Searle: Toni Stone and bringing women back to professional baseball

From Ginny Searle at Baseball Prospectus on July 24, 2019:

One of the most striking vignettes in A League of Their Own is scarcely a quarter-minute long: a ball rolls away from Dottie Hinson, stopping near a well-dressed Black woman, segregated from the action (with a group of Black men and women) in a smattering of seats in right field. The woman watches the ball quizzically as its momentum arrests, then walks to it, fluidly picking up the baseball but waiting with it until Hinson (Geena Davis’ character) motions for the ball “right here.” The unnamed woman whips the ball back home, a strike from 200 feet that stings Hinson’s glove hand. She looks at the other woman as if in shock, and her gaze is met with a knowing smile.

The scene neatly illustrates the blind spot of the “league of their own,” simultaneously highlighting the glaring whiteness of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League and rebutting as spurious the notion that Black women who showed “promise of exceptional ability” were not evident in the years of AAGPBL’s existence (1943-1954). Of course, even had the league opened its rosters to Black women, no one was coercing Toni Stone into a skirt.

“Professional” was, to Toni Stone, always the sort of word which gleamed with magical possibility. “Her highest praise,” it was the sobriquet young “Tomboy” Stone appended to baseball cleats she saw in store windows, but her working-class family could never afford, growing up in St. Paul, Minnesota. Still, the glove Stone bought in her youth at a Goodwill for 25 cents stayed with her throughout her playing career just as well as the cleats former big leaguer (and baseball school proprietor) Gabby Street gifted her after her dogged determination to be afforded a shot wormed her way into his favor.

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Originally published: July 24, 2019. Last Updated: July 24, 2019.