Archive for the ‘Women in Baseball’ Category

Women in Baseball: Effa Manley

March 3, 2009
She did love baseball.

Effa Manley was born on March 27, 1900 (88 years and a day before me) was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but the situation surrounding her birth is a bit mysterious and controversial. According to Manley, she was white. Her mother was of German and Indian (the country; from now on, I refer to people from India as Indians and Native Americans as Native Americans or Amerindians) heritage, and her father was a wealthy white Philadelphian. Manley’s mother would later marry (her father was not her mother’s husband and the relationship is still unknown), and her step-father was African-American, leading most to assume that Manley was a light-skinned African-American. Effa met Abe Manley in 1932 at the World Series. He was 24 years older than she was, but that didn’t matter and they married 3 years later.

Manley became passionate about baseball while watching Babe Ruth hit prodigious blasts, and the couple would start a Negro League team in Brooklyn, even playing in Ebbets Field. Unable to compete with the Dodgers, the couple moved the team to Newark. Though she had no real experience in business ownership and administration, Effa was the person to talk to regarding team operations, handling everything from schedules, travel, roster, and finances. She was never shy about offering her opinions, and although this irked fellow owners, Cumberland Posey, the owner of the Homestead Grays, even noted that everyone could learn something from the only women in a man’s world. She would go on to run the finances of the Negro League itself, even though her husband was supposed to do it, and later, she would be the treasurer for the NAACP and used Newark Eagles games as rallies for the civil rights cause.

Effa Manley was more than just an administrator. Her players often noted her willingness to go above and beyond for her players. She bought the first air-conditioned bus for a Negro League team. During the winter when players needed money, the Manleys sponsored a Puerto Rican winter league team. They owned Monte Irvin the money to start a tavern after he retired. They even became Larry Doby’s son’s godparents. In 1976, she went a step further for her players. Negro League players had just become part of the Hall of Fame, but Manley wrote a book entitled Negro Baseball … before Integration, where she explained why 73 more players deserved to be in the Hall. Nine years later, the Hall added a Negro League exhibit, and Manley’s picture is permanently fixed there. In February 2006 and 25 years after her death in 1981, she was finally enshrined in the Hall of Fame as the first and only woman in the Hall of Fame. Her gravestone reads “She Loved Baseball”, and she sure did.

However, even with Effa Manley’s genius, the Negro Leagues couldn’t survive. They reached a high point just before and during World War II, but when the soldiers came home, integration was a controversial and pressing subject. When Branch Rickey brought in Jackie Robinson, more African-Americans followed. When that happened, it meant death for the Negro Leagues. Though it conflicted with her business goals, integration was part of her ideological goals. She would agree to sell Larry Doby to the Cleveland Indians so that he could become the first African-American to play in the American League.