Pioneer for women in pro baseball

By: Manny Randhawa | @MannyOnMLB

She was the first woman to play professional baseball regularly in a major men's professional baseball league. And the player she replaced at second base when she joined the Negro American League? None other than Hank Aaron.

Marcenia Lyle “Toni” Stone was a phenomenal athlete from her youth, and though she played football, basketball, golf, hockey and tennis, among other sports while growing up, baseball was the game in which she would leave an indelible imprint.

Aaron called Stone “a very good baseball player,” and another Hall of Famer, Cubs legend Ernie Banks, said Stone was “smooth” after seeing her play for the Kansas City Monarchs, for whom Banks also played, from 1950-53.

Here are some key points to know about Stone, who was a pioneer on many fronts through baseball.

• Stone was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on July 17, 1931. At 16 years of age, she joined the semi-pro Twin Cities Colored Giants club, which had been an all-male team.

• Stone began her professional career with the San Francisco Sea Lions of the West Coast Negro Baseball League in 1946. By 1949, she had moved east and began playing for the New Orleans Black Pelicans and the New Orleans Creoles of the Negro Southern League.

• In 1953, Stone joined the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American League. The club had recently lost its second baseman, Aaron, to the Milwaukee Braves. Stone became his successor there as he went on to a Hall of Fame career featuring 755 home runs, second on the career home run list. That year, Stone also reportedly got a hit off the greatest pitcher in Negro League history, Satchel Paige.

• Stone retired from professional baseball following the 1954 season, one she spent with the Kansas City Monarchs after having her contract sold by Indianapolis following the ’53 campaign. She hit .243 over her two seasons in the Negro American League.

• In 1990, Stone was included in the “Women in Baseball” and “Negro League Baseball” exhibits at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Three years later, she was inducted into the Women’s Sports Hall of Fame and the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame.

• In 1990, Stone’s hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota declared March 6 “Toni Stone Day” in the city.

• Stone died on November 2, 1996 at the age of 75, but her legacy lives on today. An off-broadway play was produced about her life by award-winning playwright Lydia R. Diamond, entitled “Toni Stone.”