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Publishers WeeklyToni Stone was 32 when she joined the Indianapolis Clowns, becoming the first woman to play in the Negro Leagues, and laying claim to the second base position recently ceded by Hank Aaron, who had moved on to the majors. Before then, Stone had spent years playing semi-pro and participating in barnstorming tours (the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, made famous by the movie A League of Their Own, didn't allow black women). Stone stayed in the Negro Leagues only two years, posting less than spectacular numbers, and Ackmann has a hard time supporting her claim that her presence wasn't first and foremost a publicity stunt. What makes Curveball stand out are the moving stories of racism faced by the black players, and Stone encountered more of it than most: while traveling, she often had to sleep in brothels while her male teammates, also barred from hotels, slept in boarding houses. Records of Stone's games and life are scant (she died in 1996), and Ackmann has done her research, but in the end, conjecture, filler, and footnotes rob the book of intimacy and excitement.
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