Baseball – Gentleman’s Sport
America’s sport baseball was formed with the distinction of being a gentleman’s sport. It was a sport that allowed men to play with a bat, a ball, and to run the bases to score. There were obstacles such as striking out, fouls, and getting caught out by the opposing team player. During times of war, it quickly became a favorite sport among Americans because of the length of the game. The time it was played in, usually the summer time and how it helped Americans to take their minds off of other things going on at that time. During this time period, baseball was considered a sport only for men. This had become America’s game, a game that united all: young, old, white, black, men, and women. That was until a woman, who had such a love for the sport, was recruited to play it with other players, male players, but was met with resistance at many different avenues. Just as Major League baseball was becoming integrated in 1947, this female player was not looking to make a statement but to be given a chance to play a game when the opportunity presented itself. There was discrimination, segregation, and racism, as well as harsh criticism from all around. Then sexism reared its ugly head as two other women signed contracts to play in the Negro League in 1949. These ladies were not looking to make a statement but to be given a chance to play a game when the opportunity presented itself. At a time when women were usually expected to be wives, mothers, or maids, these women just wanted a chance to play a game that was closes to their hearts, baseball.
The Negro league was formed from the reality the other races were not allowed to play on Major League teams. It was not a written rule but yet an unwritten rule in which white men did not want to play with other races.
During this time of war, many players were shipped off to fight in a war representing the branches of the military. There were not many players left to play a decent game of baseball. To satisfy America’s need for baseball, a number of managers formed the idea to create a league in which women will be able to play baseball. Many of the women were invited to try out to form the teams for the league, but women of other races were not allowed on the field for an opportunity to try out for a team due to prejudices and discrimination being a common place at this time. The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) just to try to keep the game of baseball alive until the real heroes of the sport returned from war.
Many baseball team managers made attempts to integrate the world of Major League Baseball and were unsuccessful. Around the 1940’s, Branch Rickey, manager for the Brooklyn Dodgers decided that it was time for baseball to be integrated. Tryouts were held in which many Negro League players were invited to come. Rickey chose who he thought would be a perfect fit to handle the racial slurs, and criticism from reporters, fans, and players from his team as well as others teams. He decided to sign Jackie Robinson to a contract with the minor league team, the Montreal Royals. On April 15, 1947, he made his debut playing first base with the Brooklyn Dodgers, making him the first black player in Major League Baseball.
Branch Rickey was a well-known manager for baseball teams as the St. Louis Browns, the St. Louis Cardinals, the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the Pittsburgh Pirates. He saw how baseball had an unwritten rule since the 1880s not allowing other races to play baseball in the Major League. There was no statute officially banning blacks from baseball, only a universally recognized unwritten rule which no club owner was prepared to break that was perpetuated by a culturally deep-seated racism as well as the desire by club owners that supposed to be representing the values and beliefs of everyday American white men. Rickey made it clear in his first meeting with Jackie Robinson that he anticipated wide-scale resistance both inside and outside baseball to opening its doors to African-Americans (Negroes). As predicted by Rickey, right from the start Robinson faced obstacles among his teammates and other teams’ players. No matter how harsh the white people were towards Robinson, he could not retaliate. Robinson had agreed with Rickey not to lose his temper and jeopardize the chances of all the blacks who would follow him if he could help break down the barriers.
Jack Roosevelt (Jackie) Robinson was a player who was used to playing integrated sports at Pasadena Junior College and the University of Southern California. After completing a military career in the Army, he accepted a position as an athletic director at Samuel Huston College. In early 1945, the Kansas City Monarchs sent him a written offer to play professional baseball in the Negro leagues for $400 per month. During the season, Robinson pursued potential major league interests. In the mid-1940s, Branch Rickey, club president and general manager for the Brooklyn Dodgers, began scouting the Negro league players for a possible addition to the Dodgers’ roster. No black man had played in the major leagues since Moses Fleetwood Walker in 1884. The Boston Red Sox baseball club held a tryout at Fenway Park for Robinson and other black players on April 16, 1944. Rickey selected Robinson from a list of promising black players and interviewed him for possible assignment to the Brooklyn Dodgers minor league team, the Montreal Royals. After obtaining a commitment from Robinson to “”turn the other cheek”” to racial hatred, Rickey agreed to sign him to a contract for $600 a month. October 23,1945 it was made public that Robinson will be playing in the 1946 season with the Montreal Royals. Although he required Robinson to keep the commitment a secret at that time, Rickey committed to formally signing Robinson on November 1, 1945. In 1947, the Dodgers called Robinson up from the minor league Montreal Royals to the major leagues six days before the start of the season. Robinson made his major league debut at the relatively advanced age of 28 at Ebbets Field on April 15, 1946 before a crowd of 26,623 spectators, more than 14,000 of whom were black.
With many of the Negro League players being allowed to play in the Major Leagues, the spectators were decreasing at a rapid pace. The manager came up with the idea to have women to play only as a road side attraction. But he was wrong when he chose ladies who were not attractions but real players and could outplay some of the men.
Marcenia Lyle (Toni “”Tomboy””) Stone was born in Bluefield, West Virginia on July 17, 1921. The family later moved to St. Paul, Minneapolis when she was 10 years old. This is where her love for the game of baseball began. At age 10 she played in a league sponsored by a cereal company. At age 15 she played with the St. Paul Giants, a men’s semiprofessional team. After graduating from high school, Stone moved to California to live with her sister. She soon began playing center field for the American Legion team. She later began playing with the San Francisco Sea Lions, of the West Coast League, where her batting average was .280 (280 hits out of 1000). Tomboy (later shortened to Toni), as she was called by then, became the first professional female baseball player when she was recruited by the manager of the New Orleans Creoles, a Negro Minor League team, in 1946 to do barnstorming across the country. At the advice of her husband, Aurelious Alberga, Stone shave 10 years off her age to get around the League’s age restriction. With the help of the league, a story was fabricated that she attended Macalester College when she never graduated high school made her more marketable. Stone secured a position with the Negro League All Star team. In 1949 she began playing second base for the minor league New Orleans Creoles. In 1953 she joined the Indianapolis Clowns to fill the second-base position vacated by hank Aaron when he joined the Milwaukee Braves. She signed a seasonal contract for $400 a month. Toni Stone was traded to the another team and ended her baseball career a year later. In her later years she worked as a nurse, mainly caring for her husband, Aurelious Alberga (some 40 years her senior), until he died in 1987. Toni Stone died Nov. 10, 1996 in Alameda, California, known as an American baseball player who, as a member of the Negro American League’s Indianapolis Clowns, was the first woman to ever play professional baseball as a regular on a big-league team.
Minor league manager named Gabby Street.
Street managed the St. Paul Saints, the city’s minor league team, and was a former minor league player himself. More important, he was the director of a local baseball school for boys. Stone would watch him while he coached at a park near her house, taking closer and closer steps toward the field, straining to hear his instruction. One day, she approached him and asked to join his program. He said no. She came back. He said no. She came back. “”I just couldn’t get rid of her until I gave her a chance,”” he recalled. “”Every time I chased her away, she would go around the corner and come back to plague me again.”” Street eventually let her join, telling her, as Stone recalled to Ebony, to get on the field “”and show those boys up.””
What the persistent teenager didn’t know was that not only was Street’s program intentionally all-boys it was also intentionally all-white. Street belonged to the Ku Klux Klan and had a well-documented history of racism throughout his career. As Martha Ackmann writes in Curveball, her biography of Stone, Street’s acceptance of Stone wasn’t necessarily at odds with his racism: “”He could make an exception for one black girl who seemed obsessed with baseball without re-evaluating his own racist attitudes toward all black citizens.”” (Jackson, n.d.)