JEAN HASTINGS ARDELL
The Last Female Voice of
the Negro Leagues
You want to know what it's like
It's like going to bat
With two strikes
Already called on you.
—Waring Cuney, quoted in Harold Seymour, Baseball: The People's Game
JACKIE ROBINSON LIVED THOSE LINES ten years later, coming to bat with two metaphorical strikes—call them racial prejudice and the weight of tradition—against him. History has testified to his character and endurance in securing a place in Major League baseball. Yet as Robinson and the black players who followed him into white baseball succeeded, black fans were abandoning the Negro Leagues, which had been a source of pride and a cultural rallying place in black communities. During their struggle to survive in the early 1950s, the Leagues resorted to many types of marketing strategies. Which is how, six years after Robinson's history-making appearance, a skinny second baseman broke the gender line in the Negro Leagues. In 1953, the Indianapolis Clowns signed second baseman Toni—that's Toni with an I—Stone for $12,000. (In 1947, Jackie Robinson's first contract in Brooklyn was $5,000, the minimum Major League salary).1 And when the Kansas City Monarchs signed Stone away for the 1954 season, the Clowns signed two more women: Connie Morgan, who replaced Stone at second base, and a utility fielder/right-handed pitcher of Bobby Shantzian stature (5′4″, 120 pounds) named Mamie “Peanut” Johnson. Of this sorority of three, only Johnson survives.