…Signs of the Time for Best Documentary at the 56th Annual New York Emmy® Awards gala held on Sunday, April 14th in New York City. In a night full of glitz and glamour, we settled in to enjoy the evening with hopes running high, but with determination to savor the moment regardless of the outcome. What a thrill it was to then hear our name be called by the presenter, singer/songwriter Judy Collins, in the Documentary category. Caroline Manard, Ray Manard, Don Casper and Jim Hughes walked up to the stage in a bit of a daze to accept the award. Truly it is an honor to see our film be recognized by others in the industry. This film has been a labor of love for everyone involved and this is the icing on the cake. But the excitement of the night did not end there as our film won two more Emmy® Awards. Ray Manard won in the category of Editor: Program and Rob LaVaque won in the category of Musical Composition/Arrangement. A big congratulations goes out to the entire Crystal Pix, Inc. team for their dedication and hard work, and to our talented partners, including Eric McMaster, Jim Hughes and Rob LaVaque, who joined forces with us to make this film a success. For the past year, Signs of the Time has been airing on public television stations across the US, distributed by American Public Television and presented by WXXI-TV right here in Rochester, NY. Let’s raise a glass!
Signs of the Time makes its North American broadcast premiere starting this spring on public television stations across the country. Produced in high-definition by Crystal Pix, Inc. of Fairport, New York, the film has enjoyed critical acclaim at film festivals across North America and has received “Best Documentary” awards five times. Signs of the Time is presented by WXXI Public Broadcasting in Rochester, New York, and distributed nationally by American Public Television.
Narrated by Academy Award® winning actor Richard Dreyfuss, Signs of the Time, reveals the myth and mystery behind one of the greatest innovations of baseball – umpire hand signals.
The film illustrates stories of inspiration that transcend sports. At the heart of the story are two fascinating characters from baseball’s past – the 19th century deaf ballplayer William “Dummy” Hoy and the father of modern umpires, Bill Klem. The film offers dramatic re-enactments of early baseball and interviews from baseball legends such as Bob Feller, Brooks Robinson, Fred Lynn, and Earl Weaver. It also provides a compelling look into the silent and often misunderstood world of the deaf community. Legendary deaf author Robert Panara commented, “The film’s message of breaking the barriers of communication is what we Deaf people have done throughout life, and the struggle is never-ending. This film, much like its central character Dummy Hoy, is an inspiration to deaf and hearing people alike.”
The television broadcast of the film is closed captioned for the accessibility of all audiences. To find where to watch in your area, contact your local public broadcasting station or click here for more information
Here is a three part series of Behind the Scenes mini-docs posted to youtube!
PART 1: Making “Signs of the Time”
PART 2: Bringing History to Life
PART 3: The Journey
Coming soon! A new site featuring research into the origins of hand signals. You will be able to browse through actual articles found from the 19th and early 20th century surrounding the creation of hand signals.
SPECIAL FEATURES: The DVD is packed with special features including filmmaker commentary, many additional interviews with ballplayers that did not make the final film, a production slideshow and 3 Behind the Scenes documentaries.
DVD is exclusively available only through the Signs of the Time webstore.
By Rick Postl
SIGNews staff writer
The flamboyant baseball umpire, William Klem is given credit for inventing baseball hand signals. His plaque in Cooperstown says it all; however, one would argue that necessity is the mother of all inventions.
A healthy dose of skepticism is prudent as William “Dummy” Hoy played professional ball over 18 seasons, retiring two years prior to Klem’s umpiring career that spanned 37 seasons and 18 World Series appearances. Hoy had a need to understand signals during his plate appearances.
The possibility also exists that the usage of umpire hand signals pre-dates Hoy and Klem. The media was not as interconnected as the media is nowadays and media sources show signals were in use here and there.
Cy Rigler, then a minor league umpire who is also credited with inventing the hand signals, thought he was first until he reached the majors and found the signals already in use. Going back even further, newspaper records show that Edward Dundon, the first professional deaf ball player, used hand signals during a game he umpired in 1886.
The literature shows numerous public requests and discussions in support of visible umpire signals. These were before electronic scoreboards and audible announcement systems became part of the ballpark experience.
The credit for the introduction of hand signals is a source of great controversy. Klem and Hoy are believed to have meaningfully contributed to the permanence of baseball umpire signals, given their long-term contributions to baseball. One must go to bat when appropriate credits are not given or considered among the choices.
The “Signs of the Time” is a full-length documentary, narrated by Richard Dreyfuss, that considers both sides of the arguments and begs the question of appropriate credit to the mystery of baseball’s greatest innovation– the hand signals.
The film also goes beyond the controversy in considering the spirit of meaningful interactions between deaf and hearing ballplayers.
“Signs of the Time” is directed and produced by Don Casper with Crystal Pix. Casper used to work at RIT/NTID and casted deaf contributors, consultants and actors in the film.
The documentary has achieved numerous “best documentary” honors and awards at film festivals nationwide—from New York to California. Of great honors, the documentary was selected for the “Award for Baseball Excellence at the 2009 Baseball Film Festival,” held at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
“It was a highlight for us not only to screen the film at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, but to receive the Award for Baseball Excellence from the judges,” shared Casper.
The film festival is held at Cooperstown. The judging for the award was done by movie and baseball experts, not by the Hall of Fame establishment itself.
“I think that the film’s strength is its message,” shared Casper. “Many people who come to see the film think that it will be just about baseball history, or just about Hoy. But in reality these are secondary elements in the films greater message of triumph over adversity and breaking barriers of communication.”
“The success of the film transcends across all audiences—not only history buffs or baseball fans,” added Casper.
See the trailer at www.signsofthetimemovie.com for upcoming showings and DVD sales.
With the all the possibilities considered, how could Klem have achieved a consensus that he invented the signals? There are several theories.
Klem was the first umpire inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and his authoritative umpiring style is still taught in umpire academies. His contributions to baseball come without question; his boastful claims for inventing baseball signs have grown with the times.
In the film, Klem is shown asserting that he invented the standard safe and out signals used today by umpires and goes as far as to say that “… these innovations are all mine.”
We have a penchant for drama– the animated series of actions exerted by an umpire in calling a decision invokes sentimental emotions. The more empathic, authoritative the call, the more believable, confident the umpire is.
The colorful character, the contributions, and the tales created a case for Klem.
“The Hall of Fame plaque text is written in a group effort by Hall of Fame staffers,” shared Craig Muder, Director of Communications at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. “The facts and statistics used on the plaque are the best available information at the time of the inscription.”
The thoroughness of the documentary creates new perspectives and credible evidences to the contrary.
Casper was asked what new conversations he is observing about Hoy’s place in Cooperstown as a result of the documentary.
“Although our film is not solely about Hoy, it has definitely raised awareness of who Hoy was,” shared Casper. “Hoy was a modest person and did not self-promote during his life/career which is perhaps why history has not recorded his contributions, so in a small way maybe our film can speak on his behalf a hundred years after the fact.”
The window of opportunity for Hoy to be enshrined in Cooperstown dims as living testimonies die with the time. This film breathes life into Hoy’s contributions through the testimonies among baseball experts and players associated with Hoy.
The film has spurred on some conversation among baseball enthusiasts according to Casper. “Many hearing people who come to see the film have never heard of Hoy and many leave the film fascinated with his story and want to know more about what can be done,” said Casper.
It would be a vastly different ball game if appropriate credits are given to Hoy among the collective contributors to hand signals. Until then, this is a debate worth fighting for and the documentary, reaching an international, mainstream audience does a great service.
Graduate and former teacher at St. Mary’s stars in documentary about man who changed baseball
Baseball fans may not know the name Dummy Hoy but his century-old record — the Washington Senators outfielder threw out three base runners at home plate in one inning — still stands.
Yet Hoy’s records — he also stole a National League-leading 82 bases in 1888 — are not the reason people will line up today to see “Signs of the Time,” a documentary with a distinctive Buffalo bent.
• Video: Watch the film’s trailer
They will watch it because William Ellsworth Hoy — he preferred the nickname “Dummy” — is best known as the deaf ballplayer who introduced hand signals to major league baseball.
And they will come because the actor playing Hoy is Angola native Michael Barreca, a graduate and former assistant teacher at St. Mary’s School for the Deaf.
“He had never acted before,” said Don Casper, the film’s director and producer. “But he’s an athlete, and we wanted to find someone who had the baseball chops.”
Barreca, 34, was working at St. Mary’s, where he starred in track, soccer and basketball as a student, when he successfully auditioned for the role. His scenes were shot outside of Rochester.
“There’s an inherent acting that comes through sign language,” Casper said of Barreca, “because a lot of it is gesture and facial expression, and being that it is his native language, in essence, I think, it came kind of easy to him.”
Although named national soccer player of the year by a deaf association in his senior year at St. Mary’s, Barreca’s best sport was baseball, said Paul Crowley, St. Mary’s director of student affairs. Unfortunately, the school lacked a team.
“He was one of the best athletes we ever had in our school’s history,” Crowley said of Barreca — who, like an older brother, was born deaf.
Having been instructed in baseball at an early age by his father, the switch-hitting Barreca played on a team at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, and later in Buffalo baseball leagues.
“I’m very proud of him,” said Kathie Barreca, Michael’s mother. “My husband had a brain tumor and died in 1990, and he was a Yankees fan and baseball was his whole life. I know he would have been so proud of my son with this movie. There are parts that are just so Michael, and so my husband, like the character’s honesty.”
The 60-minute documentary, narrated by Academy Award-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss, screens at 2 p.m. today in the downtown Market Arcade Theatre.
When Hoy’s 14-year, six-team major-league career began in 1888, there were no umpire hand signals. Hoy invented a series of them with his third-base coach to follow the umpire’s calls behind the plate.
“He was left-handed, with a direct view of third base, so the coach would signal strikes and balls,” Casper said from the Fairport office of film company Crystal Pix. “Many people feel this was the inspiration that eventually led to umpires adopting the hand signals. … we know today in 1909, when they that became league mandated for all umpires.”
The growth of baseball stadiums also made it imperative that hand signals come into use, Casper said.
The Buffalo Niagara Film Festival is the 15th festival “Signs of the Time” has been entered in. It won top honors in 2009 for “Baseball Excellence” at the Cooperstown Baseball Film Festival, and “Best Documentary” at the SoCal Independent Film Festival.
Casper said he is exploring distribution opportunities and expects the film to be released on home video later this year.
Casper and Kathie Barreca plan to attend today’s screening. Barreca, a married father of two who now lives in Barnesville, Ohio, and teaches sign language at West Virginia Community College, had wanted to attend, but won’t be able to due to transportation problems, his mother said.
News Staff Reporter Phil Fairbanks contributed to this report.
Home to the Allman Brothers, Otis Redding, & Little Richard, Macon GA has a long history of music and the arts. Created 5 years ago, the Macon Film Festival is continuing that tradition by attracting filmmakers from around the state and country to 2 historic venues in downtown Macon. The Captiol Theatre and the Douglass Theatre.
Featured at the festival were appearances by Macon natives, Jack McBrayer (Kenneth on 30th Rock) and Screen Actress Illeana Douglas. Signs played Friday evening 2/19/2010 in the Capitol Theatre, a beautiful old theater that has a full balcony, side boxes and a main floor has been converted to have sofas, dining tables and comfy chairs (with a full service bar). Nice way to experience movies all day long! Thanks to all that came out to support our film and all the nice comments and Q&A from the audience. My wife and I enjoyed many of the films that played throughout Saturday as well.
Good luck to the Macon Film Festival I hope you continue to be a success and a beacon for the arts in Georgia.