What they said:
Hall of Famers on Hoy (and other quotes)
You remember him, don’t you? (...) Quite a ballplayer. In my opinion, Dummy Hoy and Tommy Leach should both be in the Hall of Fame.

Do you know how many bases Dummy Hoy stole in his major-league career? Over 600! That alone should be enough to put him in the Hall of Fame. We played alongside each other in the outfield with the Cincinnati club in 1902. He had started in the Big Leagues way back in the 1880’s, you know, so he was on his way out then, and I had been up just a few years, but even that late in his career he was a fine outfielder. A great one.

Did you know that he was the one responsible for the umpire giving hand signals for a ball or strike? Raising his right hand for a strike, you know, and stuff like that. He’d be up at bat and he couldn’t hear and he couldn’t talk, so he’d look around at the umpire to see what the pitch was, a ball or a strike. That’s where the hand signs for the umpires calling balls and strikes began. That’s a fact. Very few people know that.

(...) Did you know that he once threw three men out at home plate in one game? From the outfield, I mean. That was in 1889. And still they don’t give him a tumble for the Hall of Fame. It’s not right.
—“Wahoo” Sam Crawford (elected to the Hall of Fame in 1957), in Lawrence Ritter’s The Glory of Their Times (1984)

I roomed with Dummy in 1899, and we got to be good friends. He was a real fine ballplayer. When you played with him in the outfield, the thing was that you never called for a ball. You listened for him, and if he made this little squeaky sound, that meant he was going to take it.

(...) We hardly ever had to use our fingers to talk, though most of the fellows did learn the sign language, so that when we got confused or something we could straighten it out with our hands.
—Tommy Leach, in Lawrence Ritter’s The Glory of Their Times

“Dummy” as his club mates call him, last year wore the uniform of the Oshkosh Club of the Northwestern League. His career on the professional ball ground has been comparatively brief, beginning work with Oshkosh in 1886, playing in the center-field.... His work at the bat in the South was very fine, having two, three, and sometimes five or six hits in a game. He is left handed, and when he bats a man stands in the captain’s box near third base and signals to him decisions of the umpire on balls and strikes by raising his fingers.
——from an 1888 report by Charles Warren Carraway of Gallaudet College (then called “National Deaf-Mute College”) in Silent World, published by the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf; one of the earliest references to Hoy’s use of signs on the field


One of the most unique features in the pantomimic line was the finger-telephone line that formed a ball-and-strike connection between Comiskey and Hoy last season.

The signals wouldn’t require a telegraph operator or a translator of one of Walt Whitman’s poems to read. Comiskey stood on the coach line opposite third when Hoy came to the bat and signified a strike and ball with the index finger of both hands, the left meaning a ball and the right a strike.
—Article by unknown reporter in an unidentified newspaper clipping dated 1891, during Hoy’s stint with the St. Louis Browns, describing how Charles Comiskey used hand signals to show Hoy the ball-and strike count.

Deaf-mute Hoy, of the Washington base-ball club, has already made a wonderful play. At New Orleans the other day two of the home team were on bases when Werden, the heavy batter of the New Orleans nine, cracked a liner to right centre. Daly made a good effort to get the ball, but it had passed him. Not a soul on the grounds thought Hoy was in that part of the field, but it seemed he had started from centre as soon as the ball was struck, and with lightning speed shot across it, jumped in the air and pulled the ball down and made the greatest triple play ever seen on any grounds.
—from a report by Charles Warren Carraway, April 19, 1888

“There is no more earnest player in the country today than ‘Dummy’ Hoy, of the despised Buffaloes,” said Manager Loftus to a Cincinnati Times-Star reporter a few days ago, as he followed up the observation on players who seem to have no conception of play of their own. “Hoy knows nothing but baseball from the time the season commences until it closes. He watches every point, and while we were in New York he kept me busy answering questions on what I would do in case of such and such a suppositious play. He is a good earnest player, the best in the Buffalo team.”
Philadelphia Ledger, September 18, 1890

When outfielder Hoy made a brilliant catch, the crowd arose ‘en masse’ and wildly waved hats and arms. It was the only way in which they could testify their appreciation to the athlete—for he was both deaf and dumb!
—Henry Furness, in a published reference (source to be confirmed), 1892

Billy Hoy, although a mute, was a great outfielder. While with Washington, Cincinnati and Chicago, this player established a reputation as a batsman, a base runner and an outfielder which compares with the best. Hoy’s sense of location was remarkable, for rarely did he ever make a wrong move. It was in 1900, while with the Chicago White Sox, that Hoy had 45 assists from the field—a record for any league. His life-time mark of 328 assists is one of the best.
—Unidentified newspaper clipping, dated November 24, 1932

He left behind a very clean honorable record when he retired from the game and if I were not mistaken, he had never been ejected from the game because of conduct unbecoming a gentleman. Indeed he is a credit to the game.
—Earl M. Wrather, in a letter to Judge Kenesaw M. Landis, the first Commissioner of Baseball, May 14, 1942

“Dummy Hoy . . . 99 years old! Wonder if that’s his real age or his baseball age?”
—Commentator Joe Garagiola on Opening Day of the third World Series game, Cincinnati Reds vs. New York Yankees, October 7, 1961, on seeing Hoy throw the first ball of the game

His record was remarkable. In black and white, it stands with the best of all time.
—Pat Harmon, in The Sporting News, December 27, 1961

Dummy wound up major league career with 1784 games, 2057 hits in 7053 times at bat, 1419 runs, 236 doubles, 118 triples, 41 homers, .292 average. Died at 99, highly respected by all who had seen him play, or who knew him in later years.
—Gene Karst and Martin J. Jones, Jr., Who’s Who in Professional Baseball, c. 1973

In his brilliant 14-year big-league career, the “Amazing Dummy” played in 1,784 games, hit 236 doubles, 118 triples, and 41 homers, to finish with a lifetime total of 2,057 safe hits. He also scored 1,419 runs, and stole 605 bases.
—Mac Davis, 100 Greatest Baseball Heroes, 1974

How good a player was Hoy? It is the conclusion here that he should rank high, even meriting Hall of Fame consideration. (...)

It is unlikely at this late date that Hoy will gain much Hall of Fame support, any more than will his teammate of the 1890 Bisons, Jim (Deacon) White, one of the truly great players of the game’s early years. But there can be no doubt that Hoy was an outstanding player, whose accomplishments loom even larger, considering he could neither hear nor speak.
—Joseph Overfield, in The National Pastime, Fall 1982

He was among the few players to have played in 4 of the 5 recognized major leagues: The National League, the short-lived Players’ League, the original American Association, and the American League.

Hoy never made it to baseball’s Hall of Fame. Perhaps it was because he never raised a voice in his own behalf.
—Merritt Clifton, in New Hearer newsletter

It was said that Hoy could consistently pitch strikes across home plate from his position in centerfield, and his throws for Washington on June 19, 1889, add credence to the claim. Three times with a runner on second Hoy charged a single and threw perfectly to Washington catcher Connie Mack, cutting down the runner each time.
—Nicholas Dawidoff in Sports Illustrated, October 31, 1988

...Dummy Hoy, baseball’s greatest deaf player who reputedly inspired the umpire’s hand signals and undisputedly banged out enough base hits (2054) and demonstrated sufficient baserunning and fielding skills in four different leagues at the turn of the century to stand as a legitimate Hall of Fame candidate in his own right…
—Peter C. Bjarkman, Baseball’s Great Dynasties: The Reds, 1991

Maybe Dummy Hoy didn’t hit as many home runs as Babe Ruth or Hank Aaron or have as many singles as Ty Cobb or Pete Rose. But he did more.

He is a symbol of people who just need to be given a chance—a chance to be treated just like everyone else.

Put Dummy Hoy in the Hall of Fame.
—Joshua Leland Evans, in Sports Collectors Digest, July 26, 1991

Honus Wagner, Connie Mack, and Clark Griffith—Hoy’s teammates, Hall of Famers themselves—all supported his election. Surely they weren’t just being nice.
DEAF LIFE editors

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