Text written by Albert Kilchesty
Bill Hoy (1862‒1961) is the best-known deaf-mute to play professional baseball. Like other deaf-mute players of his era he was tagged with the name “Dummy.” Hoy’s road to the big leagues was handicapped further by his stature: although listed as 5’ 6” tall he was probably shorter, looking more like a Hobbit in a baseball uniform than a professional athlete. Hoy debuted as a 26-year-old rookie outfielder with the last place Washington Nationals in 1888, and played for five other teams during his fourteen-year career. He retired in 1902 after a fine career in which he amassed more than 2,000 hits, 594 stolen bases and a lifetime .287 batting average. Hoy is credited with inspiring umpires to use hand signals when indicating balls and strikes, a practice alluded to in the chart of ASL hand gestures. The only real dummy depicted here is Charlie McCarthy, the popular NBC Radio sidekick created by ventriloquist Edgar Bergen. (Ventriloquism over the radio? What kind of dummy would buy that?)
Single Brand (Baseball Reliquary collection)
At the height of the manpower shortage during WWII, baseball teams struggled to fill their rosters with able-bodied players. The talent pool had evaporated so greatly that teams were forced to sign teenagers, old men and those who had been classified 4-F by the military. So it was that the St. Louis Browns came to sign one-armed outfielder Pete Gray (1915‒2002), the pride of Nanticoke, PA. Gray lost his right arm in an accident as a youth. This didn’t prevent him from playing baseball: he perfected a one-handed swing and a method for returning the ball to the field after a catch. Gray received national attention in 1943 as an outfielder for the Memphis Chicks of the Southern Association; he was named the circuit’s Most Valuable Player after posting a .333 average, pilfering a record-tying 63 bases and leading the league in fielding percentage. In 1945 he was signed by the Browns, who had astonished the baseball world the previous year by winning the only AL pennant in franchise history. His only season in the majors came to a disappointing end after he batted an anemic .218 with no power.