Continuing their celebration of Black History Month, Google has dedicated a Doodle on their homepage to Toni Stone, the first woman to play baseball in a professional league.
Life of Toni Stone
Marcenia Lyle Stone was born on July 17, 1921 in Bluefield, West Virginia as the daughter of a World War I veteran. At the age of 10, Stone and her family moved to St. Paul, Minnesota. It was here, playing with the neighborhood kids, that she discovered a love of baseball.
While her parents sought for Stone to play other sports, particularly those that were considered more “ladylike,” her talents and enthusiasm were focused on baseball. At times, her love of baseball saw her skip school to play, though she would still educate herself at the library.
Stone was able to get her first start in baseball through the local Catholic school’s equivalent of a Little League team, which at the time was a boys’ team. As the team’s coach was unwilling to teach what she needed to know, Stone would instead watch a nearby baseball school as they practiced. At 16, she was able to turn baseball into a source of income, playing for the Twin City Colored Giants, another all-male team, at a rate of about $2 per game.
Later, in 1943, she Stone moved to San Francisco, where she took on the name “Toni.” That year, Toni Stone began playing for an American Legion Baseball team, albeit by lying about her age, as the teams were only open to teenagers.
At the time, integration was only just beginning for professional baseball in America, with Black players forced to play on what were called “Negro Leagues.” And despite the existence of new organizations like the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, formed to keep the tradition of baseball alive while the men were fighting in World War II, Black women were not permitted to join.
Instead, in 1949, Toni Stone fought to join the San Francisco Sea Lions, a professional baseball team that was part of the short-lived West Coast Negro Baseball Association. Her time there was short lived, as she found that she was being paid less than her teammates.
From the end of the 1949 season through 1952, Stone played with a semi-pro team, the New Orleans Creoles, whose owner saw her talent and potential when his team played against the Sea Lions. With the Creoles, Toni Stone found the national recognition that she was reportedly looking for, allowing her to show that women could play baseball just as well as men and that Black players were just as good as everyone else.
In 1953, Toni Stone joined the Indianapolis Clowns to play second base, replacing acclaimed player Hank Aaron in the lineup. According to stats from that year, via The Athletic, Stone at one point had a batting average of .364, ranking her fourth highest in the league. The next season, 1954, was Stone’s last, during which she played for the Kansas City Monarchs, though she spent most of that season on the bench.
After her baseball career, Stone moved to Oakland, California to be with her husband. Toni Stone died on November 2, 1995 at the age of 75.
Toni Stone Google Doodle
The animated Doodle honoring Toni Stone was commissioned by Google from San Francisco based artist Monique Wray. In it, we see Stone in her uniform for the Indianapolis Clowns, hopping up to catch a ball just before an opposing team’s player reaches her base. In true Google Doodle fashion, the scoreboard in the background spells out “Google.”
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