NEW ORLEANS (BRPROUD) — Pioneer Marcenia Lyle Stone, also known as Toni Stone, was the first woman to play baseball in the Negro Leagues, and the first woman to play professionally in a men’s league. She was born in Bluefield, West Virginia in 1931.

Her parents wanted her to focus on sports that were more “ladylike” but Stone was solely focused on baseball.

At 15 she was brought on to the roster of the all-male semi-pro, Twin Cities Colored Giants, in a move that broke gender restrictions.

In 1946, she began her professional baseball career with the San Fransisco Sea Lions of the West Coast Negro Baseball League. A few years later in 1949, she moved east and began playing for the New Orleans Black Pelicans and the New Orleans Creoles of the Negro Southern League.

With the Creoles, Toni Stone found the national recognition 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, Stone had a batting average of .364, ranking her fourth highest in the league. That same year, Stone was able to get a hit right over second base from the ‘greatest pitcher in Negro League history,’ Satchel Paige.

The year 1954 was Stone’s last season in the league, during which she played for the Kansas City Monarchs, though she spent most of that season on the bench.

She was inducted into the Women’s Sports Hall of Fame and the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1993.

She died on Nov. 2, 1996, at the age of 75.

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