The Goodman Theatre has launched a new production about Toni Stone, a trail blazer who was the first Black woman to play professional baseball in the Negro Leagues during the 1940’s.
Stone actually took Hall of Fame slugger Hank Aaron’s place on the Indianapolis Clowns, and the new production pays homage to her incredible legacy.
“She’s the first woman to play professional baseball, says playwright Lydia R. Diamond. “She played in the 40s and 50s, and she played with the Negro Leagues.
Diamond wrote the play, ‘Toni Stone’, which is making its’ Chicago premiere at Goodman Theatre.
“And we should know her like we know Satchel Paige and we should know her like we know Babe Ruth,” Diamond said.
Actress Tracey N. Bonner plays the title role, and the director of the show says that she’s no slouch on the diamond either.
“I cast Tracey Bonner, who played on my softball team, and I joke about it because she was the best player on the team,” director Ron OJ Parson said. “She was very good and she’s an actress so I thought what better person to play this part.”
Not only was the real Toni Stone great at baseball, she was an all-around athlete.
Diamond is fond of sharing one remarkable story about her.
“Her mom told her she had to stop playing baseball because it was too dirty, and ice skate,” she said. “She did and she won first in the state. This is who Toni Stone was.”
Parson shares another favorite anecdote.
“There’s this movie called, ‘A League of Their Own’, about a white team. They would not let her play in that league, you know, (because) she was Black,” he said. “She said ‘I don’t care, I’m gonna play with the guys.’ “
As part of the production, the theatre is designed to look like a baseball stadium.
“When you walk in, you feel like ‘hey cold beer here’ that kind of stuff, and you feel like you’re at the game before the game starts,” Parson said.
So why has Toni Stone been overlooked?
“I think we struggle with including African Americans in history,” explains Diamond, “And I think we struggle with celebrating Black women, and we struggle with celebrating all women.”
‘Toni Stone’ is on stage at Goodman Theatre through Feb. 26.
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