Jul 23

Hoy Shines in the South

With the Nationals finding new ways to lose and the team wrapped so tight they might snap we thought this little piece about one of the best players to compete for Washington might warm the hearts of District baseball rooters.

We go back to 1888.

Ted Sullivan, former bible salesman turned baseball supper scout, inks two young outfielders from the Northwestern League to contracts for Washington. Both are young and unknown. Dummy Hoy batted .367 for Oshkosh and Walter Wilmot batted .344 for St. Paul. Sadly Ted missed out on young Tommy McCarthy. Tommy played with Hoy at Oshkosh. Imagine those three in the outer garden!

Wilmot is strong and athletic, said to be as fleet as a deer. While Hoy is a little sprit and a deaf mute to boot.

Sullivan was not officially connected with team. In fact he had part control over the minor league Troy Club. Robert Hewitt and Sullivan had planned on using Troy as a farm team for Washington. This would have been a big break for the small market club but Robert Hewitt is gravely ill and the team is under the control of his son Walter, although operations are handled by Luther Burket.

One of the great oddities of baseball in the District is the succession of missed opportunities. Walter Hewitt desperately needed a manager and the manger of Oshkosh was Frank Selee. Selee would become one of the best in the game.

The signing of the two Northwestern Leaguers caused some grumbling among the croakers and this spilled over into the press. Some of this was because the popular Paul Hines has left Washington for Indianapolis. Hoy in particular was looked down on because of his size and physical impairments.

The team left for a long southern training trip just days before Washington was blanketed in one of the worst snow storms to hit the region. While digging out the cranks had time to read about the two young outfielders.

On the trip south Hoy immediately made friends with the League champion home-run hitter, Billy O’Brien, the big first baseman. It was said to be quite amusing to watch O’Brien’s fanatic efforts to converse with Hoy in the finger language. Invariably, Hoy shook his head, indicating that Billy was a trifle off, and pencil and paper was brought into play.

The team’s first stop was in New Orleans. While the trip was to get the players in shape and maybe make a buck or two. It was also a scouting trip through the Southern League designed to give Sullivan a chance to eyeball some of the local talent. Sadly the schedule did not include Memphis or Ted Sullivan would have no doubt been impressed by young Kid Nichols.

Here is the recap from one game. “Hoy is doing work with the bat. In the three games played he made eight this. But his fielding in the game has surprised the Orleans people. In the sixth inning he threw a man out at home from deep center. In the ninth there were two men on bases, and Perry Werden lifted the sphere away out into right, over Daily’s head. The game was in danger, but Hoy was in the neighborhood, and by a magnificent leap he caught the ball high in the air, and made a triple play, nearly paralyzing the spectators, who were unable to realize what had happened. There is one fact on whom Hoy and the Washington baseball public is to be congratulated on. If he should continue his marvelous work during the championship season there is little likelihood of his being spoilt, as many good man has been, by unwise applause at critical moments. His affliction will help him. Wilmot made five hits in the three games, and stole bases with perfect ease.”

Still more good news from New Orleans, “Hoy continued the wonderful playing that has encouraged the stay-at-homes, making a hit every time he came to the bat, five in number. Wilmot. Hoy made sixteen hits in the five Orleans games.”

More good news in Birmingham. “The members of the team are delighted with Dummy Hoy on account of his modest demeanor, and when he led them all again at the bat today they seemed only too pleased with it.”

Washington heads to Jacksonville, Florida. Hoy plays poorly against the visiting New York Giants but the press clippings are still positive, “Hoy and Wilmot are simply covering themselves with the praise of all who have seen them play or looked at their records.”

Washington finally returns home and plays an exhibition game against Buffalo on 2 April before over 2,000 cranks, who get their first look at Hoy and Wilmot. Both will make their marks in the game. Playing for Buffalo that day is Frank Grant. Unlike Hoy, Grant, one of the best players of his day will not get a chance to play in the majors.