Sunday, December 27, 2020

Book Review: Baseball's Leading Lady : Effa Manley and the Rise and Fall of the Negro Leagues by Andrea Williams

Aside from the special exhibit on the women who played during the period made famous by the movie A League of Their Own, Effa Manley is the only woman in the Baseball Hall of Fame in New York. 

She (and her husband, but she was the driving force), bought and owned a couple of Negro League baseball teams during the heyday of the Negro Leagues, and up through the end of their existence. Most of the time she owned the Newark Eagles, moving from New York to New Jersey to manage them. Most of the Negro League teams at the time only used verbal contracts (which, to be clear, are real and enforceable contracts) which the white baseball teams knew, used themselves occasionally, and flagrantly violated to steal the stunning players that came to their attention after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. Both before that and afterwards, the Negro League teams tried various arrangements to make their teams profitable and to be able to play white teams and stay viable. They didn't work. In the end, Major League Baseball's white teams drained their best talent, while still refusing to play them in anything but exhibition games, and the League finally folded. But leading up to that time, Mrs. Manley was a force both working to keep the League afloat and to make her team a winning one. 

This is a very cool introduction both to the Negro League as a whole, and to a woman who loved baseball and wanted to be a part of it. Great for kids even remotely interested in the sport, but also for kids who like American history and pop culture and who are interested in race relations and the history there. 

This book is published by Roaring Brook Press, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

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