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ouglas Tilden was born May 1st, 1860 to William Peregrine Tilden and Catherine Hecox Tilden. His father was a doctor. Douglas caught Scarlett Fever when he was four years old and became completely deaf. His parents wanted him to have an education, so they sent him away to the California School for the Deaf, which was then located in Berkley. The school moved several times before finally ending up in Fremont where it’s located today. After he finished school, Douglas accepted a teaching position.
Throughout his eight year teaching at the school, Douglas made many figures out of clay. When some of his work came to the attention of the faculty at the California School for the Deaf, they took up a collection to send him to New York and Paris to learn about sculpture. In 1887, Douglas spent eight weeks in New York and about five years in paris studying under several famous sculptors, but mostly Paul Chopin who was also deaf. While in Paris, Douglas won many sculpture design contests and had his work installed all over the world. He returned triumphantly to the California School for the Deaf in 1893.
In 1896, Douglas got married to Elizabeth Delano Cole. Elizabeth was the deaf adopted daughter of a local entrepreneur, and renowned for her beauty. They had two children, a daughter named Gladys, and a son named Willoughby Lee. Their marriage was tempestuous, and ultimately ended in an extremely unfriendly divorce. Elizabeth did serve as the model for an angel in Douglas’ sculpture titled “Native Son Monument”, now located in San Francisco.
When he got married, Douglas left the California School for the Deaf to pursue sculpture full time. The faculty at the school was upset by this. They felt that because they had paid for his schooling in Paris, he owed them by either staying a teacher at the school or reimbursing them for the cost of his education. Douglas had thought that his education had been a gift, and he felt he shouldn’t have to pay them back. The California School for the Deaf ultimately confiscated one of his sculptures, “The Bear Hunt”, as payment for his tuition. This sculpture is displayed on the campus today. At this time, San Francisco was spending tons of money on public works of art to be displayed around town. Because the Mayor of San Francisco, James Phelan, greatly admired Douglas’ work, he was chosen to do many of the sculptures that were comissioned, including “The Baseball Player” in Golden Gate Park, “Mechanics Monument” in Lownsdale Square, and “Admission Day” and “California Volunteers” on Market Street.
Many of Douglas’s sculptures depict young athlethic men, and because of his failed relationship with his wife, many people have surmised that he may have been homosexual. There has never been any evidence found to back up this theory, even among the extensive personal papers Douglas left behind after his death. Though Douglas was most likely not gay, some of his sculputres, especially the sculpture called “The Football Players” on the UC Berkley campus have become adopted symbols of the gay pride movement.
After his divorce and James Phelan’s promotion to State Senator, Douglas tried to seek employment with the Californai School for the Deaf again, but fell prey to the tide of Oralism sweeping the nation: The California School for the Deaf no longer employed deaf teachers. Instead, Douglas moved to Hollywood and began to sculpt dinosaurs and other extinct animals for historical and educational films. The income from these films allowed him to set up a studio and take students, and he also became very active as an advocate for the deaf community.
By 1930, even the small amount of work Douglas was getting in Hollywood had dried up. He moved back to Berkley and filed for welfare. Douglas died in Berkley on August 4th, 1934. His daughter Gladys donated all of his old paperwork, correspondence, and photos to UC Berkley. Because of Douglas’ habit of making small bronze sculptures for friends, and also as thank you gifts, many of his smaller works are still being discoverd by the general public today.
I have chosen to refer to William Hoy as “Dummy” in this essay. In his lifetime, he repeatedly asked people to call him “Dummy”, and prefered this name to the name William. Though the name has negative connotations today, I felt that it was important, and ultimately respectful to his memory, to call the man what he asked to be called during his life.
illiam Hoy was born in 1862. At the age of 3, he suffered from an attack of spinal menengitis, which left him completely deaf. William attended the Ohio School for the Deaf for seven years, from 1872-1879, and was Valedictorian of his graduating class. He came back home to become a cobler in the local shoe business, which he eventually bought. Often times, he could be found just outside his shop playing baseball with all the kids in the neighborbood, and in the summers he joined the local baseball team, where he played catcher. It was around this time that everyone started calling him “Dummy”. In those days, Dummy didn’t mean that he was stupid, it just meant that he couldn’t speak. Dummy never minded the nickname, and even used to correct reporters when they would call him “William”, writing on his notepad “Call me Dummy like always.”
One summer during an away game in Urbana, a pitcher for the major leagues joined the opposite team. When Dummy was able to hit four times against the professional pitcher, he started thinking maybe he could play professionally. Dummy promised his mother he would be back in spring to take shoe order, and went to see if a professionaly team would have him. At his first tryouts for a minor league team called the Brewers, everything he did was applauded. But when Dummy asked them for $75 per month salary, they laughed at him and offered him $60. Dummy felt incredibly insulted by this, and went to try out for a team in Oshkosh instead, who was thrilled to sign him on as a center fielder for $75 per month, and even promised him time off to go take care of the shoe order at home. The Brewers tried to entice him back, but Dummy said he wouldn’t play for them if they gave him a million dollars, because they had tried to cheat him. Honnesty was always very important to Dummy, and he would always tell Umpires the truth, even if it meant that his team didn’t do as well.
Dummy turned out to be an amazingly great ball player. He seemed to have a 6th sense about where the ball would go, stole bases like crazy, and hit tons of home runs. He was the first outfielder to ever throw out three players at the plate in one game, and he lead the league in Putouts, Assists, and he had the highest fielding average in the league. He was the first outfielder to lead in all three categories. In 1888, Dummy reached the major leagues, playing for teams such as the Washington Senators, the Cincinnati Reds, the White Stockings, the White Sox, the Louisville Colonels, the Buffalo Bisons, the Angels, and the St. Louis Browns. He was one of only a handful of players to play in all five major leagues. People used to call him a “Flyhawk” because he would do anything to win the game or get an out for his team.
Though the use of signs in Baseball has been officially credited to Dummy’s deaf contemporary, Ed Dundon, Dummy undoubtedly helped perpetuate it. The signs used for outs and strikes in modern baseball are only slightly different than the modern American Sign Language terms, having been modified slightly to make them easier to see from very far away. His first year in the major leagues, opponents learned quickly that Dummy couldn’t turn his head to lip read the umpire and still be ready to hit the ball. Dummy asked the third base coach if he would lift his left arm if the umpire called a strike and his right arm if the umpire called a ball, eliminating that problem and giving Dummy a very good batting average. Around 1887, Umpires started to incorporate signs into their calls at games where Dummy played, but still using voice calls only at games he was absent from. On long bus rides, Dummy would often teach his teammates to sign, and almost all of them learned to speak some American Sign Language. In fact, often they would all sign amongst each other out in the field during games.
In 1898 Dummy married Anna Lowrey. She was a deaf woman who worked with Helen Keller and was a strong proponent of Oralism. Anna met Alexander Graham Bell in 1892, and he was very impressed with her speaking skills. Dummy and Anna had six children together. Anna taught Dummy to speak, and he knew over 200 words. The most common word he would speak was “Salary” when he wanted to know how much he was going to get paid, and many of his teammates remember him uttering “Rotten” under his breath, when he didn’t like the umpire’s call.
In 1903, Dummy retired from Baseball. He and Anna moved back to Ohio where Dummy became a dairy farmer and invented neat things to help him and Anna live in a hearing world. One invention was a “Doorbell”. When visitors came to the house, they would pull a chain near the door that would drop baseballs on the floor inside. The vibration would tell Dummy and Anna that they had company. In 1924, Dummy sold his dairy business and accepted a managerial position at Goodyear, where he hired many deaf workers during a time when many deaf people were discriminated against.
For years, Dummy always attended the day after opening day of the baseball season, saying that opening day was too crowded for him. The year he turned 99, he was asked to throw out the first pitch at the World Series, which he declined, but agreed to throw out the first pitch of the third game. When he was asked why, he said “too crowded.” He died in 1961, just shy of his 100th birthday. Surprisingly, William “Dummy” Hoy is not in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Lately there’s been a huge push to see him added. His amazing skills and contribution to signing in baseball certainly proves that he deserves to be included. For more information about the quest to see him added, visit http://www.dummyhoy.com/, the official Dummy Hoy Homepage.