New play shines light on life of St. Paul baseball legend

In St. Paul, there is a baseball field named after her. But now, Toni Stone’s life is being put in the spotlight by a new play in New York City.

The African American baseball player had to overcome barriers on and off the field because of her gender and race. But, she didn’t let anything stop her and now her story is getting fresh attention.

It’s known as America’s pastime, and in Minnesota, it’s part of our history.

“Minnesota has a tremendous legacy in baseball across the spectrum,” said baseball author and historian Frank White.

Engrained in that legacy is a woman named Toni Stone.

“Here was a young lady who just really wanted to play baseball. She had a love for the game. You don’t find a lot of women of that time period really having a goal of being an athlete,” said White.

Toni Stone was born in 1921, grew up in St. Paul’s Rondo neighborhood, and played baseball every chance she got. “She was really an athlete and really could play,” said White.

However, the cards weren’t necessarily in her favor. Baseball was segregated and Stone was African American and a woman.

“I think for most women, African American or not, you weren’t supposed to play sports,” said White, “You were supposed to be in the kitchen taking care of the house.”

But, that’s not where you found her. Stone’s family priest encouraged her to play, and she had a love for the game that kept her on the field.

“She had to have tremendous perseverance to continue to play... at every turn she was getting turned down in some fashion.”

Stone played locally on men’s teams in the Twin Cities, eventually out in California and New Orleans. Then, she got a huge break: A chance to fill Hank Aaron’s second base position in the Negro American League.

“Making it to that level, that was the highest level for an African American to play baseball at that time in this country,” White explains.

Now, there’s a new off-Broadway play telling Stone’s story but her legacy lives on in St. Paul at the Baseball Museum and out on fields across the city.

“This kind of knowing the people who came in front of you so you can stand on their shoulders stand up proud, they did things so you can play,” White told us.

The play in New York is in previews right now and opening night is June 20. It runs through August 11.