OPSN Interview with Director/Producer David Risotto
Vincent Lombardi Jr. had the pleasure of interviewing Director/Producer David Risotto. David wrote, directed and produced the documentary “I See the Crowd Roar” The story of William “Dummy” Hoy.
Hoy, one of the first deaf players, played from 1886 to 1903 and introduced the hand signal for strike and ball which are still used today. The documentary has been recognized by MLB.com as one of the top ten indie baseball films to see.
David is responsible for the planning and management of DA-COR PICTURES, LLC and has 25 years managerial experience and 30 years in the entertainment industry as an actor, writer, director, editor and producer.
Vince Lombardi: How did you find about Dummy Hoy?
David Risotto: While I was working on one of my other films in 1995, a friend of mine that works with the Deaf mentioned to me that I should do a film on one of the first Deaf Baseball players. I asked what is the story behind him?
She told me that he over came many obstacles to become one of the greatest players of his time and that he also introduced hand signals to the game. As I did research on Dummy Hoy, I found Steve Sandy, who has been a Dummy Hoy researcher since 1989, in Columbus OH…
Steve and I spoke several times before he sent me two large binders full of information. Through that information I, with the help of Steve, wrote the script.
VL: What are some of Hoy’s on the field accomplishments?
During his rookie year in the majors (1888), Hoy led the National League with 82 stolen bases, a record that tops those of some of the most celebrated Hall of Famers (Ty Cobb stole no bases during his rookie year, Babe Ruth had 10). His career total: 597 to 607 stolen bases (depending on which account you read).
Hoy had a respectable .288 (.292 according to some counts) lifetime batting average, and 2,054 hits. He once hit .357. He had 1,004 walks, and played in 1,798 major-league games. As baseball historian Nicholas Dawidoff has noted: “He was always among the league leaders in assists, totaling 318 in his 14 years, including an astounding 45 in 1900 while with the Chicago White Stockings. Over the course of 137 games Hoy, who was then 38, had 337 putouts and a .977 fielding average to go along with his 45 assists. It was the only time an outfielder has ever led the majors in all three categories.”
An ill-fated fly-ball batted by Hoy in 1894 was responsible for the league-wide ban on uniform breast pockets— a ban that is still in effect.
Hoys own proudest achievement was throwing out three base runners at home plate in one game— an unprecedented and seldom equaled feat.
There are numerous accounts of Hoy’s exploits, and many of these can be verified from contemporary newspapers. One popular story from his Oshkosh days tells how Hoy chased and caught a fly ball while balancing on the shaft of a buggy parked inside the stadium. Some versions have Hoy leaping astride the horse to catch the ball! This catch helped clinch the Pennant.
VL: Hoy is credited with introducing the safe and out hand signals, how did this come about?
DR: Hoy first introduced the signals for STRIKE and BALL. When he began his professional career in Oshkosh, all umpires’ calls were shouted. While at bat, Hoy had to ask his coach if a ball or strike had been called. The opposing pitcher took advantage of Hoy’s distraction, quick-pitching him—sending out the next pitch before he was ready. (He batted only .219 during his first season.) Around 1887, Hoy wrote out a request to the third-base coach, asking him to raise his left arm to indicate a ball, his right arm for a strike. Hoy could follow the hand signals after each pitch, and be ready for the next. And the umpires and other players found these signals so useful that they became standard practice—they’re still used everywhere. Hoy later adapted the “out” and “safe” signals from ASL.
VL: What did Hoy do after his baseball career?
DR: Dummy Hoy bought a 24-acre farm in Cincinnati. He worked for Goodyear during the Great War in the Blimp department and as a personnel director and the plant. He helped his nephew Paul Hoy Helms start the Helms Bakery in California which has a great history.
VL: How did Hoy feel about the nickname Dummy?
DR: Dummy Hoy embraced his nick name. In fact he asked his teammates to call him that.
VL: How important was it for you to use deaf actor Ryan Lane in your documentary?
DR: It was very important to me to have Ryan Lane portray Dummy Hoy because not only does Ryan resemble Dummy Hoy, I feel that it would be hard for a hearing actor to really feel what it is like to be Deaf. The emotion that a deaf person gives out when signing is amazing. I searched for a long time and when I saw Ryan, I knew he was my Dummy Hoy.
VL: Hoy is a member of the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and not in the Baseball Hall of Fame, what are some of the things you are doing to get him in the Hall?
DR: My documentary was an Official Selection for the 2nd annual National Baseball Hall of Fame Film Festival in Cooperstown. While I was there I had a meeting with Jeff Idelson, the President of the Hall of Fame, who suggested we work on getting Dummy Hoy into the National Baseball Hall of Fame as a Pioneer. So that’s what we are doing. We ask everyone to send a letter to the Hall of Fame asking to induct Hoy into the Hall of Fame. I am working on getting more MLB members informed about Dummy Hoy and get them involved.
VL: Hoy’s story still needs to be told to more, what are your future plans?
DR: I am working on getting the funding for the feature film on Dummy Hoy. I believe the film will inform millions and get Dummy Hoy recognized for his accomplishments.
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