Curveball: The Remarkable Story of Toni Stone the First Woman to Play Professional Baseball in the Negro League

Overview

From the time she was a girl growing up in the shadow of Lexington Park in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Toni Stone knew she wanted to play professional baseball. There was only one problem--every card was stacked against her. Curveball tells the inspiring story of baseball’s “female Jackie Robinson,” a woman whose ambition, courage, and raw talent propelled her from ragtag teams barnstorming across the Dakotas to playing in front of large crowds at Yankee Stadium. Toni Stone was the first woman to play professional ...

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Overview

From the time she was a girl growing up in the shadow of Lexington Park in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Toni Stone knew she wanted to play professional baseball. There was only one problem--every card was stacked against her. Curveball tells the inspiring story of baseball’s “female Jackie Robinson,” a woman whose ambition, courage, and raw talent propelled her from ragtag teams barnstorming across the Dakotas to playing in front of large crowds at Yankee Stadium. Toni Stone was the first woman to play professional baseball on men’s teams.  After Robinson integrated the major leagues and other black players slowly began to follow, Stone seized an unprecedented opportunity to play professional baseball in the Negro League. She replaced Hank Aaron as the star infielder for the Indianapolis Clowns and later signed with the legendary Kansas City Monarchs. Playing alongside some of the premier athletes of all time including Ernie Banks, Willie Mays, Buck O’Neil, and Satchel Paige, Toni let her talent speak for itself. Curveball chronicles Toni Stone’s remarkable career facing down not only fastballs, but jeers, sabotage, and Jim Crow America as well. Her story reveals how far passion, pride, and determination can take one person in pursuit of a dream.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Toni 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From the Publisher

"A fine addition for all baseball shelves."  —Library Journal

"What makes Curveball stand out are the moving stories of racism faced by the black players, and Stone encountered more of it than most."  —Publishers Weekly

"Expertly captures Stone's significant life and the impressive strength of her will."  —Kirkus

"Martha Ackmann's biography of Toni Stone is three stories in one—of barnstorming baseball, the insidious Jim Crow era of segregation, and gender bias by blacks and whites. They are stories worth reading."  —Larry Tye, author, Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend

"Wow! Martha Ackmann has done a wonderful job telling the story of Toni Stone, this remarkable woman. There are no tears, no quit, no despair in baseball. Stand tall, keep your eyes on the Prize. SWING!"  —Nikki Giovanni

"We need to know [Toni Stone's] story, and in Martha Ackmann's capable hands, we do. From this time forward it will be impossible to overlook Stone or her heroic contribution to both the National Pastime and the cause of women's rights."  —Glenn Stout, author, Young Woman and the Sea: How Trudy Ederle Conquered the English Channel and Inspired the World; editor, The Best American Sports Writing 2009

"Curveball is an eloquent and a necessary work. Toni Stone's life and this book are both wonders to behold."  —Dayn Perry, columnist, FOXSports.com, and author, Reggie Jackson: The Life and Thunderous Career of Baseball's Mr. October

"Martha Ackmann has lovingly introduced us to someone in baseball whom almost none of us ever knew existed. We should thank her for that introduction to the indomitable Toni Stone and for guiding us to a forgotten place in the sport's history."  —Frank Deford, columnist, Sports Illustrated, and author, Bliss, Remembered

VOYA - Christina Fairman
Toni Stone (1921-1996) was a phenomenal baseball player whose skill frequently evoked comparisons to Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. During much of her career, however, Major League Baseball and the All-American Girls' Professional Baseball League refused to hire African-Americans. Black players competed in their own leagues that ranged from local barnstorming teams to the Negro League. Often marketed as an oddity, fans who came to games to gawk at a woman on the field quickly realized that Stone was a serious player who refused to be treated differently because of her gender. Through her early years in ragtag regional teams to her eventual place on the Negro League Indianapolis Clowns—where she was hired to replace Hank Aaron—Stone lived her life as a tough player who simply loved the game. This book conveys with intelligence the personal and professional life of Stone during an era of tremendous racial and gender-based discrimination. It also examines in remarkable detail the fascinating world of mid-century black baseball. In fact, this really should have been two books. Occasionally, the narrative of Toni Stone fades into the background as the author explores tangential facts that, while interesting in terms of baseball history or civil rights, have limited relevance to the immediate story of Stone's life. Nevertheless, the wealth of information concerning baseball history, civil rights and women's history makes it a worthwhile choice for schools and libraries. Reviewer: Christina Fairman
Kirkus Reviews
The life and times of a black woman determined to play professional baseball amid the racism and sexism of midcentury America. To the young Toni Stone (1921-1996), who grew up in St. Paul, Minn., baseball was "like a drug." It was all she wanted to do, and she was as good, if not better, than most boys. She played where she could and at age 16 began her professional career with the barnstorming Twin City Colored Giants, experiencing the rough-and-tumble life of semi-pro baseball. She also learned to play the game better, and in 1943 she moved to San Francisco to join the prestigious San Francisco Sea Lions. From the Sea Lions she moved on to the New Orleans Creoles, and there faced the daily humiliations of the Jim Crow South. Throughout her early career, Stone also had to prove that she was not a circus sideshow but a player of high skill, and her talents eventually led her to the Negro League, the pinnacle of black baseball. However, times were slowly changing, signaled by Jackie Robinson's signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, and the Negro League was dying. Stone ended her professional career in 1955, but played and coached until her death. Ackmann offers a multilayered narrative, telling the personal story of Stone, bringing to life the joys and frustrations of black baseball and effectively evoking the racial hatred and sexist disdain of the time. Other black players of her era-Henry Aaron, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks-went on to greatness in the big leagues, but age and gender denied Stone this chance. She played nonetheless and, as she once said, worked hard to "find the heart of the game."Expertly captures Stone's significant life and the impressive strength of her will.
Library Journal
After top players from the Negro Leagues were able to follow Jackie Robinson into the majors, Negro League owners looked for new ways to draw attendance. In 1953, Marcenia Lyle "Toni" Stone was hired by the Indianapolis Clowns to replace Hank Aaron at second base. Author Ackmann (gender studies, Mount Holyoke Coll.) didn't get to meet Stone, who died in 1996, but she draws out Stone's story through the periodical record and her own interviews with surviving colleagues. The story of a woman given a chance to pursue her dream of being a pro ball player, yet aware that she was being used as a gate attraction, shunned by many teammates and so often alone, reminds us of how far we've come but also of how far we still have to go. A fine addition for all baseball shelves.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781556527968
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/1/2010
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 983,010
  • Product dimensions: 6.48 (w) x 9.52 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

Martha Ackmann is a journalist and the author of the award-winning The Mercury 13: The True Story of Thirteen Women and the Dream of Space Flight. Her sports commentary has appeared in the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and on National Public Radio's Only a Game. She has held fellowships and grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and the Society for American Baseball Research. She teaches in the gender studies department at Mount Holyoke College.

 

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