On this day, July 17, 1921, batter Toni “tomboy” Stone, was born in Saint Paul Minnesota. Stone was the first of three women to play professionally in the Negro Baseball Leagues. As a child, Stone loved to play ball, but her parents did not approve of her behavior. They tried to solve the problem by having the local priest talk her out of liking baseball. However, by the end of their conversation, Father Keith had asked Stone to play on his team in the Catholic Midget League.
By age 15, Stone was working her way to earning a reputation as a very talented female baseball player. She started playing with the Twin City Colored Giants, a traveling men’s baseball club, and played for clubs competing in the men’s meat packing league. During the 1940s, Stone moved to San Francisco and shortly after started playing with an American Legion club. In 1949, she joined the San Francisco Sea Lions, a Minor League Negro Team and then played for the New Orleans Creole’s for a couple years as well. Playing for these teams gave her exposure to high profile managers and team owners.
In 1953, Stone’s talent finally paid off and she signed with the Indianapolis Clowns. She was brought onto the team to bring more fans to the games, but she worked hard to show she was there for more than that. Stone appeared in 50 games that year and got a hit off the legendary pitcher, Satchel Paige. She also had the chance to play with some excellent young players, including Willie Mays and Ernie Banks.
Stone’s time with the Clowns was brief, and playing as a woman was not always easy. She was insulted by fans and sometimes even teammates, who refused to accept that a female was competing in a “men’s” game. Her opponents showed her little respect as well, often coming hard at her on a slide with their spikes pointed up. After the Clowns, Stone was traded to the Kansas City Monarchs, but due to her age she was unable to play much longer. At the end of the year she retired from baseball, leaving behind an unforgettable history.
Marketing and Communications Intern
1. Toni Stone becomes the first female on an all-male baseball team. Credit: Big Head Books
2. Toni Stone shaking hands with legendary boxer Joe Lewis. Credit: Minnesota Historical Society
3. A record of the Indianapolis Clowns roster. Credit: Library of Congress
4. Toni Stone playing ball for the Creoles. Credit: Public Domain
More authored by Katie: Planning your visit Friday, July 10, Misty Copland- First African-American woman promoted at the American Ballet Theatre, #FlameFriday: Remembering Officer Kim, and Freedmen's Bureau Indexing Campaign.