I’ve been a lifelong fan of the game of baseball. Where others see a slow and plodding game, I see a game of countless strategic moves and counter-moves which are only apparent to those willing to take the time to learn the “game within the game”.
Passionate baseball fans tend to become students of the game; learning facts, statistics, details, and minutiae which more ordinary run-of-the-mill sports fans might well find unimportant.
That’s why, as I was watching today’s game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Atlanta Braves, I was surprised to learn a bit of baseball history that I had never been exposed to before. During a lull in the action, one of the announcers noted that Jimmy Rollins of the Phillies was about to pass Dummy Hoy in the record book for career stolen bases.
Dummy Hoy? I’d never heard of Dummy Hoy.
Let me tell you about him, but before I do; have you ever wondered why umpires utilize hand signals to indicate whether a player is safe or out when running the bases? Just as important, have you ever wondered why hand signals were needed in the first place?
Hold those thoughts, for as Paul Harvey used to say, here’s “the rest of the story!”
William Ellsworth Hoy was born in 1862. He lived a long life, dying in 1961 at the age of 99. When he was 3 years old, Hoy came down with meningitis which resulted in his becoming permanently deaf. Overcoming his disability, Hoy went on to play Major League Baseball from 1888 until 1902. A center fielder, Hoy played most of his professional career for the Cincinnati Reds.
Derived from the word dumb, meaning the inability to speak, Hoy acquired the nickname “Dummy” at a very early age. It stuck. Unfazed by the negative implications associated with his name, Hoy was reported to have frequently corrected people who called him William, insisting that he preferred to be called Dummy.
By the end of his baseball career, he held several major league records, including the record for the most games played by a center fielder. But Hoy was also noted for his speed as a runner, which made him a very real threat for stealing bases.
Being unable to hear the verbal calls made by umpires during games, Hoy is credited with developing the hand signals, still in use today, that are used to indicate whether base runners are safe or out; valuable information to have if you are to be successful in stealing bases.
It’s interesting to note, that Ed Dundon, a deaf pitcher who played in the same era as Hoy, is credited with assisting in the development of the hand signals used by home plate umpires for indicating whether pitches are balls or strikes.
So there you have it! A little bit of baseball history revealed and two genuine nuggets of obscure and nonessential information that will surely come in handy the next time you want to completely stump your friends with a bit of trivia.