Hoy was the reason umpires adopted hand signals to go along with the vocal calls of “out,” “safe,” and “strike.” The 5’4″ 148-lb outfielder was a deaf-mute, but he overcame adversity to have the greatest career of any seriously handicapped player, accumulating 2,054 hits. He hit .300 three times and scored 100 runs eight times. He also stole 30 or more bases in his first twelve ML seasons, and totaled 597 in an era when runners were credited with stolen bases for taking an “extra base” (going from first to third on a single, for example). Hoy led the NL with 82 steals in his first season and set NL rookie records for games, at-bats, hits, singles, and walks. He walked frequently, leading his league with 119 in 1891 and 86 in 1901. His on-base average topped .400 four times. In the field, the centerfielder led NL outfielders in putouts and total chances per game in 1897. On June 19, 1889, he threw out three runners at the plate in one game – one of only three players ever to do that.
Hoy, one of 29 players to play in four major leagues, was a regular until his last season. He began with perennially bad Washington, jumped to the Players’ League for its one season (1890), and had his first experience with a winning team playing for the Browns (AA) in 1891. When the AA folded, he was returned to Washington, but the Ohio native joined Cincinnati for 1894. After two seasons with the feeble Louisville franchise, he left the majors for the new Chicago White Sox of the American League. He remained with the team in 1901, the AL’s first major league season. He closed out his major league career with one last season in Cincinnati in 1902, but hung on for another year with Los Angeles (Pacific Coast League), playing all of the team’s 211 games and stealing 46 bases at the age of 42. He lived longer than any major league player before him, which earned him the honor of throwing out the first ball of Game Three of the 1961 World Series, at Cincinnati, at the age of 99.