Sunday, July 25, 2010

Signs of the Times

A new DVD coming out tomorrow explores the origins of umpires’ gestures in baseball. The documentary is titled Signs of the Times and focuses on deaf outfielder Dummy Hoy and umpire Bill Klem. Klem's plaque in the National Baseball Hall of Fame reads, “Credited with introducing arm signals indicating strikes and fair or foul balls.” The film's director says origins of baseball signs are unclear and says it was Klem's own testimony late in life that got him associated with it. Hoy's part is also murky. He apparently asked his minor league third-base coach to use hand signals to relay the umpire’s calls. That's when his hitting improved and soon he was on his way to the major leagues. Deaf advocates say umpires simply copied the idea and this is obvious when you compare baseball signs to ASL. Yet there are few newspaper articles about Hoy using signs during his career and the practice was not widely used until after Hoy retired from the game.