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Toni Stone is a name that is unfamiliar to many of us. She was the first woman to play professional baseball in the United States, and she was a Black woman. In celebrating Black History Month, Google has designed a Google Doodle depicting Stone to honor her legacy.
The altered image shows Stone catching a ground-up from 2nd base, then throwing to the 1st baseman to end the opposing team’s at-bat. Monique Wray, an illustrator, and animator based in San Francisco created the Doodle.
Despite there being a women’s baseball league, racism kept Stone from joining. According to the All American Girls Professional Baseball League’s official Rules of Conduct, the players had to adhere to strict standards of femininity and beauty “No Blacks Allowed” was an unofficial rule.
Meanwhile, there was no professional baseball league for Black women. Stone’s only option would be to join the negro leagues, all men; so, she did.
She played second base for the Indianapolis Clowns in 1953, a position Hank Aaron occupied before joining the Milwaukee Braves. Notably, Aaron’s career ranks among the greatest in baseball history.
Her Struggles as the Only Woman in the League
As the first female baseball player in the league, Stone was met with no enthusiasm despite facing the same racism as her male counterparts.
However, playing baseball was her passion. Stone was therefore willing to tolerate sexist remarks.
“She’d better stick to knitting and home cooking,” Bunny Downs, manager of the Indianapolis Clowns allegedly once said. “Go home and fix your husband some biscuits.”
“It was hell,” she recalls.
Toni had no locker room at games and often used the umpire’s room when it was available.
Players even ask Stone to wear a skirt while playing but she says no. She earned the nickname “Tomboy” because she preferred pants to women’s clothing while on the field.
The Kansas City Monarchs benched her for most of the time, next to the men who disliked the idea of a woman being on their team. Nevertheless, she remained unfazed and, during an exhibition game in 1953, struck out on a fastball thrown by Satchel Paige.
Stone also played for the San Francisco Sea Lions where she discovered that she was paid less than her male colleagues. In addition, she played for The New Orleans Creoles.
Toni Stone’s Legacy
The Negro League Baseball Players Association calls her one of the greatest players “you have never heard of.” Two exhibits on “Women in Baseball” and “Negro League Baseball” accompanied her to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1990.
In addition, Stone was elected to the Women’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1993, as well as the Minnesota Sports Hall of fame in 2020.