Monday, April 23, 2012

Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer William Hoy - a review

Wise, Bill. 2012. Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer Willliam Hoy. Ill. by Adam Gustavson. New York: Lee & Low.

No one today would call a deaf person "dummy," but from 1888-1902, Major League Baseball player, William Ellsworth Hoy, wore that nickname with pride. 

Deaf from the age of three, his chances of becoming a major league baseball star were slim to none.  At the turn of the century, deafness itself was a great hurdle to overcome.  Attitudes were different, and his early years were difficult until his parents sent him to the Ohio School for the Deaf, where,
Nobody stared or pointed him.  Nobody felt sorry for him.
Presumably, this is where he learned the confidence and persistence (he already had a love for baseball), that helped propel him to the top of his game as a major league outfielder. Bill Wise chronicles his early life, his rise to stardom, and the unique challenges he faced in the game of baseball.  His baseball challenges were not necessarily due to his disability, but rather, just the way the game is played. If the opposing team has a weakness, exploit it.

Because he could not hear the home plate umpire shouting balls and strikes when he was at bat, Hoy had to turn around to look at the ump after each pitch.  The umpire would repeat the call, and as Hoy read the ump's lips, opposing pitchers often quick pitched Hoy, throwing the next ball before he was ready to bat.
This didn't stop Hoy for long, though.  There's a "workaround" for nearly everything.  Some historians argue that Hoy's deafness may have been the impetus for the umpire's use of hand signals.  In any case, the fans loved him - knowing that he could not hear their cheers, fans waved their arms and hats and threw confetti to show their approval.

Gustavson's mostly double-spread illustrations depict Hoy as a determined and confident young man.

 Much of the text is presented in text boxes which appear as aged scrapbook or autograph pages outlined in faded fountain pen.  The subdued tones of the illustrations, along with the many undefined faces, help give Silent Star the appropriate "old time" feel.

The Afterword offers additional information and photos of Hoy's baseball card and a Hoy-autographed baseball.  Biographical sources are included on the dedication page.  As for baseball sources, they're unnecessary, for that is one of the many beauties of baseball.  There are official statistics for everything! (read or watch Moneyball, anyone?)

See all of "Dummy" Hoy’s major league stats here.

Although he is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame, you may read two entries about William Hoy on the Hall of Fame's website:

This is a particularly worthwhile addition to the growing collection of nonfiction, baseball-themed picture books because of the inspiring nature of Hoy's story.

I received this review copy from the publisher, Lee & Low, who could not have chosen a more interested or appreciative reviewer. It’s no secret that I’m an avid baseball fan, but I have also become interested in deaf culture, and am slowly learning sign language thanks to a very kind and patient deaf co-worker. I may not always get the right sign, but we sure have some good laughs - mostly at my expense. Who knew that counting past ten could be so difficult!

Today's Nonfiction Monday roundup is at Books 4 Learning.


  1. I enjoyed your review -- I'm looking forwarding to reading this book. It does sound inspiring. That's great that you're learning to sign. A few months ago I saw the off-Broadway play, 'Tribes' -- it was one of the first plays to feature a partially deaf actor.

  2. I love the hues in that teaser spread you posted. You're right, they have the old-time feel down pat.

  3. There are more interesting books about baseball out there. Thanks for sharing this one.

  4. Thanks for participating in NonFiction Monday. I love stories in which the figures overcome great obstacles. This story looks inspiring. Thank you for sharing it.

  5. This is such a beautiful review! Hoy's story is both heartwarming and inspirational. I love picture book biographies. The artworks look nice, too! Will check this out in our library. Thank you for sharing! :)


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