The Closet Moderate: OTBNW -- Dummy Hoy

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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