Destination: Cooperstown
The campaign to get Hoy inducted
into the National Baseball Hall of Fame
Getting Hoy into the Hall of Fame is a long, tough road.
No end’s 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 Hoy’s cause, and soliciting their support. That’s 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 Fame—a milestone, and cause for celebration. The ensuing publicity certainly helped!

Hoy was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in 2003—another 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 like—while 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 Glory—the 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 visitors—celebrities, VIPs, sports fans, families, old folks, children, teens—from 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 ceremony—but was not seen on TV.

Previously, the Veterans Committee announced one inductee in each category: Player, Executive, Official, and (usually) BWAA choice. (See below.) Most of the players inducted were, of course, “modern” candidates—those who retired quite recently. In recent years, the Veterans Committee revised its rules to temporarily allow more Negro League and 19th-century players to become eligible. One “old-time” player or manager and one player from the Negro Leagues were inducted each year. These players have posthumously gained new popularity—and a few lucky Negro League players have been inducted while they’re alive to enjoy the honors.

The 19th Century Player’s Category is where we would like to see Hoy. But in 1998, the Veterans Committee elected not Hoy, but George Davis. Hoy’s supporters were bitterly disappointed at the choice of the relatively obscure Davis over Hoy, with his outstanding record. In 1999, Selee, Hoy’s first manager, was chosen—a bittersweet experience for us. Even though the Hoy Committee spearheaded public rallies at strategic locations and events during 1997 and 1998, Hoy was still bypassed. In 2000, Hoy’s old Reds teammate and manager, Bid McPhee, was chosen. As for 2001, no 19th Century player was chosen—period.

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 chosen—although 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 2006—but 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.

If any one of the eligible players gets 75% of the vote, he is elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The election results are announced with a public listing of how many votes each of the eligible players has earned. Sometimes none of the players may get the required 75% of the vote, so none will be inducted to the Hall of Fame by the BWAA for that year, until the Veterans Committee is able to elect a candidate with the required 75% of the vote. Players have 15 years to attain induction to the Hall of Fame. If a player’s vote total drops to a single digit (0 to 9%) at any time during his period of candidacy for the Hall of Fame, he is dropped from further consideration by the BWAA.

Players who fail to attain induction after 15 years are automatically dropped from the list. They have to wait 3 years before their name is put on a list of players to be considered by the Veterans Committee.

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.

Unlike the BWAA, the Veterans Committee, which meets in early March to select from a list of candidates, does not publicize a listing of the votes each player has received. The voting results are kept secret and are never released to the public, unlike the votes by the BWAA, which are released in January. The Veterans Committee will neither confirm nor deny the listing of a player’s name in the voting ballot. In other words, we don’t know if “Dummy” Hoy’s name was definitely on the list of candidates on the ballot during any year he was up for consideration, as the Veterans Committee does not provide any comment or confirmation on any player under consideration, to any party who seeks this information.

But we can assume that Hoy’s name was on the ballot and that he was seriously considered by the Veterans Committee. It’s safe to say that the Hoy Committee’s campaign has gathered strong interest and support from a number of influential baseball people, including several baseball writers, and that more and more influential people have become aware of his accomplishments. Since there are other groups pushing their own candidates for consideration, the Hoy lobby faces strong competition for due consideration by the Veterans Committee. Yet they are cautiously optimistic that in the end they will succeed.

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.

In 1995, for example, the Hoy Committee met with Richard Case, Executive Director of USA Baseball, and Edward Stack, Chairman of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, regarding support for Hoy. Both are very influential men. This is the reason why Hoy was on the ballot several times. Such collaboration with Stack and Jeff Idelson, Director of Communications and Education at the Baseball Hall of Fame, to further Hoy’s cause, has continued.

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.

They were also concerned about the diminishing “window of opportunity” for 19th Century and Negro League players. As of 1998, both groups had one year left to be considered by the Veterans Committee for induction. After that, the system was to have reverted to the old way, in which modern ballplayers have an unfair advantage over old-timers. The Hoy Committee has been working with the Veterans Committee and the National Baseball Hall of Fame to ensure that the window of opportunity for both groups be extended indefinitely. In March 1999, we learned that it would indeed be extended, which was good news. That would allow the Veterans Committee to elect one player each from the 19th Century and Negro Leagues, in addition to the one or more candidates elected from the list of modern players, providing that they receive the required 75% of the vote.

The Hoy Committee’s most fervent hope is that influential baseball people will see how interested people are in the history and contributions to baseball by 19th-century and Negro League players as they tour the various exhibits in the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Their contributions must continue to be recognized by the Veterans Committee. After all, baseball cannot learn from its past without recognizing the contributions of those in the 19th Century and Negro Leagues.

A major goal is contacting the members of the Veterans Committee and other key people to request fair consideration of Dummy Hoy’s career in baseball as they work to secure enough support for his induction.

A portion of this has been freely adapted and expanded from a report by Randy Fisher, Vice President of the Hoy Committee.

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