Breaking Barriers: Effa Manley Baseball Cards – In a column about women in sports, at the beginning of my favorite season, who else is there to highlight other than the only woman to ever be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Effa Manley?
While Manley’s family history and race have been points of confusion for historians, her impact on the sport of baseball has not.
Effa Manley sat at the helm of a successful Negro League team as part owner of the Newark Eagles with her husband, Abe Manley, from 1935 to 1948. In 1946, the Eagles won the Negro World Series in seven games against Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Monarchs.
This was a woman not content to make a difference from behind the scenes. Front and center, Manley was responsible for day-to-day business dealings such as marketing, promotions, team travel, equipment purchases, and most importantly signing players and negotiating contracts. She secured contracts with the likes of Larry Doby, Monte Irvin, and Don Newcombe, all who would go on to be Hall of Famers themselves. In a 1973 article by Gary Libman, Don Newcombe, then the director of community relations for the Dodgers, was quoted, saying, “she did everything that was required of an owner or general manager of a major league team today.”
Manley’s skill managing the team and her marketing and promotions talents allowed her to move her influence beyond the field of play. Manley was highly involved in the civil rights movement, serving in a chapter of the NAACP, leading organized boycotts of stores unwilling to hire black salesclerks, and hosting “Anti-Lynching Day” at the Eagles’ Stadium to raise money in support of anti-lynching legislation. She also paid for entertainment to be brought to black soldiers segregated from World War II era USOs and canteens. Ultimately, her goal was to improve the lives of her players and the black community as a whole.
When Major League Baseball integrated in 1947, Effa Manley went to work to have the Negro League owners compensated for the contracted players who left. Just three and a half months after Jackie Robinson joined the National League, Larry Doby went to the American League. Manley authored a deal with Cleveland owner, Bill Veeck. That deal was the start of the MLB compensating Negro League owners.
While that remuneration would not be enough to keep the Negro League afloat beyond 1960, Effa Manley still sits atop a list of barrier breakers in the sport as a champion for women and the black community.
Breaking Barriers: Effa Manley Baseball Cards – Image Gallery
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