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*Toni Stone’s birth in 1921 is celebrated on this date. She was a Black professional baseball player.
Born Marcenia Lyle Alberga in St. Paul, Minnesota, she began playing ball when she was 10 years old. As a teenager she played with the local boys' teams in her hometown. During World War II she moved to San Francisco, playing first with an AAGPBL American Legion team, then playing with the San Francisco Sea Lions, a Black, semi-pro barnstorming team; she drove in two runs in her first at-bat.
During the 1940's Stone changed her name to Toni Stone and dropped 10 years off her age to increase her appeal to a men's team. The AAGPBL was segregated throughout it's 12 year existence even though their male counterparts integrated in 1947, their fifth year of play. She didn't feel that the owner was paying her what they'd originally agreed on, so when the team played in New Orleans, she switched and joined the Black Pelicans. From there she went to the New Orleans Creoles, part of the Negro League minors, where she made $300 a month in 1949. The local Black Press reported that she made several unassisted double plays, and batted.265.
Over the years, many people tried to dissuaded her from the game, including her husband Aurelious Alberga who she married in 1950. He was a well-known San Francisco political player who was some 40 years her senior. In 1953, the Indianapolis Clowns, signed Stone to play second base, a position that had been recently vacated when the Boston Braves signed Hank Aaron. This contract made Stone the first woman to play in the Negro Leagues. The Clowns had begun as a gimmick team, much like the Harlem Globetrotters, known as much for their showmanship as their playing.
But by the '50s they had toned down their antics and were playing straight baseball. Having a woman on the team didn't hurt revenues, which had been declining steadily since Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the majors, and many young Black players left the Negro Leagues. Backed by some pretty good Clowns PR to showcase their new female player, Stone appeared in 50 games that year, hitting a respectable .243—a stretch that included getting a hit off the legendary pitcher, Satchel Paige. She also got the chance to play with some excellent young talent, including Willie Mays and Ernie Banks.
Stone's time with the Clowns was short. In 1954, her contract was sold to the Kansas City Monarchs, one of the stronger teams in the Negro Leagues. But a lack of playing time led Stone to retire that season. It proved to be a difficult adjustment for her. Age had finally caught up to the fleet-footed Stone.
After baseball, she worked as a nurse and spent the rest of her retirement life in Oakland. Eventually she earned the respect she'd long deserved from the baseball world. In 1993 she was inducted into the Women's Sports Hall of Fame in Long Island, New York. Toni Stone died on November 2nd 1996.
Minnesota Historical Society
345 W. Kellogg Blvd.
Saint Paul, MN 55102-1906