A significant conference on the subject of baseball, the Jerry Malloy Negro League conference (JMNLC) held its 16 annual symposium in Newark. When the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) was created (along with the Negro League Committee) in 1971, there when just a single player from the Negro Leagues had been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame — the ageless pitching wonder Satchel Paige. Today, largely due to the research of SABR members over the ensuing four decades, there are 35 representatives from baseball’s pre-integration leagues for black players with plaques in the Hall of Fame gallery. The Conference has been an annual event since 1998, and was named in memory of Jerry Malloy (1946–2000) after his death. Malloy was a journalist and was considered by his peers in SABR to be a skilled authority on 19th century black baseball. Malloy was an important member of the Negro Leagues Committee and a respected researcher and historian.
The JMNLC is the first and remains the only such event dedicated exclusively to the examination of black baseball history. The objective of the conference and committee is to encourage the study and research of Negro League baseball, pre-Negro League baseball, African-Americans in baseball, and the positive influence on American society by the elimination of racial barriers. This national conference attracts scholars, historians, collectors, social activists, and fans of the game. Its focus includes scholarly, literary, and educational components.
The Conference began on Thursday and concluded Saturday with an annual award dinner and celebration. Presentation covered, Negro League field records, performances, baseball memorabilia, and of course books on the game, teams, and legends. But the most astonishing to me was the role Newark played in the sport of baseball. Equally stunning when you combine other baseball Halls of fame, (Puerto Rico, Cuba, Mexico, and US respectively) 11 players have been inducted from Newark Negro league teams.
The Newark Little Giants was a professional baseball team based in Newark, New Jersey in the late 1880s. They played in the Eastern League for one year until moving to the International League (considered a major league) in 1887.
Newark featured the first all African-American battery with George Stovey, pitching a 2.46 ERA, and catcher Moses Fleetwood Walker (also first African-American to play in the majors), who had a .264 batting average.
Moreover is the impact Newark Eagles had on the sport. The Newark Eagle was truly a powerhouse. Six players of the Newark Eagles are members of the baseball hall of fame (US), Larry Doby (the first Black player in the American League), Ray Dandridge (which a street is named after, and family still resides in Newark), Leon Day, Monte Irvin, Biz Mackey, and Willie Wells. Another great note emphasized showmanship and entertainment, which had long been elements in Negro League ball.
Another important icon, is Effa Manley, the owners of the Newark Eagles. She never played on the field but left her mark on the Negro leagues and beyond once baseball’s color barrier was broken. Manley was co-owner of the Newark Eagles during the 1930s and ’40s. In 2006, she became the first woman ever elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. She was one of 17 people from the era of black baseball specially elected to the Hall of Fame. Had Effa Manley’s real life ever been submitted as a Hollywood script, it would have been rejected as too far-fetched. She had a proclivity for younger players and was involved in amorous relationships was several of her favorites. Effa was part temptress, part civil rights crusader, and all shrewd and calculating businesswoman. In the capable hands of esteemed blackball historian Bob Luke, her life story becomes symbolic of the Negro leagues themselves: cool, defiant, and incandescent. Probably one of the things that she’s most known for is after Jackie Robinson was signed by Branch Ricky away from the Kansas City Monarchs, J. Wilkinson, the owner, was not compensated for Robinson and he didn’t really make a big issue out of it but it was apparent at that point that if Robinson succeeded, others would follow and they would be interested in other players from the Negro Leagues, and Effa Manley was absolutely adamant about the idea that the Negro Leagues should be compensated for those players.
Jackie Robinson Jersey #42
Another “eye-opening” fact was women played in the Negro league there were three memorable players, Mamie “Peanut” Johnson, along with Toni Stone and Connie Morgan. Ms. Johnson was the 1st female pitcher in baseball, who pitched for the Indianapolis Clowns from 1953 to 1955. While pitching her first game with the Clowns, a batter on the opposing team yelled to her, “What makes you think you can strike a batter out? Why, you aren’t any larger than a peanut!” Mamie never said a word, but the batter soon found out what she could do! 1 – 2 – 3 – OUT! From that day, the 100 pound baseball player had the nickname “Peanut. She has been quoted, “No one else, I was the 1st — white, black, blue or green.”
Toni Stone grew up in St. Paul and once played for a team called the Twin Cities Colored Giants, which played on what played on what was called Barnstorming Circuit of the Midwest. She was the first woman to play professional baseball for the Negro Leagues, she played against some of the best players in the game, and she even hit a single off of Satchel Paige. In 1953, Syd Pollack, owner of the Indianapolis Clowns, signed Toni to play second base, a position that had been recently vacated when Hank Aaron was signed by the Boston (soon to be Milwaukee) Braves. Toni became the first woman to play in the Negro Leagues. Connie Morgan, At the age of 19, Morgan was signed to the Indianapolis Clowns with a two-year contract, replacing Toni Stone at second base and batting third in the lineup.
The other highlights were the students of Edward T. Bowser Elementary School, enacted a play, The Negro League Wax Museum, where the students brought to light twelve players and their career highlights. The audience was overwhelmed, the students research and wrote about Negro league players from NJ. (When the footage becomes available we will post). Two honorees were recognized for their contribution to the game, Pedro Pastor Sierra and James Edward (Jim) Robinson.
The Jerry Malloy Negro League Conference also raises money to fund grave markers for long forgotten former Negro Leaguers, to date 30 markers have been installed. What a historical journey through the world of Negro league baseball(Newark), if you are interested, here are just a few books on the subject. The conference was memorable.