Toni Stone
Photo courtesy The Buck O'Neil Collection, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

(Marcenia Lyle Alberga)
Second Base

San Francisco Sea Lions, 1949
New Orleans Creoles, 1949-1952
Indianapolis Clowns, 1953
Kansas City Monarchs, 1954

Toni Stone may be one of the best ballplayers that you've never heard of.

As a teenager she played with the local boys' teams, in St. Paul, Minnesota. During World War II she moved to San Francisco, playing first with an American Legion team, and then with the San Francisco Sea Lions, a black, semi-pro barnstorming team--she drove in two runs in her first at-bat.

She didn't feel that the owner was paying her what they'd originally agreed on, so when the team played in New Orleans, she jumped ship and joined the Black Pelicans. From there she went to the New Orleans Creoles, part of the Negro League minors, where she made $300 a month in 1949. The local press reported that she made several unassisted double plays, and batted .265. (Although the All American Girls Baseball League was active at the time, Toni Stone was not eligible to play. The AAGBL was a "whites only" league, so Toni played on otherwise all-male black teams.)

In 1953, Syd Pollack, owner of the Indianapolis Clowns, signed Toni to play second base, a position that had been recently vacated when Hank Aaron was signed by the Boston (soon to be Milwaukee) Braves. Toni became the first woman to play in the Negro Leagues.

The Clowns had begun as a gimmick team, much like the Harlem Globetrotters, known as much for their showmanship as their playing. But by the '50s they had toned down their antics and were playing straight baseball. Although Pollack claimed he signed Toni Stone for her skill as a player, not as a publicity stunt, having her on the team didn't hurt revenues, which had been declining steadily since Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the majors, and many young black players left the Negro Leagues.


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