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May 25

The Dummy Hoy Story

The Player

Hoy was born in Houcktown, Ohio in 1862. He played his first professional season with Oshkosh in 1886 in the Northwestern League. He returned with Oshkosh and in 1887 batted a sparkling .367 in 115 games. A left handed batter who threw with his right hand, Hoy was listed at 5-06 and 160 pounds.[1]  His 1887 season was enough to draw the interest of the Washington Senators, the perennial Tail Enders of the National League.[2]

During spring training for the 1888 season it was quickly evident that Hoy was a talented athlete despite his small size. He was blessed with great speed that allowed him to play a shallow center field and a quickness on the bases that would terrorize twirlers in the box. While not a heavy hitter he is able to work the count and get on base, thus making him the ideal lead-off batter. Intelligent, valedictorian of his class, he is respected by his teammates and quickly becomes popular with the spectators.

On opening day Hoy is batting lead-off and in center field. Here are some of the press clippings for Hoy during his first two years with Washington.

A home loss, 15 to 19, to the New York Giants on 24 April puts Washington, at 1-2. The term Statesmen is being gradually replaced. Some papers begin using the term “Senators” while others use Nationals.

The District newspapers keep the headline “The Usual Defeat” set in hot type for frequent use. In 2 victories in their first 14 games the Post writes, “A pitcher, catcher and Mr. Hoy now constitute Washington’s ball club. The other six men who accompany them are put on the field for the purpose of making errors.”

5 May, a 0-10 loss in Chicago. George Van Haltren of the White Stockings dominates the Senators while Hank O’Day has the opposite effect on Chicago. Jimmy Ryan hits one of the longest drives seen in Chicago, the ball rolling to the extreme east fence. Hoy and Walt Wilmot cover a lot of territory in the outfield and play a good game.

Four days later Chicago pounds Washington by a score of 13-2. John Greenig, a 40 year old rookie makes the start for Washington. He allows 13 runs in and is released, it his only game in the majors.  In the two games in Chicago the Senators score 2 runs to the 23 by Chicago. Notice has been taken of Jimmy O’Brien’s improved play at first. O’Brien has also been able to hit high pitches so far this season. Hoy has been a real joy to watch.

25 May, Hoy has been one of the best fielding center fielders in the game and is swinging a respectable bat. He finishes his rookie season batting .274 in 136 games. He leads the team in runs, hits, walks and stolen bases. His OBP is 100 points higher than the next batter. His fielding numbers put him among the elite of the league. On a team largely devoid of talent he is a rare bright spot.[3]

September, the press reports, Hoy has been a joy to watch and one of the best hitters in the game. Walt Wilmot has lost his stroke.

Post season Hoy is recovering from an attack of pneumonia.

The Press Reacts to Hoy

  • Washington Post, 17 May 1888 – “A good hitter and a “fine outfielder”
  • Washington Post from Boston Herald 13 May – Coach John Irwin‘s signs to Hoy as “an amusing feature of a game. He makes many signs, gesticulating vigorously and keeping his fingers going like a spider’s legs in full motion”.

1889 preseason, Hoy returns for another season. The speedy fly catcher is a favorite of the fans. On the road it is said that he does not spend a nickel. Hoy was often willing to wait for his team mates to read a paper so he can do so without paying for it.

1 May Hoy receives a huge basket of flowers from his friends in town to celebrate the centennial of President Washington’s Inauguration.

7 May, Hoy has not been running the bases this year like he did last year.

15 June, Washington at 10-25 is slowly creeping up on Indianapolis. Attendance is up and so are the team’s profits. Hoy has picked up his base running and hitting.

19 June, The Senators lose on the road to Indianapolis 3-8. George Haddock is hit hard while Henry Boyle is able to keep the Washington bats quiet. Hoy throws out three Indianapolis runners at home plate. Hoy also has a single‚ two doubles‚ and a stolen base.[4]

4 September, all season long there has been talk about the player’s rebellion.  Today Washington loses to the visiting Cleveland 6 to 9. The Spiders win their third straight game. George Keefe’s effort is called “wretched.” In the first inning he allows two runs to score and then in the fourth inning he walks in three men. George Haddock takes his place and is effective until the ninth inning when he allows three runs to score. Haddock and Keefe each both walk four batters. Washington plays a good game in the field but is unable to figure out Henry Gruber.[5] Cub Stricker tires to pull the hidden ball trick on Hoy. Hoy knocked the ball out of his hand and stole a base. There was a great kick but Umpire Knight refused to send him back.

Hoy’s 1889 numbers are similar to those he posted in 1888.  The only significant difference is in the drop of stolen bases from 82 to 35.

6 December, the sale of Walt Wilmot is another loss to the franchise. He was a hard working, honest player. When not paying well he went to Walter Hewitt and said he was not doing his duty and should give way to another player. Wilmot was a great favorite in the District. Hoy has declared for the Brotherhood.

The great player’s rebellion will prove fatal for baseball in Washington.[6] Many of the Washington players, Hoy among them will end up in Buffalo with the Players Association. The stage is set for the 1892 arrival of the Wagner’s and a lost decade of baseball in the District.

Dummy Hoy

In the spring of 1888 District baseball fans see this in the paper. “Acquired, Dummy Hoy, a deaf-mute, from Oshkosh. He is considered to be the best player in the Northwest League.” Hoy was 26 years old when he arrived in the National League. Washington was a small market team and he was evidently passed over by the other League clubs.[7]

At the age of three, Hoy became deaf after an attack on meningitis.  Hoy was deaf and hence called “Dummy.” Individuals and for that matter “Deaf” players of the era were called “Dummy.”  It was a term that Hoy used to describe himself. Just like Native Americans would often times be called Chief.  Hoy it appears accepted the disability for what it was and moved on with his life. His natural talents allowed him to successfully play professional baseball at a very high level.

Upon his arrival, Hoy is said to have posted a statement to his team mates to avoid problems on the field. His voice was said to be similar to a squeak. Because of his condition the outfielders had to adapt to his behavior.[8]

Some stories about Hoy.

21 May 1888, Washington in Pittsburgh.  “Dummy Hoy was in luck during his stay in this city. The visiting Knights Templar at the Seventh Avenue Hotel kept up their hilarity for several nights, and Dummy was the only man in the Washington Club who could sleep. Dummy enjoyed the joke hugely and guyed them every day when they made their appearance, looking rather broken up from the loss of sleep. “I’ve got you,” he would say,” Pittsburgh Chronicle.

This also in 1888, “Washington bleacher fans often ask for Dummy Hoy’s team mates to sign for him to lift his cap to their applause. Hoy is evidently something of a politician of the Democratic faith, as he sports a Thurman[9] bandana, instead of the standard white cotton “wipe.”"

Hoy went on to a long career in the majors and returning to play for Washington in 1892 and 1893. He batted .288 lifetime and collected 2,048 hits and held several fielding records. While you can check out his records on baseball-reference.com I suggest you take the time to read about Hoy in the wonderful book, “The Glory of Their Times.”

Husband and Father

After his playing days were over Hoy returned to his farm in Ohio where he and his wife raised a large family. During World War 1 he was a business executive supervising numerous deaf workers. He died in 1961 after a long productive life; he was nearly 100 years old. One quote that is appropriate for Hoy, “Your character will speak so loudly about you, that it overpowers what you may try to convince others in words.”

Maybe in the not too distant future an owner of the baseball team in the District will realize that there are 40 years of baseball that should be recognized. A statue of William Ellsworth “Dummy” Hoy would only be fitting. He was voted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame, the recognition from Washington remains on hold.



[1] Listed by some at 5-04.

[2] 7th place in 1887.

[3] Walt Wilmot was only 24 and would have some good years ahead of him. Connie Mack was dependable catcher. Perry Werden had talent but lots of problems too.

[4] Line-up, Wilmot-Lf, Hoy-Cf, Wise-Rf, Myers-2b, Irwin-SS, Morril-1b, Sweeney-3b, Daly-C, Haddock-P

[5] Line-up, J Irwin-3b, Hoy-Cf, Wilmot-Lf, Wise-2b, A. Irwin-SS, Mack-C, Daly-1b,  Haddock-Rf, Keefe-P

[6] This is a story for another day, a very sad tale.

[7] Being deaf must have been the reason for the other teams taking a pass on him. I suspect Ted Sullivan who was the sometime general manager/talent scout for Washington was involved in his scouting and signing but can’t prove it.

[8] “Being totally deaf as you know and some of my teammates being unacquainted with my play, I think it is timely to bring about an understanding between myself, the left fielder, the shortstop and the second baseman and the right fielder. The main point is to avoid possible collisions with any of these four who surround me when in the field going for a fly ball. Whenever I take a fly ball I always yell I’ll take it–the same as I have been doing for many seasons, and of course the other fielders let me take it. Whenever you don’t hear me yell, it is understood I am not after the ball, and they govern themselves accordingly.” See the Hoy Biography SABR article by Ralph Berger.

[9] A reference to Senator Allen G Thurman, Grover Cleveland’s VP pick. Cleveland lost this race.