Pro Baseball’s First Black Woman

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Toni Stone
Toni Stone (Courtesy of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum)

Toni Stone was the first black woman to play professional baseball in America.

Born and raised in Minnesota, Stone fell in love with the game at a young age. After playing for local teams, she joined minor league squads first in San Francisco, and then in New Orleans. And in 1953, she made history when she joined the Indianapolis Clowns, a professional team that was part of the Negro Leagues.

Toni Stone’s name is in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, Ohio. Her name is also in Martha Ackamn’s book Curveball—Stone’s biography.  And now her name is on a playbill in San Francisco. 

Toni Stone, a new play by Lydia Diamond, opens this week and runs through March 29th at San Francisco’s ACT Theatre. 

Ahead of the play, Diamond and I talked about Stone’s impact on the world of baseball, how Stone’s story parallels Diamond’s path to becoming a playwright, and why Stone’s story is important to tell right now. 

Rightnowish is an arts and culture podcast produced at KQED. Listen to it wherever you get your podcasts or click the play button at the top of this page.