Happy Hump Day POU!
Today’s feature is the one of the few ballplayers ever that got a hit off Satchel Paige.
Marceni Lyle Stone (January 21, 1921 – November 2, 1996) was born in West Virginia and spent her childhood in St Paul, Minnesota.
Her married name was Marceni Lyle Stone Alberga. Alberga, a man 40 years her senior, like her parents was not in favor of Stone playing professional baseball. “He would have stopped me if he could,” Stone later said. “But he couldn’t.”
As a teenager she played with the local boys’ teams in her hometown. During World War II she moved to San Francisco, playing first with an All-American Girls Pro Baseball League (AAGPBL) American Legion team, then moving to the San Francisco Sea Lions, a Black, semi-pro barnstorming team; she drove in two runs in her first at-bat.
The AAGPBL was segregated throughout it’s 12 year existence even though their male counterparts integrated in 1947, their fifth year of play. 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 switched 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 Black Press reported that she made several unassisted double plays, and batted.265.
Stone was quite proud of the fact that the male players were out to get her. She would show off the scars on her left wrist and remember the time she had been spiked by a runner trying to take out the woman standing on second base. ‘He was out,’ she recalled.
In 1953, the Indianapolis Clowns, signed Stone to play second base, a position that had been recently vacated when the Boston Braves signed Hank Aaron. This contract made Stone 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. Having a woman 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.
When Syd Pollack, the owner of The Clowns asked her to play in a skirt, she refused! She also would not consent to play in shorts and made it clear that she would dress in the same uniforms as her male teammates did.
Toni had her moments, none more memorable than the exhibition game in Omaha on Easter Sunday in 1953, when the opposing pitcher strolled through the Clowns’ locker room mockingly asking the players how they would like him to pitch to them, slow, medium or fast.
”Any way you like,” Stone told him after she had dressed in the umpire’s locker room. ”Just don’t hit me.”
It was, as she never tired of recalling, a fastball he delivered that she hit over the pitcher’s head into center field. She was so excited she could barely make it to first base. No wonder.
The pitcher was Satchel Paige and hers was the only hit off him that day.
In 1954, her contract was sold to the Kansas City Monarchs, one of the stronger teams in the Negro League.
The woman who broke the sex barrier in baseball played in men’s amateur leagues until she was 60. Satchel Paige would have approved.
She was delighted in 1985 to be inducted into the Women’s Sports Foundation International Sports Hall fo Fame.
Toni Stone died of heart failure at age 75, in Alameda California. A baseball field in her hometown of St. Paul was dedicated in her memory in 1997.