Woman Elected to Baseball Hall of Fame

Effa Manley has become the first woman elected to the baseball Hall of Fame. Manley is a former executive with the Newark Eagles Negro League team. She co-owned the team with her husband and ran it for more than a decade. Leslie Heaphy, professor of History at Kent State University, talks with Melissa Block.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

There was a baseball breakthrough today. For the first time a woman was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. She is Effa Manley. She was an owner and manager in the Negro Leagues before baseball was integrated. She's among 17 players and executives from the Negro Leagues and pre-Negro Leagues elected to the Hall of Fame today. Leslie Heaphy studies the role of women in baseball and was among those on a special committee who voted to elect Effa Manley. Big day Miss Heaphy?

LESLIE HEAPHY (Professor of History, Kent State): Oh, absolutely. For Negro League Baseball, for baseball in general, I think it's one of the best I can remember.

BLOCK: Well, Effa Manley owned a team with her husband Abe. It was the Brooklyn Eagles first, then moved to Newark, New Jersey. How did they come to own the team?

Ms. HEAPHY: Abe liked baseball, found it a good investment, so he had been involved before he met Effa and then after they got married Effa got involved with the running of the team as well.

BLOCK: And was she a baseball fan before that?

Ms. HEAPHY: Yes she was. In fact that was how they met.

BLOCK: How so?

Ms. HEAPHY: She was attending baseball games and Brooklyn Eagles were one of the games she always attended.

BLOCK: Well what makes Effa Manley eligible for the Hall of Fame? What is her role with this team?

Ms. HEAPHY: Well, Effa was a pioneer in so many different ways. She was considered often times to sort of be ahead of her time. For example, she worked real hard at trying to make the Newark Eagles, when they moved there, very much a part of the community. They recruited real heavily out of the New Jersey rather than necessarily looking for players from outside to keep that connection and that local support strong. And she was often very concerned and paid a lot of attention to things like the players' contracts, the conditions of their contracts, the various aspects of them. She was very interested in trying to improve accommodations when the players were on the road. She always thought that they had a responsibility for taking care of their players not just during the season, but in the off-season as well. She also used her team to promote other causes that she thought were in important and in particular connected it with a lot of her civil rights work. She worked with the NAACP locally and so oftentimes would incorporate those into special days at the ballpark for different causes.

BLOCK: What were some of these special days at the ballpark that you mentioned?

Ms. HEAPHY: Anti-lynching was one of her big interests, and so there were a number days where that was the promotion and the cause in an effort to try to mostly raise awareness and try to get people to get out there and ask for changes in that particular practice, and to not sit back and let this continue.

BLOCK: What happened to Effa Manley and to her team after baseball was integrated?

Ms. HEAPHY: Well in the immediate aftermath of signing Jackie Robinson, this is probably where Effa made one of her greatest contributions, because the Monarchs received no compensation for Jackie Robinson. And in fact Branch Rookie went so far as saying that they didn't deserve any compensation because, after all, the Negro Leagues were nothing more than a racket. And Effa, of course, said that just was not true. And she pushed very hard and eventually she succeeded and received compensation for Dobie and then later for Monte Irvin and pretty much set the pattern for much of the rest of integration with that particular stand that she took. Which was not always a very popular one because it was a really hard line to walk. A lot of the owners were a little more hesitant that she was to push that issues for fear of looking like they were standing in the way of integration. But her effort to see the team get compensated, more than the money is what's important, it was the idea that meant the Negro Leagues were recognized.

And then when the opportunity first presented itself after Satchel Paige was elected to the Hall of Fame, she took it upon herself to begin a sort of letter writing campaign to the Hall encouraging them to think about some of the others that ought to be recognized. And ironically two of the players she pushed real hard for were Mule Suttles and Biz Mackey who were just elected as well.

BLOCK: Along with Effa Manley.

Ms. HEAPHY: Yep.

BLOCK: Well Leslie Heaphy, thanks so much for talking with us.

Ms. HEAPHY: Oh my pleasure. Thank you.

BLOCK: That's Lesle Heaphy who is Chair of the Women's Baseball Committee at the Society for American Baseball Research and one of those voting today to elect Effa Manley as the first woman in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Effa Manley died in 1981. Her gravestone in California reads, she loved baseball.

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