Big thanks to Mark Sackler for the name recommendation. William Ellsworth “Dummy” Hoy (1862-1961) is a dummy only if you consider setting multiple Major League records for outfield defense (including games played as a center fielder and total putouts by an outfielder – records which have since been surpassed), all while maintaining a .288 career batting average with 2,044 hits and 596 stolen bases, to be unimpressive. In which case, you’re probably the dummy, because Dummy Hoy ain’t no dummy.
And while those numbers are impressive – although not Hall of Fame worthy – in their own right, I’ve left out one important fact – Dummy Hoy was deaf. While that may not seem that important, imagine trying to learn how to play baseball without being able to hear your coaches and teammates. Playing in the outfield would also be a challenge, as outfielders frequently need to verbally “call off” their teammates, to avoid collisions and make it easier to catch the ball.
Born in Houcktown, Ohio, the 5’6” Hoy became deaf after a bout with meningitis at the age of three. But he didn’t let this stop him. Hoy went on to graduate from the Ohio State School for the Deaf as class valedictorian. He later opened a shoe repair business while playing baseball on the weekends, before earning his first pro contract with a team in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. He then went on to have a fantastic career, and is widely regarded as the greatest deaf man to ever play the game.
Hoy was also an interesting guy off the field. Correcting people who addressed him as William (he apparently preferred Dummy), Dummy Hoy was said to have been able to speak with a squeaky voice. He has also been described as an intelligent man, despite his unbecoming nickname, and is sometimes credited as being instrumental in the development of the hand signals umpires use on the field. However, this assertion has been disputed. After his career, he and his deaf wife ran a dairy farm in – get this (amazing city name alert!) – Mount Healthy, Ohio. Speaking of healthy, Dummy died at the age of 99, a remarkable feat given the fact that he was born in the 1860’s (many ballplayers in that era didn’t make it past 40.)
Way to go, Dummy Hoy!