GESTURES WITH DECISIONS: Old Fan Calls Attention to Ills of Modern Umpiring

Washington Post, June 3, 1906 – Page S4

Suggests that Arbiters Raise Fingers Above Shoulder, as in Days of Hulbert – Hands Cross Bouquet.

A communication signed “Grandad Fan,” 33d degree, touches some of the evils of the modern umpire so directly that the letter is printed. It is a subject Ban Johnson should take up with his official family. Spectators in the bleachers follow the game just as closely, and even closer, than a majority in the stands, and there is no reason why an umpire should not be required to give some outward sign of his decisions, particularly when his voice is weak. The letter follows:

Sporting Editor Post: “What we ask of the ‘ump’ is to raise his right or left hand above the shoulder to indicate a ‘strike’ or ‘ball,’ respectively. Why not? He indicates ‘safe’ by a jesture on an ‘out.’ Why, then, shouldn’t he indicate ‘strikes’ and ‘balls’ by a sign? Have you ever noticed how the umpire answers the catcher, pitcher, or batsman when either of them asks for the number of ‘balls’ and ‘strikes’ called, if not in either immediate vicinity? Does he call his reply out? Not on your liver pad! The umpire holds up his fingers of one or both hands. In the early days of the umpire in the consulship of Hulbert it was the proper caper that umpires to raise the fingers above the shoulders to indicate the decisions on ‘strikes’ and ‘balls.’

“Never heard of Hulbert? Huh! Sonny, he was the old Nestor of the game. He was the man who stood pat on the expulsion of Devlin and other crooked baseball players. His ultimatum to the managers of the league were: ‘Gentlemen, you can have me for your president and those crooks on your black list, or you can reinstate them and accept my resignation.’

“The grand old man continued as president, and our national game was purified. One of the very few of our athletic sports that is clean an sportsmanlike left to us.

“I overheard the following in yesterday’s game at the park. A tall, lank, sunburned chap said to his companion: ‘Say, Jim, who is that frisky kid with the bow legs on third base? The roar from the surrounding gang drowned the reply. I guess all the fans can answer that question, and aint’ it wonderful how bully old Lave does frisk about that base?

“I am a thirty-third degree fan, and to me he hasn’t slowed up a bit in his work in the many years I have seen him on the diamond. What an example to all players? He sure is a good near wheel horse to our nine! Always ‘in the game’ whether playing his position at third, at the bat, or on the bases. How pleasantly quiet and genteel his manners. In all these years I have never seen him rattled or work as if he had lost his nerve. There ain’t a yellow spot in him, on the diamond, from his toes to his ears. I have never seen him wrangle with an umpire, yet he never fails to claim a point when he thinks he is within his rights.

“GRANDAD FAN, 33D DEGREE.”

It will interest many of the old fans of Washington to learn that “Dummy” Hoy is till in the game, playing with the Americans, an amateur Chicago aggregation, of which Alderman Jim Keegan, the famous old Red backstop, is the moving spirit. With the two old stars is “Bug” Holliday. It is a glowing tribute to the game when such sterling old athletes are loyal to the sport, even in their declining days.

Just when “Dummy” began playing is a historical fact that was doubtless lost in the Catacombs, for even Frank Bancroft cannot remember when the Dummy began his big league career. In point of fact Hoy first saw service in fast company with the old Washington club in the National League somewhere around A. D. 1886. It may have been a year or two earlier, certainly no later. From then until the season of 1902, Dummy was one of the best known players in fast company. For a year or two after that he played with the Los Angeles club in the Pacific Coast League.

Ever of a saving disposition, the Dummy accumulated a bunch of coin and shortly after he wedded a very estimable young woman afflicted, as he is, purchased a farm near College Hill, and it was to this he retired after he came to the conclusion that the game was too strenuous for him.

But his love for the game never died. Nor did the Dummy’s ability entirely desert him when he discarded the spangles of the professional.

One Saturday about six weeks ago “Dummy” was driving a load of alfalfa past the College Hill town hall when Capt. Bill Lloyd’s Saturday afternoon leaguers were getting the first practice on the ball grounds there. As he did so the old love of the game swept over him and he stopped the team and asked, on his fingers, for a chance to play. He was welcomed with open arms.

There was the reincarnation of Dummy Hoy, the ball player. A couple weeks later, when College Hill played the University Settlement team, of the Queen City League, the Dummy all but broke up the game in the first inning. With the bases full he showed that the old batting eye had not deserted him, for he clouted out a home run. The next game was with the Home City team, of the same league, and Hoy started all the trouble in the fifth by cleaning up three crowded bases with a rattling two-base hit to center field. Later in the same game, he pinched off a home run that played hide and seek up the lawn of an aristocratic resident, something like a mile and a half from the ball yard.

He manages to get around with seemingly the same old speed, and he runs bases with the rare judgment that made him a terror to catchers in the olden times in faster company.

Mr. Hoy, when interviewed, resorts to a pencil and a pad, and this is what he wrote concerning his reincarnation:

“Baseball is the greatest of all games. I love it – love it for its action and for old sake’s sake. I may not be fast enough for the big league, but I am, let me see, fifty years old, but I am glad they gave me a chance out here to play again.”

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