The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
Black History Month: Female Negro League trailblazer Toni Stone played for the New Orleans Creoles

With this month being Black History Month, it‘s an appropriate time to remember Toni Stone, who became the first female player for the Negro American League in 1953. She had ties to New Orleans as a member of the New Orleans Creoles, a Black minor-league baseball team, from 1949 to 1952.

Stone, whose given name was Marcenia Lyle Stone, was born in 1921 in St. Paul, Minneapolis. By 1937 she was playing with men’s semi-pro teams in the area, but eventually found her way to San Francisco playing for the barnstorming Sea Lions.

In 1949 Stone began playing with the Creoles, then a member of the Texas Negro League. Negro Leagues historian Larry Lester described the Creoles as “a very good semi-pro team.” Managed by Wesley Barrow, the team would also play exhibition games against opponents like the Kansas City Monarchs from the Negro American League. The Creoles often played in Pelicans Stadium when not in use by the New Orleans Pelicans minor-league team.

By that time, the Negro Leagues were in serious decline since Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the major leagues in 1947. Indianapolis Clowns owner Syd Pollock decided he needed an attraction to boost attendance for his entry in the Negro American League. He inked the 5-foot-7 ½-inch, 148-pound Stone in 1953 to a contract for a reported $12,000 per year, which was a substantial salary even for major leaguers at the time. Thus, she became the first female to play regularly in the organized Negro Leagues. She was billed as the “female Jackie Robinson.”

While Stone’s appearances may have been regarded as box office draws for the Clowns, she was a legitimate ballplayer, too. She was said to “break up double plays with the best of them.” She usually played several innings at second base each game before being substituted. Newspaper reports said she was 22-year-old, but in fact she was ten years older.

Pollock’s plan worked. At every city where the Clowns played, they were drawing extraordinary crowds who came to see the novel player. What’s more, she didn’t disappoint the crowds. At one point during the season, she had the fourth-highest batting average in the league, although she had considerably fewer plate appearances than other leaders that included future major-league Hall of Famer Ernie Banks.

After the 1953 season, Stone’s contract was sold to the Kansas City Monarchs, and she was replaced by another woman, Connie Morgan. She retired after the 1954 season. Over her two-year career in the Negro Leagues, her batting average was .243.

With women currently breaking barriers in Organized Baseball, including Rachel Balkovec as minor-league manager in the Yankees organization and Katy Krall in the Red Sox organization as major-league coach, they join the original trailblazer Toni Stone.

Add a Comment

(Enter the numbers shown in the above image)