Oral History Review

“Take Her Out to the Ballgame: Effa Manley and Negro League Baseball”

Tribute to Negro league baseball executive Effa Manley,
part of a Baseball Hall of Fame exhibit on the Negro leagues.
Credit for the Image:

The image above is the trailblazer of baseball herself, Effa Manley. She was the first woman to co-own and run a baseball team for the Negro leagues and was the first woman inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame. Manley also won the World Series in 1946, she was considered an expert in marketing. As a part of the Wisdom project, the fifth episode titled “Take Her Out to the Ballgame: Effa Manley and Negro League Baseball”. The podcast is 21 minutes long and discusses her 1977 interview with William Marshall. The narrator and producer of this podcast Doug Boyd discusses how this interview is significant and also provides background information to attain more context when listening to this interview.

The interview of Effa Manley starts off and she explains the origins of the Negro league and starting it up with her husband Abe. They both co-owned the Newark Eagles and she explained the logistics and details that go into running a team. This interview Manley illustrates many stories of her time running the baseball team. In one of her stories, the beginning time she started the league and she said:

“Now In the beginning, the men were, a little bit, I believed disturbed, that this woman was entering the picture, but not long.”

Effa Manley

This quote refers to how she thought the men she was surrounded by reacted to her presence. The interview cut off before what I believe she was about to say not long did they think that way or something in that manner, because her tone was heading in that direction.

In this interview she explains many stories and one story in particular was very interesting. She was given the question if the player had part-time jobs and her response was that she was upset that the players did not have work in the winter. She contacted a Puerto Rican, who she never met before, but knew someone in New York who contacted him. She sent the half of the team (the ones that agreed to go) down to Puerto Rico. The players played baseball in the Puerto Rico league, and they ended up winning. All of the players after that incident started to go to Puerto Rico and Cuba during the winter to play baseball and earn money. 

When Manley is asked about the player she thought the player would make the first transition from the Negro league to the Major Leagues would be Monte Irvin. She discussed this with all of the owners and they all agreed. The first person as history tells was Jackie Robinson and in this interview Manley states how Robinson was a good player, but she thought Irvin would be the one to transition.

The topic of integration for Manley was a controversial one. She describes a story involving Branch Rickey. Manly received an invite to speak with Rickey and she was the only owner of the Negro league that was invited. Rickey explained how he was going to create his own Negro league called “United States League”. Manley responded when it was her turn and asked him why he did not contact the leagues that were already in operation and he replied that he had written, but they did not respond. Later, Rickey took one of their players, Jackie Robinson. She said this about Rickey and the situation:

“Of course I didn’t like our business being wrecked, that was a very unpleasant thing, and I definitely didn’t feel Rickey was right to take those, and I felt he should’ve given something for them, I still feel, they could’ve handled things differently. Now of course in Rickey’s case when he has up his United States League, he was planning to become seriously involved with the negro baseball and it might have been a better set up than ours… I still have always felt that taken those three ball players, a million dollars worth of property and not even saying thank you for it was very wrong”

Effa Manley

The reason why this was such a conflicting topic was because the integration of African American players is to be celebrated and was a remarkable moment. Manley stated that she was happy for the players and for what is represented. This did come at a cost, since this was the beginning of the downfall for the Negro Leagues. The Negro League was not compensated for their players that were being taken away which lead to them losing money. The integration into major leagues is a triumph, but also has cost of the thing her and her husband work hard to build which was the Negro leagues.

The podcast does include an excerpt from an interview with one of the players on Manleys’ team, Larry Doby. He explains his relationship with both Effa and Abe Manley and how they are like a mother and father figure and how they are great business people. He especially compliments Effa Manley as he describes her as a very knowledgeable business woman.

The podcast ends with Manley explaining what happened after the integration started happening and how her husband continued with the league hoping that the situation would die down. After the second year he has to throw in the towel. The narrator Boyd explains the barriers Manley broke for people of color and for women and explains her accomplishments.

Here is the link to the episode “Take Her Out to the Ballgame: Effa Manley and Negro League Baseball” from the Wisdom Project at the University of Kentucky.

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