Tomboy

“I had to play. I had to find the heart of the game.” 

“She was a very good baseball player,” — Hank

Toni was a pro and “smooth,” — Ernie

Hank Aaron, some people have argued, is the best baseball player ever.  So Hank knew what he was talking about.

Mister Cub, Ernie Banks, one of the top baseball players in the 50’s, no doubt.

But she knew she was good, good enough to play with the best: including Satchel.

‘He was so good that he’d ask batters where they wanted it, just so they’d have a chance. He’d ask, “You want it high? You want it low? You want it right in the middle? Just say.” People still couldn’t get a hit against him. So I get up there and he says, “Hey T., how do you like it?” And I said, “It doesn’t matter, just don’t hurt me.” When he wound up — he had these big old feet — all you could see was his shoe. I stood there shaking, but I got a hit. Right out over second base. Happiest moment in my life.’ — Toni Stone.

Baseball.  For the love of the game.

She put up with all the abuse and non-support, just to compete at the highest level of baseball she could attain.

During segregation, if you were a young African American woman and you wanted to play second base more than anything else in the world, you were in for a rough ride.  -Ackmann, Martha (2010-06-01). Curveball

Toni Stone, Crafter Artisan, (July 17, 1921 – November 2, 1996), also known by her married name Marcenia Lyle Alberga, was the first of three women to play Negro league baseball.

Toni Stone graduated from Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She married Aurelious Alberga, a man forty years her elder and one of the many people who did not want her playing baseball. She had always been referred to as a “tomboy” growing up and consequently received the nickname “Toni” because it sounded like “tomboy”. She enjoyed the name and eventually adopted it as her own. ”I loved my trousers. I love cars. Most of all I loved to ride horses with no saddles. I wasn’t classified. People weren’t ready for me,” she said. [Wikipedia, revised]

Actually, Toni, if people knew Temperament, you would have been “classified” of American character and Temperament: Crafter Artisan.

The nature of Crafters is most clearly seen in their masterful operation of tools, equipment, machines, and instruments of all kinds. Most us use tools in some capacity, of course, but Crafters (as much as ten percent of the population) are the true masters of tool work, with an innate ability to command tools and to become expert at all the crafts requiring tool skills. Even from an early age they are drawn to tools as if to a magnet — tools fall into their hands demanding use, and they must work with them.

Like all the Artisans, Crafters are people who love action, and who know instinctively that their activities are more enjoyable, and more effective, if done impulsively, spontaneously, subject to no schedules or standards but their own. In a sense, Crafters do not work with their tools, but play with them when the urge strikes them. Crafters also seek fun and games on impulse, looking for any opportunity, and just because they feel like it, to play with their various toys: cars, motorcycles, boats, dune-buggies, hunting rifles, fishing tackle, scuba gear, and on and on. They thrive on excitement, particularly the rush of speed-racing, water-skiing, surfing. And Crafters are fearless in their play, exposing themselves to danger again and again, even despite frequent injury. Of all the types, Crafters are most likely to be risk takers, pitting themselves, or their technique, against chance or odds. [Please Understand Me II]

What are the odds of a black female making to the top Negro baseball leagues?  Nobody, gave her a chance.  Not her parents initially, not her coaches, the owners of the clubs, and definitely not her fellow male players.  She had to fight for, and continue to fight for every opportunity to prove herself, to make them need her to play with those tools: the baseball, glove, and bat.

We all do “do, re mi,” but you have to find the other notes yourself.
LOUIS ARMSTRONG

‘When she was barely a teenager, people had already noticed that Toni Stone was far from ordinary. She was an astonishing athlete who seemed to excel at everything she attempted: swimming, golf, track, basketball, hockey, tennis, ice skating. She was even the most feared kid in the neighborhood when it came to playing red rover. She made a point of always breaking through the strongest link in the chain, just to prove she was tough.’

‘When Willa Stone recommended a sport her daughter might try, her suggestion was more about transforming Tomboy into a feminine Marcenia than proposing a new activity. “Try figure skating,” her mother said, perhaps thinking of the “toast of Saint Paul”—a young white competitive skater who captivated crowds with her spins and twirls and her satin outfits trimmed in fur. Willa bought Tomboy a pair of skates, and her daughter promptly beat all competition to win the citywide competition at Como Park. “I took [the trophy] home, and gave it to my mother and picked up my glove and bat,”’

 I’ve stayed in the front yard all my life.
I want a peek at the back
Where it’s rough and untended and
hungry weed grows.
A girl gets sick of a rose.
—GWENDOLYN BROOKS

‘“When you finish high school, they tell a boy to go out and see the world,” Tomboy later said. “What do they tell a girl? They tell her to go next door and marry the boy that their family’s picked out.” It wasn’t right, she thought. “A woman has her dreams, too,” she said. The army shipped Bunny [Tomboy’s sister] to San Francisco, and before too long she sent letters home saying she could use some company. Willa gave Tomboy the money, and with little more than a plan to meet her sister “somewhere” in San Francisco—she didn’t even know exactly where Bunny was stationed—Tomboy boarded a bus for California. “I had to see what was over there,” she said, “on the other side of the fence.”‘

Working hard was a virtue Stone learned from her parents. Boykin and Willa Stone moved to Saint Paul in the 1930s and started a business. Every day, Toni came home from school—or from skipping school—and knew her parents would not be home until late at night. Their drive to make something of themselves left an impression. “I watched my folks come home and scuffle. It was during the Depression and I watched them work hard. And I said, ‘If I can’t be among the best, then I’ll just leave it alone.’”

“Scuffle” was an important word to Stone. She used it to underscore the grit needed to work against the odds: resolve, persistence, sacrifice. It was the price people were willing to pay to do what they loved. If anyone suggested that playing black baseball was an easy road, she bristled and her thin voice became pinched and direct. “They never was in it!” she argued. “Those old timers, they really had to scuffle and darn near get killed going down the highway, run onto some snakes that tore the bus up.” During a time when a black person could be lynched for smiling the “wrong way,” a busload of African American ballplayers looking for a place to stay overnight threatened bigots on either side of the Mason-Dixon line. She hinted briefly at an incident triggered by the double prejudice she faced as an African American woman, but she stopped short before fully describing what happened. “You see, I fought a lot,” she admitted, “but they broke me of it. The fellas said they’d liable kill me.” Keeping the degradation she experienced from imploding inside her was perhaps what Stone meant by finding “a way of carrying herself.” A person had to listen carefully to Toni Stone.

Ackmann, Martha (2010-06-01). Curveball: The Remarkable Story of Toni Stone the First Woman to Play Professional Baseball in the Negro League. Chicago Review Press. Kindle Edition.

Playing professional baseball had been the highlight of Toni’s life, and, as painful as some of the memories were, she freely admitted she had more good recollections than bad.

openquoteA teacher told me I could use my handsclosedquote — Toni Stone.

Other Crafter Artisans include: James GarnerNancy WakeKaren FinermanClarissa ShieldsChelsea BakerLarry BirdKatherine HepburnBruce LeeJay-ZMickey RourkeLisa PresleyTatum and Ryan O’Neal and Michael Jordan.

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