After a bout of meningitis, William Hoy was rendered deaf at the age of three… but it never hindered his determination. After graduating as valedictorian from the Ohio State School for the Deaf, he opened a shoe repair business and played baseball on the weekends. Impressed with William’s on-field prowess, baseball manager Frank Selee signed him to a contract. In 1888, William found himself playing outfield for the Washington Nationals, becoming the third deaf player in the National League. He was an outstanding player, setting and breaking records left and right. William was equally adept at hitting as he was in the field. Upon his retirement with the Cincinnati Reds in 1902, William was second all-time in walks and among the top outfielders in putouts.
William also preferred the name “Dummy” to his given name.
In his time, the word “dumb” was used exclusively to describe someone who could not speak. However, the ability of speech became equated with intelligence and soon, “dumb” came to mean “stupid.” But, William was far from stupid. He was acknowledged as one of the most intelligent ball players of his time and is sometimes credited (although this has been widely disputed) with developing a system of hand signals used by umpires to designate balls, strikes and other on-field actions. When addressed as “William,” he would offer a correction to call him “Dummy.”
After retiring, William worked as an executive for the Goodyear Company, supervising the company’s deaf workers. In 1961, at the age of 99, he was brought to Cincinnati’s Crosley Field to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Game 3 of the World Series. He passed away two months later on December 15.
In 2001, the ball field at Washington DC’s Gallaudet University was named in William’s honor. In 2003, he was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame. There are on-going efforts and campaigns to induct William into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.