Forty years after Manley’s death in 1981, a new young adult book documents her extraordinary life, examining how she led her team to the Negro League World Series Championship in 1946. Author and journalist Andrea Williams decided to write The main lady of baseball: Effa Manley and the rise and fall of the Negro leagues after working at Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City.
“Seeing Effa and what she’s accomplished was really eye-opening,” Williams tells Alison Stewart of WNYC “All. “” … There had been female owners before in major league baseball and Negroes. She didn’t just own the team, she took care of the day-to-day, took care of all player contracts and negotiations, ordered equipment and managed the books. And she did at the time.
Manley began her rise to the top of the Negro League after marrying her second husband, Abe, in 1935. The couple formed the Newark Eagles the following year, with Manley taking charge of the operation. She was natural at running the business, planning games, developing promotions, and helping players solve their problems.
“That’s the advantage of having a woman around, isn’t it?” Williams tells Evan F. Moore of the Chicago Sun-Times. “Men have a unique mind, and [women are] think about all things and not just the current ramifications. She was really talking about this life.
Speak Sun-Times, Manley was one of the reasons why baseball fans today know the records of many Negro League players. She and other team owners insisted that African-American newspapers publish statistics for each game; these archives now represent a treasure for historians.
“We only know what we know about the Negro leagues because of the work of black newspapers and black writers,” Williams told the Sun-Times.
As Shakeia Taylor wrote for SB Nation Last year, Manley’s breed was “a source of quiet controversy”: she “lived as a black female, and was known as such by the black community” to many for her life, but later said that she was actually a white woman. Manley’s mother, who may have been white or biracial, reportedly had an affair with a white man but only revealed her daughter’s true parentage when she was a teenager.
“Effa Manley had a keen awareness of the color line and how to navigate it. Its slips in and out of the whiteness and Darkness has always been strategic ”, declared Amira Rose Davis, historian at Penn State University, at SB Nation. “… Ultimately, it was the ambiguity that came to define Effa’s racial identity, more than anything else.
In 1935Manley crossed the picket line as part of a “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work” campaign against New York City companies that have refused to hire African-American employees.
Speaking to WNYC, Williams describes a case where Manley confronted a business owner about this racist practice:
She said to him, “Look, we care about black girls like you care about white girls. If you don’t hire them, they will become prostitutes. This moment speaks to Effa and her personality, her style and her refusal to play by the rules. It’s the 1930s. The fact that she’s at the reunion is monumental. The fact that she is talking and saying something like that at the time completely shatters everything. This is what caused the owner to change his mind.
Manley also took on the white establishment of Major League Baseball when managers began recruiting Black League players, starting with Jackie robinson in 1947. While supporting the integration of baseball, Manley believed that white teams should pay to sign the stars that the owners of the Negro League had invested so much time and effort in development.
In a blog post for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Isabelle Minasian evokes the many letters that Manley sent to the team leaders, as well as Baseball Commissioner Happy Chandler, protesting against the raids on the lists of the Negro League. His efforts paid off when Bill Veeck, owner of the Cleveland Indians, purchased the contract for Larry doby, the first black athlete to play in the American League, of her own Newark Eagles in 1948.
“Manley’s continued advocacy paved the way for fair compensation for the Negro League teams, and these letters in the museum’s collection demonstrate the strength and tenacity of the first woman to be inducted into the Hall of Fame,” writes Minasian.
As williams says Sun-Times, she hopes the book will help young readers understand the historical context behind the continuing systemic injustice.
“How do you get the next generation involved so that you don’t have to have these problems? That’s the purpose of writing this book, ”she says. “And if I want to help the next generation, I have to write a children’s book that really tells the truth about our past and how the past created our present. I wanted to tell the whole truth.
Manley died in 1981 at the age of 84.
Fittingly, her gravestone reads: “She loved baseball”.