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Old 05-29-2008, 07:42 PM
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Default "Deaf Hero"of baseball diamond gets loud cheer from Coolidge

Posted By: Neal

One hundred and twenty years after he set the National League stolen base record as a rookie, William Ellsworth Hoy will be honored Sunday at Coolidge Corner Theatre.

In the late 1800s, outfielder Hoy was known for his speed, decent batting average and Dwight Evans-caliber arm. He once gunned down three runners at the plate in one game from center field.

But fans were intrigued by him for another reason: Hoy could not distinguish their boos from their cheers.

Struck by meningitis as a child, Hoy lost his hearing long before his teammates would affectionately call him “Dummy.” A new film about his life is making its Boston debut as part of the Brookline theater’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing film series.

“Dummy Hoy: A Deaf Hero” makes the case that the ballplayer deserves to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame for helping to create umpire hand signals that continue to be used in the game today. During 14 seasons with the Cincinnati Reds and five other teams, Hoy batted a career .287 and stole 594 bases.

“He was short, so people laughed at him,” said California filmmaker David Risotto, who will donate the proceeds of this weekend’s screening to the Coolidge’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Film Club. “He was deaf, so people laughed at him - even deaf people laughed at him. They said he’d never play baseball. He refused to take ‘no’ for an answer and that’s why this story goes way beyond baseball.”

According to Coolidge executive director Joe Zina, the once-a-month Deaf and Hard of Hearing film series usually draws about 45-50 people. He says he’s hoping the Hoy film will attract a wider audience in baseball-crazed Boston.

The Coolidge launched regular screenings of closed-captioned films 18 months ago and also installed a wireless sound amplification system that switches directly into individual T-coil hearing aids.

“It’s like having your own personal Walkman,” Zina said, adding that sign language-translated films are unfortunately rare. “We’re not able to cover all the limitations of deafness, but we’re trying to do what we can.”

“Dummy Hoy: A Deaf Hero” screens Sunday at 12:30 p.m. Information at coolidge.org/hearing.

Darren Garnick covers independent film for the Herald’s New England Film Junkie blog: bostonherald.com/blogs/entertainment/film-junkie.

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