The campaign to get Hoy inducted
into the National Baseball Hall of Fame
No ends in sight.
When the National Baseball Hall of Fame announced its 1998 inductees, a collective groan of disappointment rumbled through the Deaf community. The 19th Century player chosen was shortstop/manager George Davis (1870-1940), who played for the New York Giants and the Chicago White Sox from 1890-1909, accumulating 2,660 hits and a .295 batting average (.300-plus during his 9 years with the Giants). The general reaction of Deaf people (and a number of hearing people, too) was “George who???” Once again, “Dummy” Hoy had been bypassed by the Hall of Fame Committee on Baseball Veterans (the “Veterans Committee”).
The 19th Century inductee for 1999 was, ironically enough, Frank Selee, the manager of the 1886-87 Oshkosh Club team and the man who gave Hoy his first big break in professional baseball. Selee later managed the Boston Beaneaters, which had one of the era’s finest lineups of major-league talent. (The Beaneaters ultimately became the Atlanta Braves.) Students of early-baseball history consider Selee one of the best managers of all time. His achievements have long been overshadowed by those of flashier, more aggressive managers like John McGraw and Charles Comiskey. For nearly a century, he has been a “forgotten figure” of baseball history. So . . . although we were disappointed to see Hoy bypassed, we were pleased to see Selee get the long-overdue recognition he deserves.
As for 2000, John Alexander “Bid” McPhee was the 19th Century player chosen. Baseball historian Ralph C. Moses (in a 1994 National Pastime article titled “Bid McPhee: the king of nineteenth-century second-basemen”) calls him “unquestionably the top defensive second baseman of the nineteenth century.” Hoy’s supporters, of course, were outraged, and asked, “What’s Bid McPhee got that Hoy hasn’t?” Ironically, McPhee was Hoy’s reammate.
A tough job . . . and a spirit of optimism
The current Committee for Dummy Hoy was formed in 1991, under the auspices of the American Athletic Association of the Deaf (later renamed USA Deaf Sports Federation). The first organized attempt to campaign for Hoy started with the 1949 convention of the National Association of the Deaf, and continued through the 1950s. Since its revival in 1991, the Committee has been lobbying to get Hoy elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, through the Veterans Committee, which chooses new inductees each Spring. The Hoy Committee currently consists of Randy Fisher, Vice President; Robert Traina, Jr., Activity Coordinator; Bob Panara, Consultant; James Goodwin, Secretary; and an Advisory Board: Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Dr. I. King Jordan, former President of Gallaudet University; Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson, best known as the long-time (23 years!) third baseman of the Baltimore Orioles, inducted in 1983; and Thomas Eakin, President of the Ohio Baseball Hall of Fame. Lawrence S. Ritter, distinguished baseball historian and author of the classic oral history of old-timers, The Glory of Their Times, was an honorary member at the time of his death on February 15, 2004. He is much missed.
Committee members have been working hard, contacting various baseball and media people, networking, pleading Hoys cause, and soliciting their support. Thats putting it briefly. They have held public rallies, given presentations to civic and community groups, published and distributed countless articles and flyers, enlisted the support of the Hoy family and sports enthusiasts in and outside of the Deaf community. And their work continues.
In 1992, thanks to the efforts of the Hoy Committee and its supporters, Hoy was elected to the Ohio Baseball Hall of Famea milestone, and cause for celebration. The ensuing publicity certainly helped!
Hoy was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in 2003another milestone.
Getting someone inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame is a long, strenuous, painstaking process and not an easy job to do. It takes a lot of patience and understanding, especially when circumstances are not favorable to us. However, the Committee remains optimistic that Dummy Hoy will, one day, be inducted in the Hall of Fame and take his place with baseball’s greatest players.
Understanding “the system”
There is no higher or more coveted honor in baseball than being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Having a bronze plaque in the Hall of Fame represents the highest possible recognition of a player’s achievements. It means more than any trophy, title, or cash award. It’s the ultimate. Almost every player in U.S. professional baseball (and probably every manager, too) yearns to achieve this honor. Only a small percentage, supposedly representing the finest players and managers of all, ever do.
Throughout the years, the Veterans Committee has been criticized for some of its choices, and accused of cronyism and bias, electing players with not-so-outstanding records but with “good connections”i.e., whom they personally know and likewhile letting others with better qualifications “wait outside.” They have a mixed voting record. Some of their choices have been terrible; some mediocre; some excellent. (Bill James’ book, The Politics of Glorythe slightly updated paperback edition is titled Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame?), while not mentioning Hoy, provides invaluable insight into the history of the Hall of Fame and the nomination and induction process, criteria, qualifications, the charges of cronyism and favoritism, detailed statistical analysis and comparison of players’ records, grassroots opinions, and some intriguing proposals for reforming the induction process.
New Hall of Fame inductees are announced in early March, and the Induction Day Ceremony is conducted with fanfare and heavy media coverage in Cooperstown in late July. Thousands of fans and supporters converge on the charming little town during Induction Day weekend. The dozens of baseball-memorabilia and souvenir shops and restaurants situated on and around Main Street do booming business, as does the Hall of Fame, which is jam-packed with visitorscelebrities, VIPs, sports fans, families, old folks, children, teensfrom across the country. Admission to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum isn’t cheap, by the way. But the Induction Day ceremony itself is free and open to the public. VIPs get reserved auditorium-style seating and a good view of the podium; everyone else settles behind the barrier fencing onto a big athletic field, picnic-style, and cheers for their favorites. It’s one of the biggest, most popular sports events in the nation. An estimated 25,000 attended the 1999 ceremony. For the first time, a sign-language interpreter, hired by the Hall of Fame, “covered” the ceremonybut was not seen on TV.
That year, the special committees (Negro Leagues and 19th-Century) were, in effect, dissolved and folded back into the regular committee. Bid McPhee is the most recent 19th Century player chosenalthough there are at least a dozen other superb 19th Century players worthy of induction, like Deacon White, Jack Glasscock, and George Van Haltren, who have not received this recognition.
The Hall of Fame elected several Negro League players and its first woman, owner-manager Effa Manley, for 2006but no 19th Century players.
The tough part
There are two ways a person can get inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame. (1) election by the Baseball Writers Association of America, or (2) election by the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee.
Election by BWAA: When a baseball player retires from active service, he has to wait 5 years before being considered for induction under ballot by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BWAA). The BWAA distributes ballots each November to its members, who are baseball reporters and columnists writing about the teams they cover in their respective cities. Ballots are collected over the Christmas holidays and are tabulated into votes for individual players by the BWAA.
Election by the HOF Veterans Committee: The second way a player can be considered for induction is through the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee, which consists of an elite squad of baseball executives, officials, retired players, writers, leaders, and VIPs. They consider four classes of players: 19th Century players, Negro League players, modern-time players who failed to win consideration by the BWAA, and baseball executives, umpires, and owners who are recognized for their unique contributions to the game. The Veterans Committee selects one player from each category who must earn 75% of the vote to be inducted.
Raising public awareness: an ongoing campaign
Considering the difficulties they have faced, it should also be pointed out that during their years of promoting “Dummy” Hoy, they have increased the awareness of his accomplishments to influential baseball figures (including historians and Hall of Famers) and in the media. This is an important issue to the nation’s estimated 60 million deaf and hard-of-hearing people.
The Hoy Committee strongly feels that the Veterans Committee should include a baseball historian who is familiar with the 19th-century players. This would go a long way toward ensuring that 19th-century players, including Hoy, receive fair consideration for enshrinement by the Veterans Committee, which should (ideally) consist of members knowledgeable about the accomplishments of all baseball players, not just modern ones. The Hoy Committee worked with the late Bob Davids, Chairman of the Society for American Baseball Research (better known by its acronym, “SABR,” pronounced “saber”), 19th Century Players, on this issue.
A portion of this has been freely adapted and expanded from a report by Randy Fisher, Vice President of the Hoy Committee.