In honor of Black History Month, a story of strength worth talking about year-round.
Marcenia Lyle “Toni” Stone grew up playing baseball with the neighborhood kids, quickly earning the nickname Tomboy Stone. She was the first girl to land a position in the St. Peter Claver Catholic Church boys’ baseball team and went on to become the first of three women to become professional baseball players.
In 1953, Stone signed with the professional ‘Negro American League’ team, the Indianapolis Clowns. While she was recruited, in part, to sell tickets (the manager wanted her to wear a skirt, which she refused), her batting average was .243 — the fourth highest in the league that year. She’d earned her place.
Being a female POC in a male-dominated industry was no joke in the 1950s, but she didn’t let people push her around. She’d brandish the scars on her left wrist to remind people of the time she’d been spiked by a player trying to take her out at second base.
“People weren’t ready for me,” she famously said.
She’d argue with the umpire and get in shoving matches when opponents tried to slight her on the field. Essentially, she was saying, “This is how you treat me. And despite that, I’m still doing this.”
She went on to play for the Kansas City Monarchs before eventually getting fed up with the environment, returning back to California to coach and play semi-professional baseball. While this was the end of her professional career, she had proved that a woman’s place was wherever she pleased. And one of those places is on the field with the guys.
Many years later, Stone was given the recognition she deserved. In 1993, she was featured in two exhibits at the Baseball Hall of Fame and the city of St. Louis named March 6th “Toni Stone Day”.
Toni Stone died in Alameda, California, in 1996.