major leagues following pitchers Ed Dundon and Tom Lynch. He spent 14 years in the majors.

Only 5-feet-4 inches tall (some report he was 5-6), Hoy had a small strike zone. He threw with his right hand but was a left-handed hitter. The first deaf player in the majors, Hoy had a .287 career batting average and more than 2,000 hits. An excellent base stealer, he swiped more than 500 bases. In his rookie season, Hoy led the league with 82 stolen bases. He led the league twice in on-base percentage. A standout center fielder, Hoy set a record in 1889 by throwing out three runners at home plate in a single game. During his final season with the Reds, he batted against pitcher Dummy Taylor of the New York Giants. It was the first time a deaf batter faced a deaf pitcher in the Major Leagues.

Hoy retired with a .288 batting average, 2048 hits, 1429 runs, 725 runs batted in, 248 doubles, 121 triples and 40 home runs. He became a member of the Cincinnati Reds' Hall of Fame in 2003.

Because he couldn't hear the umpire calling the balls and strikes, Hoy is often credited with creating the hand signals that umps still use. However, a deaf pitcher named Ed "Dummy" Dundon used hand signals as early as 1883-84 and later in a game that he umpired in 1886. Also, early accounts of baseball signs do not credit Hoy with originating their use. However, he probably played a role in spreading their use because of his long career as a standout player.

Hoy could read lips, but also used sign language, which he taught his teammates. Like many deaf ball players at the time, he got a common (albeit offensive) nickname "dummy."He was better known by that nickname than his given name and preferred being called Dummy, even correcting people who called him by his given name, William.

He married Anna Lowry in 1898 and the couple had three children. Anna taught deaf children and was deaf herself. After he retired, Hoy bought land in Ohio and became a dairy farmer.

He throw out the first pitch at the 1961 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Cincinnati Reds and died a few months later at the age of 99.

In 2012 a play based on his life was performed in Oregon at the Pentacle. The Signal Season of Dummy Hoy was written by Allen Meyer and Michael Nowak a quarter of a century ago for Meyer’s deaf daughter.

Read more about Dummy Hoy from the History Channel here.


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