Lave Cross on William “Dummy” Hoy

Staying up late during an IT deployment, I logged into NewspaperArchive.com – an interesting collection of American history – and found this baseball nugget:

“‘Dummy’ Hoy introduced many curious and wonderful innovations into the game in his day,” says Lave Cross. “He was playing in center field for Cincinnati one afternoon when our old St. Louis team was there for a series. In the first inning, the man ahead of me in the batting order sent a long, low fly to Hoy, which he caught after a hard run, and we all noticed that he held the ball for a long time after it was in his hands.

“When the ball finally came back the pitcher picked it up carefully, looked at it as if he were searching for something, and then gave me two low incurves [SIC], at which I made futile swings.

“Out of sheer curiosity I stepped on the plate and asked to see the ball. The catcher handed it over, and there on its new white surface was scratched in Hoy’s well-known hand:

“‘Low in-curve.’

“The pitcher had followed ‘Dummy’s’ tip and had me 2-0. And even then Hoy had not exhausted his ingenuity, for he lifted his hands and gave (Billy) Rhines a sign signal which I interpreted as meaning ‘fast one straight across’, but which really was ‘slow one,’ and I struck out, greatly [to] Hoy’s delight.”

— “The Sports Tell Stories.” The Muskogee (OK) Democrat, 3 February 1905, Pg. 6.

This can’t be totally accurate…  Rhines and Hoy were teammates on Cincinnati for the 1895, 1896, and 1897 seasons.  At that time, Lave was a member of the Phillies – he wouldn’t join St. Louis until the following season.  That’s a harmless memory lapse…  Then you start wondering about the rest…  “Scratched in Hoy’s well-known hand…” – makes you think that he was regularly putting instructions on the ball.  Granted – Hoy’s inability to speak meant that he was constantly writing (when not signing to teammates who would learn sign language) – but can you imagine being able to scratch on the ball the way one writes?  Maybe it was three letters L I C.  I totally believe that Hoy would send signals to his pitcher.  The little I have read about Hoy said he was a complete student of the game – without the ability to hear, he may have been extra observant of other things that would give him or his teammates an additional edge from time to time.  It helped him stay in baseball as a productive player into his 40s.  He retired not because he couldn’t play, but because the Los Angeles Loo Loos (Pacific Coast League) wanted to cut his salary and Hoy, who had amassed a reasonable fortune through shrewd investments, could choose to do whatever he wanted (he bought a dairy farm).

Other notes…

Lave Cross is very nearly qualified to be a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Look up his record – it’s really not shabby.  He was a very good player on a number of good teams – and extremely hard to strike out.  Over a five year period (1898 to 1902) the most he struck out in a season was eight times – Eight!  (Ike Futch could appreciate that.)  You could argue that he was one of the two or three best third baseman of the period and had the rather unique record for having played on all four Philadelphia entrants in the majors (American Association, Player’s League, National League, and American League).

I’ve scribbled a few notes about Dummy Hoy before – as a member of the Society of American Baseball Research, we get to vote annually about the most overlooked star of the 1800s, and I always vote for Hoy.  One day, Hoy may wind up in the Hall of Fame.

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