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Spot the Difference: The William Hoy Story, How a Deaf Baseball Player Changed the Game

Updated: May 5

Guest blog post by Nancy Churnin

You can order THE WILLIAM HOY STORY here.

This is from my 2013 draft of my first book, The William Hoy Story, How a Deaf Baseball Player Changed the Game, back when I called it WILLIAM ELLSWORTH HOY: HE NEVER HEARD THE CHEERS. I didn't sell this version, but it got me my agent, Karen Grencik of Red Fox Literary, and it received many nice, encouraging rejections. 

After studying the rejection notes and consulting with my critique groups, I ended up realizing that the beginning especially, but the story throughout, needed to be more tactile, immediate, relatable, and less abstract. 

Karen sold this revision in 2014 to the first editor to whom we submitted it -- Wendy McClure at Albert Whitman. It was published in March 2016, pretty much as it is, with only minor edits except for the title. As we grew close to sending the book to the printer, Wendy and I brainstormed the title for more clarity. We ultimately changed the title to The William Hoy Story, How a Deaf Baseball Player Changed the Game, which I ended up loving for being as clear and straightforward as Hoy himself.

From 2013:

The revised and later published version, March 2016:

William Ellsworth Hoy: He Never Heard the Cheers

By Nancy Churnin

The William Hoy Story, How a Deaf Baseball Player Changed the Game

by Nancy Churnin

Once there was a boy who wanted to play baseball more than anything.

Everyone said he couldn’t. Everyone said he shouldn’t.

There was no place for deaf players like William Ellsworth Hoy in baseball, especially not in 1862. How would he know when he was safe or out?

There was no place for deaf players who were so small, the players at the Ohio School for the Deaf told him. William was only 5’6” and 160 pounds. 

There was no place for someone to live an honest life in baseball, his parents told him as they urged him to study hard and learn a trade. 

But William loved to play ball.

William scooped dust to dry the sweat off his slick rubber ball. He stared at the small X  he'd chalked on the barn wall. He closed his eyes. He opened them and threw. Bam! He it the mark. He stepped back so he could try again.

His mother waved her arms. She was applauding him.

If you are interested in what this blog series is all about, read all about it here:


From School Library Journal

PreS-Gr 3—This picture book biography demonstrates how an extraordinary deaf player from the early days of baseball made a lasting contribution to the game. The ambitions of William Hoy (1862–1961) were clear from the start. The boy thought of little other than baseball and practiced tirelessly in hopes of playing on a team. Achieving his goal brought challenges that he didn't expect, but giving up was not an option. Hoy realized that better communication was needed and knew just the way to do it. While he was not the only person to introduce hand signals to the game, he did popularize their use among players and fans. The book is well told and charmingly illustrated in a semirealistic style that conveys Hoy's emotions. Those who enjoyed Audrey Vernick's Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team (Clarion, 2012) will want to read this engaging biography. VERDICT This is the largely unknown story of a differently abled athlete's valuable addition to the great American pastime.—Paige Mellinger, Gwinnett County Public Libraries, Lillburn, GA


New York Public Library Best Books for Kids 2016

2017 Texas 2x2 Reading List

2017 Storytelling World Resource Award Honor Book

2018 Illinois Monarch Award Master List

2017 Texas Topaz Nonfiction Reading List

2017 Best Children's Books of the Year, Bank Street College

2017 North Texas Book Festival Best Children's Book Finalist

2017-2018 Charter Oak Children's Book Award Nominee

2018-2019 Louisiana Young Readers' Choice List

2017-2018 Kennebec Valley Book Award List

2023 California Reads List


Nancy Churnin is an award-winning author who writes the kind of books that her mother, a retired teacher, would have liked to have had in her classroom -- stories about heroes of kindness that bring people together and change the world for the better. A Bronx native now living in Texas, Nancy was a journalist and theater critic for many years before promising a friend to write the story of the great Deaf baseball player William Hoy. Now she's a full-time children's book writer with 16 books in print and more on the way. Her awards include the National Jewish Book Award, Sydney Taylor Honor, South Asia Book Award and more, with starred reviews from School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly. She provides free teacher guides, resources and projects that encourage kids to be heroes, too. She shares great things kids do on

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