working mornings typically feature the sound
of NPR softly strumming the resonant crannies
of my east Dallas home. This particular morning,
while half-listening to Fresh Air, my ears
up when I heard Terry Gross say the words "First
female professional baseball player".
I'm almost ashamed to say that I had never heard of Toni Stone, who began playing
in the Negro Leagues back in 1953. She's the subject of a new book called Curveball,
which was the focus of Ms. Gross' interview today. It was a fascinating half-hour
and rather than bore you with my own take on this extraordinary person I'll try
to pique your curiosity with Ms. Stone's New York Times obituary:
"Toni Stone, a scrappy
second baseman who became a footnote to baseball
history in 1953 as a member of the Negro League's
Indianapolis Clowns when she became
the first woman to play as a regular on a big-league professional team, died
on Nov. 2 at a nursing home in Alameda, Calif. She was 75 and had lived in Oakland,
Calif., for many years.
The cause was heart failure, a friend said.
She was, by her own account, a tomboy who grew up to be a ''big, sassy girl.''
When Syd Pollock, the Clowns' owner (and a sometime business partner of Abe Saperstein,
the owner of the clowning Harlem Globetrotters), decided he needed a woman on
the Clowns to help attract fans, it was hardly surprising that he chose the 5-foot-7
1/2-inch, 148-pound St. Paul native who had been playing baseball with the boys
since she was a girl and with the men ever since.
Indeed, although she was listed as 22 when she signed with the Clowns, Marcenia
Lyle Stone was 32 and had been playing minor league ball with men for years,
at first with the barnstorming San Francisco Sea Lions and later with the New
She began playing on the sandlots of St. Paul, becoming so proficient that Gabby
Street, a former major league catcher and St. Louis Cardinals manager who was
managing a minor league team in St. Paul, bought her a pair of spikes and let
her attend his baseball camp.
After playing with semipro teams in St. Paul, Stone went to stay with a sister
in San Francisco, married a man 40 years her senior and continued to play baseball,
adopting the name Toni.
Although she did well in the minors, she would never have made the higher level
if Jackie Robinson had not broken the color barrier in 1947. Six years later,
the Negro leagues were in serious decline.
What may have prompted Pollock to look for a novelty in 1953 was that just the
year before, the Boston Braves had snatched away a teen-age prospect named Hank
Aaron. Stone was glad to oblige Pollock -- up to a point. No, she told the owner,
she would not play in a skirt, or in shorts, for that matter."
You can read the rest of the obituary here.
And I hope you do.
See anything you like?
This is some of the latest fine art squeezed through the third
eye of my dear chum Jose Cruz. As you might guess he has a "thing" about
women's foundation garments.
This 48"-square mixed-media composition is titled "Sitting Pretty" and
is the featured piece, if you'll pardon the expression, of
the "Drawing From Life" exhibition at the Mary
Tomas Gallery in Dallas, Texas. If you happen to be in the area on Saturday,
October 16, drop by after 6PM for the gala opening. Bring the kids as there'll
be cookies and milk for everyone. The address is 1110 Dragon Street, just west
If you're curious you can view more of Jose's fine art work here and loads of
his el fabuloso illustrative
Addendum: I want to thank CIDU Bill at comicsidontunderstand.com for taking
bait in this cartoon's rollover mesage.
Just to be clear, when I said "six weeks" in the rollover I was referring to
the fact that just after the election no one's going to give fat crap about
anything Meg Whitman said.