USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - NL WEST - Cal­lie Ca­plan @Cal­lieCa­plan USA TO­DAY Sports Q: What is your role with the Hoy for the Hall com­mit­tee? Q: Why do you think Hoy should be in the Hall of Fame?

As a child in the 1860s, Wil­liam Hoy con­tracted menin­gi­tis and lost his hear­ing and speech. Hoy, how­ever, didn’t lose his pas­sion for base­ball. Af­ter years of prac­tice and de­fy­ing ex­pec­ta­tions, Hoy played in the ma­jor leagues from 1888 to 1902.

Be­cause of his hear­ing loss, Hoy had trou­ble un­der­stand­ing um­pires’ calls. On the pad of pa­per he used to com­mu­ni­cate, Hoy worked with of­fi­cials to in­sti­tute hand sig­nals for balls, strikes and safe and out calls.

Nancy Churnin, a the­ater re­porter for The Dal­las Morn­ing News, learned about Hoy’s story in 2003 while re­view­ing a high school play. Her in­ter­est led her to write a children’s book, The Wil­liam Hoy Story, as part of a cam­paign to earn Hoy a spot in the Na­tional Base­ball Hall of Fame. She hopes her book will help Hoy’s can­di­dacy when he’s el­i­gi­ble for a vet­er­ans com­mit­tee vote in 2018.

Q: How did you be­come in­volved with Hoy’s story?

A: I don’t do much with high school plays, but the sub­ject was so in­trigu­ing that I did a story, and I re­ceived a thank-you email from Steve Sandy in Ohio. I wrote back, “You’re wel­come, but why is some­one in Ohio in­ter­ested in a play in a high school in Gar­land, Texas?” It turns out Steve is deaf, he’s a close friend of the Hoy fam­ily, and he has ded­i­cated the last cou­ple decades to try­ing to get Hoy into the Hall of Fame.

The more we com­mu­ni­cated, the more I be­came con­vinced he was right. I thought, “How can I help? I’m a the­ater critic, not a sports­writer. Who are the most pow­er­ful peo­ple I know?” I de­cided kids will be ex­cited about Hoy de­serv­ing to be in the Hall of Fame and can write let­ters.

Peo­ple don’t know his name, but once they hear the story, they are in­spired. When I take it to kids, they all want him in the Hall of Fame. They have sent me 783 let­ters, which I hand-de­liv­ered to the Hall.

Q: With his in­spir­ing story and im­pact on the game’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion, why do you think Hoy is not well known to­day?

A: Some peo­ple say be­cause he was deaf and be­cause most sportswrit­ers didn’t know sign lan­guage, he’s not some­body they would in­ter­view as much.

In talk­ing with Sandy who ed­u­cated me about prej­u­dice against the deaf, I think there was prej­u­dice against peo­ple us­ing sign lan­guage. Alexan­der Gra­ham Bell was one of the ed­u­ca­tors who be­lieved sign lan­guage should be dis­cour­aged, so they might have thought twice about hon­or­ing

some­body who com­mu­ni­cated through sign lan­guage at that time. There was a sense that all deaf peo­ple should speak. Not all deaf peo­ple can speak and not all deaf peo­ple choose to speak, so it was a lit­tle bit of a po­lit­i­cal is­sue. We’ve come a long way now in rec­og­niz­ing the beauty and the im­por­tance of this lan­guage, which is a source of pride to this com­mu­nity.

Q: Are the hand sig­nals the um­pires use now the same ones Hoy used dur­ing his ca­reer?

A: In the Hall of Fame, the per­son who gets credit for in­tro­duc­ing and cod­i­fy­ing the sig­nals is um­pire Bill Klem. Klem en­tered the scene af­ter Hoy re­tired, so there’s no ques­tion Hoy in­tro­duced sig­nals. What’s safe to say is Hoy pop­u­lar­ized them.

Are the sig­nals ex­actly the same? The ba­sic ones are — the hand for balls, the hand for strikes, safe, out. Have they be­come a lit­tle more so­phis­ti­cated? Cer­tainly, they were not of­fi­cial when he was play­ing, but there’s no ques­tion he helped pop­u­lar­ize them. Where do you get the idea of in­tro­duc­ing sig­nals to the game? Well, it had to have come from the deaf play­ers.

A: That was or­ga­nized by Sandy. It’s his life dream to have Hoy in­ducted. He in­vited me to join the com­mit­tee, so it’s an on­go­ing com­mu­nity. We are peo­ple of all dif­fer­ent walks of life, some deaf, some hear­ing. We all agree that Hoy de­serves to be in the Hall, and we all do what we can to spread the word. They have been very ex­cited about my book and its pop­u­lar­ity.

My main con­tri­bu­tion is just that I’m sup­port­ive. The whole

rea­son for writ­ing this is I just be­lieved it was right. My heart goes out to this com­mu­nity that’s faced a lot of prej­u­dice over the years. I’m try­ing to lead a di­verse book move­ment where I want kids to see peo­ple from com­mu­ni­ties who are not rep­re­sented in children’s books.

Q: Whether it’s through the bal­lot or in a dif­fer­ent ex­hibit, how have you seen progress on Hoy be­com­ing part of the Hall of Fame?

A: I feel so en­cour­aged be­cause Sandy had been in con­tact with the Hall for about 15 years, and he never was able to make a pre­sen­ta­tion. I sent them a copy of the book with copies of let­ters from kids, and I think that made a dif­fer­ence. They could see kids were in­spired by Hoy, and they in­vited me out July 6 for a ques­tion-and-an­swer with Sandy and a book sign­ing.

The li­brar­ian at the Hall put all the let­ters into Hoy’s file and said he would show them to the com­mit­tee. To me, that was very en­cour­ag­ing. I want to give the kids credit, be­cause it would be their let­ters that would be the dif­fer­ence to move the heart of peo­ple on the com­mit­tee.

A: He is some­one who was told he couldn’t play, first be­cause he was too small and then be­cause he was deaf and mute. What makes his story ex­tra spe­cial is that he didn’t sim­ply over­come a dif­fer­ence. He used his dif­fer­ence to make the game bet­ter. Some­times peo­ple feel, “Oh, I’m not big enough. I’m not strong enough. I’m dif­fer­ent, or peo­ple make fun of me.” Some­times your dif­fer­ence can be your strength. If he hadn’t been deaf, he wouldn’t have in­tro­duced sig­nals, and it’s a bet­ter game for that. Nancy Churnin wrote a children’s book about Wil­liam Hoy, above, who was deaf and mute and played big-league base­ball from 1888 to 1902.



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