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The Road To Fort Worth

Read » Chapter 8: Danville


Baseball, Umpires And Dummy Hoy

Nelly Kelly was sure some fan,
She would root just like any man,
Told the umpire he was wrong,
All along, good and strong.

When the score was just two to two,
Nelly Kelly knew what to do,
Just to cheer up the boys she knew,
She made the gang sing this song.

"Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack,
I don't care if I never get back.
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don't win it's a shame.
For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out,
At the old ball game."

Take Me Out To The Ballgame
Jack Norworth - 1927 Version

Dummy Hoy

St. Paul Daily Globe, St. Paul, Minnesota - June 16, 1887 "About 2,500 people saw a very close game at the West St. Paul Park yesterday afternoon, Oshkosh winning by a score of 7 to 6. There were, however, very few brilliant plays, and the errors by the Oshkosh team and the umpire were very numerous, and those of the latter very costly. For instance, Hoy overran third base in the third inning and Cleveland touched him when his hand was a full foot from the base, but Deegan refused to call him out and he scored on Doran's sacrifice."

Imagine the time when the outcome of a close baseball game was determined solely by the calls of an umpire. Long before the instant replay, it was the umpire's determination if a pitch was a strike or a ball, if a player was safe or out at a base, if a ball was fair or foul. Most umpires were ethical in their determinations, but people do make mistakes. When they looked away from a play for a split second, they would have to make a guess.

Take a look at the Oshkosh - St. Paul game on June 16, 1887. William "Dummy" Hoy fielded a ball in the outfield, which was called fair by the umpire. Players from the St. Paul team objected with nose to nose, heated arguments with the umpire. If you argued too much with an umpire in those days, he would threaten you with the order to take a shower, sending you off the field for the rest of the game. This umpire, however, admitted that he didn't directly see the play because a player was blocking his view. So he went to Hoy with a notepad and wrote, "Was the ball fair?" Hoy's written response was, "No, it was a bounce." Hoy went to the manager after the game and signed that he was sorry. The manager said, "I would rather lose in a fair game, than win by cheating!"

Hoy was the third deaf ball player to play in a league. When someone called him William, he insisted on the name "Dummy." The word didn't have a negative meaning in those days, but meant, simply, that one could not speak. Hoy could sign, read lips and carried a note pad and pencil to communicate with those who couldn't sign. He is sometimes credited with introducing hand signals to the game, though his contribution is often discredited. Bill Klimm, the father of umpires, has taken credit for introducing hand signals to Major League baseball.

There's been an attempt, several times, to have Hoy inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, and he would be a likely candidate if he stood on his record and achievements. Somehow, the debate over who brought hand signals to baseball always gets in the way of crowning him as a baseball great.

Hand signals are so important to baseball because they made the game more interactive. Fans always cheered and booed at the umpires decisions, but now they know exactly what those decisions are because of hand signals. And the instant replay cemented the hand signal with precise accuracy. No longer will we hear:

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore.
"Kill him! Kill the umpire!" shouted someone on the stand;
And it's likely they'd a-killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

From Casey At The Bat - William Thayer, 1888

It's a possibility that Hoy had an influence on the evolution of umpire signing. One thing for certain is that he sent a heroic message to the deaf community because his inability to hear didn't restrict his ability to play baseball. He showed everyone that you can achieve your dreams in spite of your physical limitations.

At the age of 99, Hoy pitched the first ball during the third game of the 1961 World Series at Crosley Field, built on the site of his former home field. He couldn't hear the cheers from the fans, but he could see the standing ovation from the crowd. He was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in 2003.

William Ellsworth Hoy was born in 1862 and died in 1961. He played baseball for 17 years, from 1886 through 1902. Dummy Hoy, a 2007 movie, is based on his life.

Baseball has made it through the years of strife, steroids and strikes to reign as the great American pastime. The song, "Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie And Chevrolet" still resounds in the minds of older, diehard fans as updated lyrics come on the scene for a new generation of fans. According to The New York Times, "The signature jingle, sung by an enthusiastic, all-American chorus, now includes lyrics that also salute 'free agents, rally monkeys, fantasy leagues and Chevrolet' along with 'frozen yogurt, skyboxes, camera phones and Chevrolet'-not to mention 'face painters, satellite radio, endorsement deals and Chevrolet.' The song fails to mention that you can still love baseball, hot dogs and apple pie and drive a Kia!

Nelly Kelly loved baseball games
Knew the players, knew all their names,
You could see her there ev'ry day,
Shout "Hurray," when they'd play.

Her boy friend by the name of Joe
Said, "To Coney Isle, dear, let's go,"
Then Nelly started to fret and pout,
And to him I heard her shout.

"Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack,
I don't care if I never get back,
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don't win it's a shame.
For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out,
At the old ball game."

Take Me Out To The Ballgame
Jack Norworth - 1927 Version

Copyright ©2012 Michael Jackson Smith


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