The Remarkable Story of Toni Stone, the First Woman to Play Professional Baseball in the Negro League
Written by: Martha Ackman
Narrated by: April Matthis
Rating: 1 – Everyone should know this story and this woman’s tenacity
Being a big baseball fan, I was surprised I had never heard of Toni Stone (aka, Tom Boy Stone, and Marcenia Lyle Stone). How could such a compelling story of overcoming odds not be in the mainstream the way Jackie Robinson is.
This book is fascinating from the get-go as Toni’s own words describe her motivations, struggles, tenacity, and her love of the game. I tried to picture myself as a white male trying to make it in the baseball world. My cortisol level skyrockets, just thinking about trying to do that. Toni was fearless and didn’t care about the opinions of others. Sure she was disappointed when she was rejected for being a “woman in a man’s world” but she remained committed to the goal.
True comparisons of Toni are not possible as most of her stats weren’t recorded at that time. Journalists were covering white baseball and the black newspapers weren’t capable of following the traveling ballclubs that Toni played. However, I’m going to read this book again with my aspiring baseball/softball playing daughter so she’ll be aware of Toni’s efforts and dedication against all odds.
A sad anecdote from the book about the reaction from fans (white and black alike) when in 1985 Vince Coleman an outfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals made the following comment: “I don’t know nothin’ about him. Why are you asking me about Jackie Robinson?” Sadly, that’s actually the thoughts and attitudes of many, if they ever hear of Toni in the first place.
My favorite part was hearing that Toni was ostensibly an Oakland Athletics fan based on the story from Ernie Banks about seeing her at the ballgame.
Other works for consideration:
1. ESPN Article and interview with Martha Ackman
2. San Francisco Chronicle Article
3. Making My Pitch: A Woman’s Baseball Odyssey, by Ila Jane Borders
4. Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty, by Charles Leerhsen