Who introduced the signals for ball and strike, safe and out in baseball?
William Klem, an umpire who took credit for creating the signs for strikes and balls in 1906, a practice that became standard in 1909, was inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1953 for changing the game of baseball with that brilliant addition to the game of baseball.
But did he deserve the credit? On August 20, 2019, the Major League Baseball Umpire Association itself called this claim into question (https://mlbua.com/press-single?id=134).
It turns out that there was another umpire, Francis O’Loughlin, who had used hand signals during that very same 1906 season. But here’s the kicker. In a Washington Post article from that time, after spraining his voice, O’Loughlin “employed [William] Hoy’s mute signal code.”
William Hoy’s mute signal code? That’s right. William Hoy, a Deaf player who started his 14-year major league career in 1888, had taught umpires signals, including American Sign Language gestures for safe and out, so he could play the game he loved. Local newspapers covering Hoy’s games described and at times sketched how he would watch his third base coach hold up his right arm for a strike and his left for a ball after each pitch.
Now, even William Hoy fans don’t claim he was the first to use hand signals, mainly because he wasn’t the first Deaf player in baseball. That honor goes to Ed Dundon, a pitcher who used hand signals both as a player from 1883-1884, followed by pitcher Tom Lynch, who played one season in 1884.
But while Hoy was the third Deaf player in professional baseball, his career was longer and encompassed eight teams in four leagues (the now defunct Players’ League and American Association as well as the ongoing National League and the American League). That’s a lot of umpires and players who would have observed the use of Hoy’s hand signals.
Why is it important to give credit where it is due? For many in the Deaf community, Hoy brings pride as someone who didn’t “overcome” a challenge of being Deaf, but used the gift of being Deaf to change the game of baseball for the better. To overlook the contributions of Deaf players to baseball feels, to many, like giving white musicians credit for playing the jazz that Black artists created. Today, Steve Sandy, a Deaf historian and friend of the Hoy family, continues a campaign to get Hoy inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, where he would be the first Deaf player honored there.
Steve Sandy is acknowledged as a key resource source for The William Hoy Story, How a Deaf Baseball Player Changed the Game (illustrated by Jez Tuya, Albert Whitman & Company) and the co-writer and co-producer of an independent film about Hoy called The Silent Natural. If you’d like to help his efforts, visit the Hoy for the Hall page on nancychurnin.com for the address of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and write a letter on his behalf.
Learn more about William Hoy in The William Hoy Story, How a Deaf Baseball Player Changed the Game by Nancy Churnin, illustrated by Jez Tuya (Albert Whitman & Company). Check out the resources, including video of the real William Hoy, a free teacher guide and Readers Theater play, the Hoy for the Hall project and more.
The Master Chef of Kids’ Hands-on Science
You can’t play tennis unless you know where the ball will be after it bounces. You can’t pass a basketball unless you understand how to angle a bounce so that it goes where you want it to go. As long as the court surface is smooth and flat, a ball’s bounce is very predictable. Its path depends on gravity and on the strength and direction of the force that sets the ball in motion. Thanks to high speed photography we can get a closer look at a bouncing ball.
This is a multiple exposure photograph of a bouncing ball. It was taken in complete darkness with the camera shutter open while a high-speed flashing light, called a stroboscope or strobe, flashed 30 times a second. Each flash produced an image.
Here’s what you can learn from this photo: The ball is moving fastest where the images are farthest apart and slowest where they are closest together. When the ball is falling, it speeds up. After it bounces and moves opposite the pull of gravity, it slows down at exactly the same rate as it sped up when it was falling until it stops for an instant and starts falling again. Each time it collides with the ground, some energy is lost. That’s why each bounce loses altitude. If the bounce were perfect, no energy would be lost, every bounce would be as high as the last and the ball would bounce forever.
A strobe also captures the split second when a tennis ball is struck by a racket. The collision flattens the ball, and stretches the strings and distorts the frame of the racket, all in .005 seconds. If these objects kept their distorted shapes, most of the force of the collision would be absorbed. But they are elastic—they restore themselves to their original shapes after they collide. This restoring force is transferred to the ball to change its direction and help add to the speed of the athlete’s swing. The fastest serve leaves a racket at 130 miles an hour. In a rally, a ball-racket collision changes direction of the ball so it is not as fast as a serve, maybe 70 miles per hour. Since the distance between images made by a strobe tells how fast an object is moving, strobes are part of the instruments used to measure the speed of balls from a tennis racket and a baseball pitcher.
In this MIT YouTube, a ball is dropped in front of a meter stick and lit by a strobe light. A long exposure photograph captures the position of the ball at each evenly spaced flash of light. The acceleration of the ball can then be measured from the photo.
Would you believe that you could throw an egg across the room without breaking it? Burn a candle underwater? Vicki Cobb's We Dare You! is a gigantic collection of irresistible, easy-to-perform science experiments, tricks, bets, and games kids can do at home with everyday household objects. Thanks to the principles of gravity, mechanics, fluids, logic, geometry, energy, and perception, kids will find countless hours of fun with the selections included in this book. If you would like to make a We Dare You Video, click here.
Vicki Cobb is a member of iNK's Authors on Call and is available for classroom programs through Field Trip Zoom, a terrific technology that requires only a computer, wifi, and a webcam. Click here to find out more.
MLA 8 Citation
Cobb, Vicki. "A Bouncing Ball Like You've Never Seen." Nonfiction Minute, iNK
Think Tank, 5 Feb. 2018, www.nonfictionminute.org/the-nonfiction-minute/
Have you ever heard of the Tasmanian devil? It’s actually nothing like the cartoon version—the real devil is a black animal with white markings that’s smaller than a cocker spaniel, and it’s in trouble.
The Tasmanian devil once lived on the continent of Australia but now survives in the wild only on the island state of Tasmania, just off Australia’s south coast. It’s the largest surviving marsupial carnivore in the world. A marsupial’s young develop in a pouch on their mother’s belly rather than in a uterus inside their mother’s body. Other than females with young, the devils are solitary, living in a burrow in the ground during the day and coming out at dusk to feed. Devils can hunt for prey but much of their diet consists of dead animals—carrion--such as road-killed wallabies and wombats.
A disease spreading across the island since 1996 has decimated the devil population. Scientists and wildlife managers are working hard in an effort to study and protect this unique species. The killer, called Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD), is unusual. It’s not caused by a virus or by bacteria. It’s a form of cancer that began with a single devil, and it can spread from one animal to another. Devils will bite each other as they fight over carrion, and the cancer cells on the face of one devil can infect another as they fight. Normally, an animal’s body can recognize cells that aren’t its own and destroy them. But DFTD cells protect themselves from being “discovered,” as if wearing an invisibility cloak. They invade their victims’ bodies and eventually kill them.
DFTD spread so fast and killed so many devils that the government and scientists feared that the Tasmanian devil would become extinct in the wild. They established disease-free colonies in captivity on the Australian mainland and on Tasmania and studied the cancer in laboratories. Now, the devil is making a comeback—there’s a vaccine that provides some protection to captive devils that have been released in the wild, and ecologists have found that some wild devils are able to fight the disease on their own. Meanwhile, another kind of facial tumor disease has appeared. It’s spreading more slowly, but biologists and the devils still have a lot to deal with. You can learn more from the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program .
This is Dorothy's book, Saving the Tasmanian Devil, as part of the Scientists in the Field Series. Read Vicki Cobb's review of this wonderful book.
The Running Encyclopedia
The Renaissance began in Europe in the 15th century and marked the change from the medieval period to the modern world. Towering figures such as Michelangelo, Galileo, and especially Leonardo da Vinci were known as Renaissance men because of their talents and lasting achievements in several important areas of knowledge. They were also accomplished musicians, public speakers, athletes, poets, and so forth. And they were expected to do all this stuff without breaking a sweat.
You could give the same title to an ancient Egyptian named Imhotep, who lived about 2600 BCE. He was the vizier, the most important government official, during the reign of Pharaoh Djoser. He served as the high priest of the god Ra and was an expert astronomer.
Imhotep designed and oversaw the building of the first major pyramid in Egypt. Located at Saqqara, at the time it was the world’s tallest structure. He innovated the use of stones rather than mud bricks to build it, and it was that added strength that enabled the pyramid to rise so high. He is also credited with the invention of several devices that facilitated the construction.
Many people believe that Imhotep, rather than the Greek Hippocrates who lived more than 2,000 years later, is the real “Father of Medicine.” In an era when most physicians relied on magic spells and appeals to the gods, Imhotep prescribed dozens of effective down-to-earth treatments for illnesses and injuries.
He is credited with ending a seven-year famine in Egypt. He advised the pharaoh to make sacrifices to Khnum, the god of the annual flooding of the Nile River, and thereby provide desperately needed water to farmers. On a more practical level, he invented an improved irrigation system to carry water to the crops even if the river level was abnormally low.
In addition to these accomplishments, an inscription at the base of one of his statues notes that he was “Chief Carpenter, Chief Sculptor, and Maker of Vases in Chief.” In his little spare time, he wrote poetry and dispensed philosophical advice.
Imhotep can also boast of two accomplishments that eluded even Leonardo da Vinci. He was deified after his death and worshipped for many centuries, an honor accorded to hardly anyone besides the pharaohs. And today the comic book community gives him the credit for founding S.H.I.E.L.D., the Marvel Comics espionage and crime-fighting agency that became the basis for blockbuster movies such as Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America.
Jim Whiting has written a book on another great Egyptian leader -- Ramses the Great who lived about 1350 years after Imhotep. He fully lived up to the "Great" part of his name. His reign lasted for 67 years, the second longest in Egypt’s 3,000-year history. He had dozens of wives and more than 100 children, outliving many of them. He was a military leader who expanded the borders of his country. That resulted in decades of peace and prosperity for his people. He ordered huge statues of himself to be erected all over Egypt. For more information, click here.
MLA 8 Citation
Whiting, Jim. "A Renaissance Man - 4,000 Years before the Renaissance."
Nonfiction Minute`, iNK Think Tank, 8 Feb. 2018,
Way, way back in the year 111 BCE (Before our Common Era), thousands of Chinese warriors armed with fine iron swords and lethal crossbows, rode and marched south to conquer the little kingdom of Nanyue. To the people living there, the little kingdom was Nam Viet. To us, faraway in their unimaginable future, their land is northern Vietnam.
After the invaders came all sorts of Chinese colonizers. They would build roads and temples plus new trading ports on Nanyue’s coast, where the Red River empties into the South China Sea perfect for China’s merchant ships, on their way to or just returned from India. The Chinese brought their culture, language, and top-down style of government too. It would all be for the glory (and increased wealth) of the empire and for the betterment of the conquered barbarians. You’d think they’d appreciate it!
Not necessarily. Over the next thousand years or so, the ancient Vietnamese would get fed up with their heavy taxes and harsh treatment. They’d rise up more than once to challenge their Chinese overlords. One particular revolt would inspire stories ever after. It took place around the years 39-43 CE. Who led this famous revolt? Two daughters of a military ruler; they lived in the vicinity of the modern city of Hanoi.
The women of ancient Vietnam enjoyed much more social equality than Chinese women. Females worked in business, as public officials and they could inherit property. They could become proficient in the martial arts, as did Trung Hac and her younger sister, Trung Nhi. With their knowledge of armor and swords and with their fury, they raised up an army of 80,000 soldiers! Other women, including their mother, were generals, mounted on war elephants at the head of the Trung Sisters’ army! They liberated fortresses, battled the Chinese, and drove them out of Vietnam!
Alas, this is not the end of the Legend of the Trung Sisters. The warriors of wealthier, more powerful China returned to defeat them in the year 43. And rather than surrender, the sisters took what was for them the more honorable action: They took their own lives. Some stories say they drowned themselves in a river. Some say they disappeared into the clouds. Whatever did happen, the Trung Sisters are remembered in plays, poems, and songs to this very day, as Heroines of Vietnam.
Even though the Trưng Sisters' revolt against the Chinese was almost 2,000 years ago, its legacy in Vietnam remains as they are seen as symbols of Vietnamese resistance and freedom. To this day, the people of Vietnam perform memorial ceremonies for the sisters every year at a Hanoi temple named for them. This is a statue of the Trung sisters in Ho Chi Minh City.
In a 1776 letter cautioning her husband to "remember the ladies," Abigail Adams made one of the earliest pleas for women's rights in America. How could she have known, in the years to follow, just how many strong and independent women would step forward to forge new paths in their fight for equality?
From Clara Barton and Harriet Tubman to the less well-known but equally important Belva Lockwood and Maya Ying Lin, Remember the Ladies spans the centuries to provide an engaging look at one hundred outstanding women who have helped shape our great nation. Click here.
MLA 8 Citation
Harness, Cheryl. "The Real Life Legendary Trung Sisters of Ancient Vietnam."
Nonfiction Minute, iNK Think Tank, 22 May 2018, www.nonfictionminute.org/
For Vicki Cobb's BLOG (nonfiction book reviews, info on education, more), click here: Vicki's Blog
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