Minnesota native near history with MLB-Negro Leagues statistical merging

Major League Baseball has merged Negro Leagues statistics into its record books.

The decision puts players like Josh Gibson at the top of the leaderboards where Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Barry Bonds were the kings.

It also means a Minnesota woman is a special kind of pioneer.

Faster than a Satchel Paige fastball, Josh Gibson passed Babe Ruth on the big league leaderboards Wednesday.

"There are going to some people that they're not going to relinquish that," said Frank M. White, a baseball historian and former coordinator of the Twin’s RBI program creating baseball opportunities for inner city kids. "And they're not going to acknowledge that Josh Gibson might have been just as powerful and just as good."

Whether Gibson was the Black Babe Ruth or Ruth was the white Josh Gibson is a question created by on-the-field segregation.

But as baseball historian Frank White strolls through the City of Baseball Museum at St. Paul’s CHS Field, he sees athletes who dominated their competition, whatever competition they were allowed.

"So this is the St. Paul Gophers, sometimes referred to as the St. Paul Colored Gophers," he said, referring to a photo of a team featuring Bobby Marshall, who went on to break the NFL’s color barrier.

Black baseball teams often barnstormed across the country for cash.

Major League Baseball has merged Negro Leagues statistics into its record books, and it means a Minnesota woman is a special kind of pioneer. (FOX 9)

And alongside the men wearing Twin Cities uniforms was St. Paul native Toni Stone, who debuted for the Twin City Colored Giants as a 16-year-old girl.
The sign at the field named for Stone says it all.

She was the first woman to play professional baseball, and now she's very close to being the first woman to go on the stat sheets for Major League Baseball.

"Wanted to play baseball, that's all she really wanted to do," said White.

She worked her way up to the Negro Leagues and took over at second base for the Indianapolis Clowns when Hank Aaron signed a major league deal.

"It boggles the mind to think about Toni Stone running at to second base at Yankee Stadium, which she did," said author and journalist Martha Ackmann, who wrote the Stone biography Curveball.

The merged records don’t yet go as far as 1953, when Stone debuted, but she was the first woman in under contract in the Negro Leagues, and she held her own in a men’s game, overcoming racial and gender barriers on the road.

Ackmann says Stone paved her own path, but ultimately anyone can recognize the box score of her life.

"It's a love story about finding work that you love to do that defines you," she said. "And Toni wanted to play baseball more than any other thing in her life."

There are some hopes that the new record books might get Black youth to love the game again.

Right now, they make up 6% of major leaguers, down from a peak of about 18% throughout the 1970s and 80s.