The Closet Moderate: May 2010

Friday, May 14, 2010

OTBNW -- Dummy Hoy

William Ellsworth "Dummy" Hoy was a turn-of-the-century center fielder for several teams in the American and National Leagues. Hoy is best known today for being the most successful deaf baseball player in Major League history. And successful he was, racking up more than 2,000 hits in his fifteen-year career. His nickname, a reference to his deafness, sounds cruel by today's standards, but was unremarkable one hundred years ago. As his article on The Baseball Biography Project attests, "he referred to himself as 'Dummy' and politely corrected those who, for whatever reason, called him 'William.'"

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Born in Ohio in 1862, Hoy went deaf at the age of three. He graduated from the Ohio School for the Deaf in 1879 and became a cobbler. He played some amateur baseball when business was slow, and was soon discovered by the Oshkosh team of the Northwest League, which signed him to a minor league contract in 1886.

In 1888, Hoy signed with the Washington Nationals of the American Association, then a major league. Hoy was not the first deaf ballplayer --two others were in the majors at the time -- but he soon stood out as the best of them. His speed helped him to cover a lot of ground as an outfielder and to place among the league leaders in stolen bases. Hoy moved to Buffalo Bisons in the Players League in 1890, then returned to the American Association in 1891 with the St. Louis Browns. When the AA ceased to be a major league following that season, Hoy jumped to the National League's Washington Senators.

Hoy was traded to the Cincinnati Reds after the 1893 season, and stayed with that club through 1897, hitting more than 20 doubles each year. He then spent two years with the Louisville Colonels until that team was contracted by the National League in 1899. Hoy signed with the Chicago White Sox in 1900 when the American League was still considered a minor league. It became a major league in 1901, and Hoy played with them that year, when they won the American League pennant. 1902 was Hoy's final major-league season as he returned to the Reds. That year he faced a deaf pitcher, Dummy Taylor, and got two hits off of him. Despite hitting .290 that year, Hoy was released and played the 1903 season in the Pacific League with the Los Angeles Angels.

After retiring from baseball, Hoy bought a dairy farm in Ohio and also worked for a time as a personnel director for the Goodyear Tire Company. He married and had several children. When all his children had grown, Hoy sold the farm and worked for a publisher until he was 75. In 1951 Hoy became the first deaf athlete elected into the American Athletic Association of the Deaf's Hall of Fame. The baseball field at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., is named for him. In 1961, Hoy, at the age of 99, threw out the first pitch before Game 3 of the World Series between the Reds and the Yankees in Cincinnati. He died two months later, on December 15.

A group of people started a website promoting Hoy for induction into the Hall of Fame. A book about him is said to be forthcoming.


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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

OTBNW -- Cupid Childs

A little late, here's this week's Old-Time Baseball name of the Week: Cupid Childs.

Clarence Lemuel "Cupid" Childs was a second-baseman who played with a variety of teams, but mostly with the Cleveland Spiders, a team most noted for once posting the major leagues' worst record: 20 wins and 134 losses in 1899.

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Childs was born in Calvert County, Maryland just after the Civil War and later moved to Baltimore. He was 5'8'' tall and weighed between 185 and 195 pounds, making him even more out of shape than your humble bloggard. According to the Baseball Biography Project, "[i]t's safe to assume that his resemblance to the fictional matchmaker was the reason for his cherubic nickname. He is also referred to in various newspaper accounts as 'Fats,' 'Fatty,' 'Paca,' and even 'The Dumpling.'" That's a lot of nicknames for one pudgy second baseman!

Whatever you called him, Fatty could hit, and he made his major-league debut with the Philadelphia Quakers (now the Phillies) in 1888. He had a rough start there, dropping back to the minors in 1889, but returning to the major leagues as a member of the Syracuse Stars of the American Association in 1890. The American Association ceased to be a major league after that year but Cupid, who had led the league in batting, signed with the National League's Cleveland Spiders. He had apparently also signed a contract with a Baltimore team in the American Association a month earlier, but after fighting it out in court, Childs became a Spider.

The Dumpling hit .281 his first year in Cleveland, and hit above .300 in five of the six years that followed. Childs was one of many good players for Cleveland, and the Spiders were routinely in the top half of the league, playing in the post-season Championship Series three times. Things for the Spiders took an odd turn after the 1898 season, however, when the Spiders' owners bought the St. Louis franchise, too. Realizing that they could sell more tickets with a good team in St. Louis, they transferred all of the best Spiders players to their new team, which they renamed the St. Louis Perfectos (now the Cardinals). The plan backfired, as the Spiders had their aforementioned last place finish, but the Perfectos only finished fifth. After the season, the National League contracted and the Spiders were dissolved.

The St. Louis trade harmed Fatty Childs personally, as well, as he contracted malaria while playing there. The illness affected Cupid's play, and he hit a mediocre .265 -- not bad for someone with malaria, but not up to his usual standards. He was sold to the Chicago Orphans (now the Cubs) before the 1900 season. The effects of malaria, combined with injuries suffered in a fistfight with Pittsburgh's Fred Clarke, made the season a disappointing one for Childs. The following season, 1901, was his last in the majors.

Childs spent the next three seasons bouncing around the minor leagues, but never regained his earlier form. He worked as a driver for a coal company in Baltimore until his death at the age of 45.


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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Brits!

Interested in the U.K. elections? Nate Silver is live-blogging here, and the Times has some great maps here.




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