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Baseball and the Deaf:
Also see: "Deaf Sports"


Baseball and ASL
by Jasmyn Cooper

If you have ever played sports, have you ever thought of how it would be if you had a disability such as not being able to hear. I believe it would make it a lot more difficult than it may already be. I have been playing softball since I was about eight years old and I know that I have taken many things for granted as a hearing person. I have gotten into touch with a young lady, who has played softball for almost the same amount of years that I have, who is deaf. This young lady's name is Lizzy. She does have a hearing-aid which she would use when she played, helping her be more alert in the game. Lizzy said it wasn't too difficult because she had interpreters with her. They would interpret so she could communicate with her coach and her teammates. She also taught her coach and teammates so softball signs to help communicate and work together as a team on the field. New techniques in throwing, catching or pitching had to be shown to her through visual methods. As for fly balls and grounders her and her teammates would both yell and wave their hands before catching the ball. These are the situations where a hearing aide really helped out. When she was pitching or hitting the ball, she had to turn and watch the umpires show the signs of strike, ball, out, etc. all the time. As I continued to email Lizzy back and forth for the past week or two, she pointed me in the direction of Major League Baseball Player, William Ellsworth "Dummy" Hoy.

Hoy made his MLB debut on April 20, 1888. He played a total of 1798 games in his career. Dummy Hoy was the first deaf player to have a long career in the major leagues. He played from 1888 to 1902 on at least 18 different professional teams. He was probably one of the shortest major league outfielder in history only being about 5'5". He was a great outfielder though. During his rookie year in the majors, Joy led the National League with 82 stolen bases. This was a record that topped some of those players celebrated in the Hall of Fame. During Babe Ruth's rookie year, he only had 10 stolen bases. Hoy taught his teammates how to communicate in sign language, same as Lizzy had done. This was very useful on the field.

Back in the day, fans would stand in the bleachers and wildly wave their arms and hats. This was an early form of "Deaf applause." Hoy played a big part in the creation of the hand signals still used today in baseball games through out the world. Before Hoy came around all the umpires did was shout the calls. Hoy had trouble figuring out what the calls were so he wrote out a request for the third base coach to raise his right hand if the pitch was a strike and the left one if it's a ball. There is a plaque in the Hall of Fame that credits Umpire Bill Klem with the invention of hand signals which was supposedly done around 1905, but there are old newspaper clippings that go as far back as 1888 which talk about Hoy and his hand signals. So all these ideas of hand signals that are now used in softball and baseball can be traced back to him.

ASL and hand signals are used for many things in this world especially sports. I think the hand signals even help Hearing people because sometimes there is so much noise you can't really hear what the calls are and if you are at a MLB game then you can sit high up in the bleachers and still know what the calls are by the hand signals the umpire is doing.



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