Toni Stone (1921-1996)

Toni Stone
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Marcenia Lyle “Toni” Stone Alberga was the first of three African American women to play professionally in the Negro Leagues. She was born on July 17, 1921, in Bluefield, West Virginia. Her parents, Willa and Boykin Stone, moved the family to St. Paul, Minnesota, when she was ten years old. In her youth, she developed a love of sports, including track and field, ice skating, and baseball. At one point, her parents invited a local Catholic priest over to talk her out of playing baseball, but instead the priest invited her to play with his team in the Catholic Midget League, the St. Peter Clavers. Stone attended Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis but dropped out by the age of fifteen. She first played second base with the all-male Twin Cities Colored Giants semi-pro team, a local barnstorming club that traveled around the Midwest and Canada.

During the 1936-1937 season, Stone worked out with the St. Paul Saints of the American Baseball Association. She moved to the California Bay Area to care for her sister Bunny and lived there from 1937 to 1946. She worked at a shipyard in the daytime as a forklift operator, and at night, she worked at a cafeteria. While in San Francisco, Stone played for the Wall Post American Legion Team and the San Francisco Sea Lions in the West Coast Negro Baseball League, making about $200 to $300 a month. In 1949, she played a season with the New Orleans Creoles but left to play with the Black Pelicans, another Louisiana team.

Toni Stone married Aurelious Pescia Alberga, a man forty years her senior, in 1950. Although Alberga did not approve of his wife playing baseball, she continued to play. In 1953, Stone became the first woman to play professional baseball in the Negro League when she signed with the Indianapolis Clowns, a team with a reputation like the Harlem Globetrotters. She dropped ten years off of her birthday and claimed she had a master’s degree to add to her appeal. During the season, she even hit a single off Satchel Paige. Stone appeared in fifty games in her first season but was traded during the off-season to the Kansas City Monarchs. After the 1953-1954 season with the Monarchs, Stone retired from professional baseball, finishing her career with a batting average of .243.

In 1990, St. Paul, Minnesota, Stone’s adopted hometown, declared March 6 “Toni Stone Day.” The city also named a baseball field in her honor in 1996. Toni Stone Field is located in the Dunning Baseball Complex, near the neighborhood where Stone grew up. She was inducted into the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame (1993) and posthumously into the Minnesota Sports Hall of Fame (2021).

Toni Stone cared for her husband Aurelious until his death in 1987 at the age of 103. Toni Stone died of heart failure on November 2, 1996, in Oakland, California.