Signs of the Time

The Myth, The Mystery, The Legend of Baseball's Greatest Innovation

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Signs of the Time To Be Broadcast Around The Country

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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

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February 23, 2012 at 5:16 pm

Behind the Scenes Videos

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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.

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September 26, 2010 at 10:54 am

Signs of the Time DVD now available!

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For the first time we are offering Signs of the Time for purchase on DVD Home Video.

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.

Order your copy today!

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August 16, 2010 at 10:20 am

Posted in Film News

Sign It Ain’t So, Klem?

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SIGNews April 2010

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.

The Documentary

“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.

A documentary on Hoy, Klem was the umpire who picked up on the signs for calls that Hoy was supposed to be credited for.

“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 for upcoming showings and DVD sales.

Which Williams?

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.

During the filming of the documentary, "Signs of the Time."

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.

Written by Signs of the Time

April 21, 2010 at 9:02 am

Posted in Press Articles

Buffalo area plays role in movie about deaf ballplayer

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Graduate and former teacher at St. Mary’s stars in documentary about man who changed baseball

BUFFALO NEWS 4-17-2010
By Mark Sommer

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.

Michael Barreca, a native of Angola, plays Dummy Hoy in a documentary about the 19th century baseball player.

“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.

Written by Signs of the Time

April 17, 2010 at 8:47 am

Posted in Press Articles

Omaha Film Festival

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SIGNS OF THE TIME SCREENS March 11 & March 13 at the Omaha Film Festival

Check out this radio interview by Cheril Lee at KIOS-FM

..and here is a commercial for the upcoming festival:

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February 26, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Posted in Film Festivals

Ron Kaplan Article

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Here’s a link to a recent article posted on Ron Kaplan’s Baseball Bookshelf…

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October 14, 2009 at 2:11 pm

Posted in Press Articles

Hall of Fame’s Baseball Film Festival a hit

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Troika of movies take home hardware in event’s fourth year

By Bill Francis / National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Published: 10/05/2009 2:10 PM ET

Baseball Film Festival concluded Sunday in Cooperstown at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. (Bill Francis/Baseball Hall of Fame)

Baseball Film Festival concluded Sunday in Cooperstown at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. (Bill Francis/Baseball Hall of Fame)

As big league baseball’s regular season came to a conclusion, except in the American League’s Central Division, the Fourth Annual Baseball Film Festival was ending another successful run.

The three-day long event, held at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, ran from Friday through Sunday. In all, 13 films of varied baseball subject matter, ranging in length from 12 to 90 minutes, were shown at the Hall’s Bullpen Theater.

The festivities came to an end Sunday afternoon with three awards handed out at a closing ceremony in the Museum’s Grandstand Theater. Capturing the Best Film Award was The Lost Son of Havana, the Award for Baseball Excellence went to Signs of the Time, and El Play captured the Award for Film Making Excellence.

Reached by telephone after the awards were presented, an overjoyed Kris Meyer, a producer of The Lost Son of Havana who represented the film in Cooperstown along with Executive Producer Bobby Farrelly when it was shown Friday, said, “It has been an incredible honor to make a film about one of baseball’s legends, and to screen it in Cooperstown at the Baseball Film Festival and to win it is just icing on the cake.

“Hopefully, we’ll return with another film soon.” The Lost Son of Havana documented former Major League pitching star Luis Tiant’s emotional return to his home in Cuba after 46 years in exile, and Signs of the Time examined the complicated history of hand signals in baseball. “Just blown away,” said Signs of the Time Director Don Casper when asked for his thoughts afterwards. “To receive an award for baseball excellence from Cooperstown is a real honor, especially when you make a baseball film. Being here for three days, seeing the quality of films that we were up against, it makes it even more special because there were really a lot of great quality films here.”

El Play told the story of an aspiring Dominican ballplayer from the baseball hotbed of San Pedro de Macoris and his struggles as he chases his dream of becoming a professional.

“This is thrilling,” said El Play‘s director and producer, Pablo Medina, while clutching his award. “Just having gotten into this film festival is an honor as much as winning. I was not expecting it, and I’m not being modest.”

Judging this year’s Baseball Film Festival entrants were Jeff Katz, a baseball author/writer living in Cooperstown, Oneonta (N.Y.) Daily Star sportswriter P.J. Harmer, and Rob Edelman, a professor of film history at the University of Albany and the author of The Great Baseball Films. “I enjoy all of the films,” Katz said. “There was just a wide variety of subject matter. And even the films that weren’t award winners you could tell there was a real passion behind it.

“But I will say that I’m just endlessly impressed with The Lost Son of Havana. That really was one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen, let alone a great baseball film. It was so well done and so emotional.” According to Stephen Light, the Hall’s manager of museum programs, the more than 20 films submitted and 13 shown were records for the four-year-old festival.

“I thought it was a great film festival because of the strength and diversity of the films,” Light said. “We had so many different topics and it just showed, I think, the strength of baseball as a film topic.”

Bill Francis is a library associate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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October 5, 2009 at 3:10 pm

2009 Top 11 Festival Must See Films in Tacoma

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As Executive Director at the Grand Cinema, one of the most common questions I’m asked every fall is “which films do you recommend in the film festival?”  With more films and better quality than ever this year, that question is becoming tougher to answer.  Difficult as it may be, I’m up to the task.Tacoma Film Festival

The list here is in order by the dates films play.  If you think it is tough deciding on which films to recommend, it would be tougher to rank them in a specific ‘must see’ order.  So it is safe to say that everyone should attempt to see as many of these as possible.

One added aspect of a festival is the chance to often talk to the filmmakers.  I’m happy to say that most of the films I mention here will have the filmmaker in attendance. There are MANY more great films in the festival, but for me, this would be my TOP 11 (because ten is always too few for the festival) FILMS FOR 2009.


Philip Cowan

(in order by date played)

Lovers in a Dangerous Time – This is a movie about a relationship that is so incredibly obvious to the viewer, but not always as apparent to the characters involved.  By the end you really feel for the characters because they really pull you in to the story.  This is a true indy film that we are happy to present for our Opening Night Gala.  The filmmakers will be in attendance and there will be great food to go along with the film.  What is there not to like?  Thursday, October 1, 6:30 p.m. (food), 8:00 p.m. (film) at Annie Wright (and minus the food and filmmakers, the film plays again October 6, 4:45 p.m. at the Grand).

North Face – This is one I originally saw at SIFF earlier this year and is a perfect movie for anyone who loves movies the Grand typically plays.  It is 1936 in Germany and there is a race to be the first to rock climb the near vertical Eiger North Face.  This is a well made drama based on a real event that will keep you on the edge of your seat.  Friday, October 2, 6:00 p.m. at the Blue Mouse Theater

Winning Isn’t Everything AND Signs of the Time – This is a great pairing of two very well made documentaries.  One is on the NCAA championship women’s soccer program at the University of North Carolina.  The other explores the origins of baseball hand signals and is narrated by Richard Dreyfuss.  You don’t have to be a sports fan to enjoy either film because both move well past the sport that anchors the films.  Friday, October 2, 6:30 p.m. at the Grand AND Signs of the Time only (paired with a different film) Monday, Oct 5, 2:15, also at the Grand

Freeing Silvia Baraldini – This documentary follows the life of a political activist who was arrested by the FBI and sentenced to 43 years in prison.  Where is the line between crime and political activism?  As an added note, the filmmaker was once associated with the Grand and will be in attendance to talk about the subject.  Friday, October 2, 5:45 p.m. at First United Methodist Church AND Saturday, October 3, 8:45 p.m. at the Grand

Sweet Crude – This noteworthy documentary is playing around the world, from the Seattle International Film Festival earlier this year, to Vancouver, Canada and Strasbourg, France.  There is good reason too.  It is the story of Nigeria’s impoverished Niger Delta under which a billion dollars of crude flows. Some might remember the news stories that developed last year when the filmmakers were detained in Nigeria for a week while shooting the film.  With the filmmaker in attendance, the film and discussion should be fascinating for everyone.  Saturday, October 3, 12:45 p.m. at Tacoma Art Museum

Spooner – This feature film combines charm, romance and quirky humor into a nice film.  Herman (Matthew Lillard) is turning 30 and is finally moving out of his parent’s home.  When the girl of his dreams enters his aimless life, he tries to win her over before she leaves on a planned trip out of the country.  The director and screenwriter will be in attendance.  Saturday, October 3, 6:30 p.m. at the Grand Cinema

White on Rice – This is a quirky multi-cultural film from a director who previously played a film in the Tacoma Film Festival.  It tells the tale of Japanese man now living in the states as he seeks a girlfriend…but with one specific woman in mind.  The film has some very funny moments in it and is very well made.  It is also starting to appear in theaters already so watch it here first!  Sunday, October 4, 6:30 p.m. at the Grand (it also plays with a great local short film The Day My Parents Became Cool)

Comedy Shorts – This grouping tends to sell out annually and for good reason: comedy shorts are a ton of fun.  There are too many to list individually but this year’s group has ten films ranging from 3 to 17 minutes in length.  It is a fast paced screening and has many films that have won awards at other festivals.  This plays twice because of its popularity.  Sunday, October 4, 6:30 p.m. at SOTA AND Wednesday, October 7, 6:30 at the Grand.

Drama Shorts – The topics on these vary but there is some great filmmaking to be found here.  These seven short films originate everywhere from Germany to the Pacific Northwest.  Two of the most notable in the group are Short Term 12 which won prizes at both Sundance and SIFF and the German film Land Gewinnen which gives you a peek inside what it might be like for an immigrant child trying to go to school.  It really moves you.  Monday, October 5, 6:45 p.m. at the Grand AND Friday, October 2, 6:30 at SOTA

Four of a Kind – From Australia and with the filmmaker and lead actress in attendance!  Four different women with four intertwining stories.  Add in a bit of mystery and you have a movie to remember.  Tuesday, October 6, 7:00 p.m. at the Grand

The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle – The pedigree of this film kind of speaks for itself.  It debuted at Sundance and has since played at festivals such as SXSW, Seattle, San Francisco and Calgary.  To describe this comedy would be truly difficult, so I’ll give you one sentence fragment from their website: “cookies cause spectacular visions, wild mood swings, and quasi-pregnancies in the male janitors.”  This one is a lot of fun and the filmmaker will be here for Q&A.  CLOSING NIGHT FILM, Thursday, October 8, 6:00 p.m. at the Grand Cinema

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October 4, 2009 at 8:33 pm

Posted in Film Festivals

Fairport-produced baseball movie gathers honors

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Rochester Democrat and Chronicle – Rochester,NY,USA
Jim Mandelaro

Much has changed about Signs of the Time since the locally produced documentary premiered at the George Eastman House last year.

Academy Award-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss is the new narrator.

Major League Baseball footage has been added, including the controversial 1975 World Series play involving Cincinnati batter Ed Armbrister and Boston catcher Carlton Fisk.

And the 60-minute baseball film is on the festival trail, already winning “Best Documentary” at the High Falls Festival in Rochester last May and the SoCal Film Festival in Huntington Beach, Calif., last weekend.

Ray Manard, Executive Producer

Ray Manard, Executive Producer

“It’s a different film (from the original version),” said executive producer Ray Manard of Crystal Pix, a production company in Fairport.

“But the film is more than just about baseball. It’s about communication.”

Signs explores the contributions of deaf baseball player Dummy Hoy and legendary umpire Bill Klem, a Rochester native, toward the development of hand signals used in baseball.

It’s one of 13 films playing this weekend at the fourth annual Baseball Film Festival at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Signs is up for three awards: Best Film, the Award for Baseball Excellence and the Award for Film Making Excellence. The movie will be shown tonight along with The Lost Son of Havana, which chronicles the return to Cuba of Luis Tiant after 46 years.

Don Casper, the director of Signs of the Time, will be in Cooperstown to speak about the film.

Nearly 200 actors, writers, directors and producers worked on the film over a five-year period. Signs includes interviews with Hall of Famers Bob Feller, Earl Weaver and Brooks Robinson.

When the festival season ends, the film will have been shown in about 20 venues. In addition to Cooperstown, it also will be shown this weekend in Tacoma, Wash., and Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Coming up, it’s Secret City, Tenn. (mid-October); Celebration, Fla. (late October); and the Red Rock Film Fest in Utah (November).

Crystal Pix executives originally compiled a long wish list of possible narrators, including George Clooney, Harrison Ford and Billy Crystal.

“We wanted an actor with a good voice, and we wanted someone recognizable,” Manard said.

Dreyfuss won a Best Actor Oscar for The Goodbye Girl in 1977 and was nominated in 1995 for Mr. Holland’s Opus. He also was on the list. When he said “yes,” the search ended.

“He has a connection to deaf culture through Mr. Holland’s Opus,” Manard said. “I’m not sure why he decided to work with us, but it may have been that.”

Dreyfuss was in New York City last October promoting the movie W (he plays Dick Cheney), and Crystal Pix execs met him there to record the narration.

Signs of the Time Movie Poster

Signs of the Time Movie Poster

Including the Armbrister-Fisk play also was a coup. The filmmakers had to take the footage out of the original due to Major League Baseball restrictions. Now it is included.

In the 10th inning of Game 3 of the 1975 World Series, Armbrister collided with Fisk while attempting to sacrifice bunt. Fisk threw wildly to second base in an attempt to throw out Cesar Geronomo, and the Reds went on to win 4-3. Plate umpire Larry Barnett was criticized for not calling interference on Armbrister.

“Back that, there was no signal for interference,” Manard said. “All (Barnett) could do was point ‘fair ball.’ He couldn’t communicate ‘no interference.'”

Now, there is a signal for such a play.

“That controversy demonstrates the need for communication with the umpire and players on the field,” Manard said.

Crystal Pix eventually hopes to sell Signs of the Time to a network and then market it for home distribution. MLB Network, ESPN, A&E, The History Channel and the new Smithsonian Channel and Documentary Channel are possible buyers.

© 2009, The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

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October 1, 2009 at 11:41 am

Posted in Press Articles