The Story of William Hoy – The first and Greatest Deaf Player in Major League History
The history of Major League Baseball has been littered with amazing, influential and inspirational players. But perhaps none more so than William Hoy. Hoy played from 1888-1902 and set numerous records throughout his career. While this would be incredibly impressive for anyone, that goes double for Hoy as he was deaf. In fact, he was the reason behind why the signals for safe and out calls were implemented.
In fact, he was the reason behind why the signals for safe and out calls were implemented.
Hoy was born in the small town of Houcktown, Ohio and wasn’t born deaf, like many children. Instead, at the age of three, Hoy became deaf due to a case of meningitis. But Hoy didn’t let that slow him down, not at all. Even with the disability, Hoy went on to attend the Ohio State School for the Deaf and not only graduated, but was also named class valedictorian.
After graduating, Hoy returned to his hometown and opened a shoe repair shop and enjoyed playing baseball on the weekends. He was so good in those little games on the weekends, that he was actually approached with a professional contract by a team from Wisconsin.
A year later, he joined the Major Leagues as a member of the Washington Nationals and became only the third deaf player in the history of the majors. Right from the get-go fans and players alike knew he was something special. He came second in the league in walks during his rookie year (due to his short stature and small batting box) and also came first in stolen bases.
His speed was probably his best quality and allowed him to play very shallow out in centerfield, as he could quickly retreat to the wall if he needed to. His arm strength was also very underrated as he had no problem throwing players out, even from way out in the outfield.
Over his career, he continued to impress for long periods of time, and actually held the record for most games in center field with over 1,700 and also held the record for most putouts, with 3,958. While these records and the many others he held were eventually broken, it is still incredibly impressive that a man who was at a severe disadvantage was able to break these records and hold them for years.
He was instrumental in getting safe and out calls to expand from a simple call to also include visual movements. And while there haven’t been a ton of deaf players in the majors, it is very strange to watch a ball game without these signals as we have all grown accustomed to seeing them. This is something that we owe to the best deaf player to ever step onto a Major League field, William “Dummy” Hoy.