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Book Preview: Baseball’s Leading Lady

Bookshelves in a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Christiana, Delaware.

A new year marks a new release schedule for book publishers. Tomorrow will see the release of several books written by Black authors.

Of interest to baseball fans is Baseball’s Leading Lady: Effa Manley and the Rise and Fall of the Negro Leagues by Andrea Williams. Lane Clarke (@lanewriteswords) classifies this title as middle-grade nonfiction, which means the book is intended for young readers aged 8 to 12.

According to the publisher’s description, Baseball’s Leading Lady is “the powerful true story of Effa Manley, the first and only woman inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.” Manley co-owned the Newark Eagles with her husband Abe from 1935 until 1948.

Manley was a trailblazer as a woman owner in an industry that continues to be dominated by men over eighty years later. She also played a significant role advocating for the Negro Leagues as their players began to integrate MLB. Her Baseball Hall of Fame profile states:

Perhaps Manley’s greatest contribution as an owner would come in her final years with the Eagles. Following Branch Rickey’s signing of Jackie Robinson from the Negro Leagues to play Major League Baseball, Manley fought for compensation for team owners and recognition of the Negro Leagues contracts. A few months following Robinson’s entry into the major leagues in 1947, Manley and the Negro Leagues received compensation for Larry Doby, the first African American to play in the American League, thereby establishing a precedent for player compensation. The move showed the legitimacy of the Negro Leagues, giving the teams a measure of respectability never before seen from the majors.

After selling the Eagles, Manley wrote a book about Black baseball with Leon Hardwick entitled Negro Baseball…Before Integration and lobbied for the induction of Negro Leagues players into the Baseball Hall of Fame. She died on April 16, 1981 and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2006.

Baseball’s Leading Lady should be a great introduction to the story of Manley and the history of the Negro Leagues, and purchasing it will support a Black author. Those above its target age and reading level may also wish to check out other titles about Manley, such as Queen of the Negro Leagues: Effa Manley and the Newark Eagles by Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) member Ryan Whirty.

Featured Image: Bookshelves in a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Christiana, Delaware by Mihai_Andritoiu / Shutterstock.com.

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