Kid Lit Review of “Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer William Hoy” by Bill Wise

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This book tells the amazing story of William Hoy (1862-1961), nicknamed “Dummy,” who lost his hearing at age three after a bout of meningitis. Nevertheless, Hoy went on not only to become a major league baseball star, but still ranks today in the top twenty-five in a number of all-time career statistics.

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One (of many) touching moments in the story occurs in 1902, when Hoy, batting for the Cincinnati Reds, went up against the deaf pitcher of the New York Giants, Luther Taylor. As the author writes:

“For the first – and only – time ever, a deaf batter would face a deaf pitcher in a big league game.”

When Hoy approached home plate to bat, he greeted Taylor with American Sign Language, saying “I’m glad to see you.”

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The Giants won that day, but Hoy felt proud.

A year later, Hoy retired from professional baseball. He and his wife Anna, also deaf, bought a farm near Cincinnati where they raised their three children. In addition, he coached and umpired in deaf baseball leagues. He was awarded a lifetime pass to major league baseball events, and attended games right up to his death at age ninety-nine.

The author concludes:

“William ‘Dummy’ Hoy was an inspiration to all who met him. Never giving up on his dream, he overcame numerous obstacles to become the first deaf player to have a long and distinguished career in the major leagues. He was a courageous, determined hero.”

William Hoy

William Hoy

In an Afterword, the author reports that some baseball historians credit Hoy with influencing the use of hand signals by umpires. Hoy did use hand signals to communicate with his teammates. But other historians attribute the development of hand signals to Ed Dundon, a deaf pitcher in the American Association from 1883-84, and later an umpire. Still others observe that it was not until 1907 that the hand signal became standard for umpires. But there is no doubt that hand signals helped Hoy, and that he spread their use over the course of his career. His batting average increased dramatically after he arranged for his team’s third base coach to communicate with him by arm signals.

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Illustrator Adam Gustavson does a fine job. He spent months researching baseball uniforms, rules, and stadiums for this assignment, and it shows in the many period elements in the backgrounds of his pictures. I also was impressed by the way he skillfully employs perspective in his lush oils. On the front and back flyleaves, you can see some of his pencil drawings for his initial sketches.

Discussion: When I heard this book been published and I tried to get a copy at my local big box book store, I was unsuccessful. They told me they didn’t stock it because “there isn’t any market for these kinds of books.” I took “these kinds” to mean books featuring stories of disabled people, because I knew “these kinds” didn’t mean picture books about sport stars. (They offered to order it for me, but I declined, opting to take my business elsewhere.)

Evaluation: This is an excellent book. It is interesting, informative, and inspirational.

Rating: 4/5

Published by Lee & Low Books, 2012

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2 Responses to Kid Lit Review of “Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer William Hoy” by Bill Wise

  1. Beth F says:

    We don’t stock these kinds of books???? ARGHHHHHHHHHHH

    Sounds like a fascinating read.

  2. BermudaOnion says:

    That book sounds so good to me. I didn’t realize there have been deaf players in MLB.

    That comment from the big box store is infuriating! Books like that don’t sell because they don’t stock them.

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