- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 28, 2006

TAMPA, Fla. — Effa Manley became the first woman elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame when the former team owner was among 17 persons from the Negro Leagues and pre-Negro Leagues chosen yesterday by a special committee.

“This is a historic day at the Hall of Fame,” shrine president Dale Petroskey said. “I hoped that someday there would be a woman in the Hall. It’s a pretty proud moment.”

Mrs. Manley co-owned the Newark Eagles with her husband, Abe, and ran the business end of the team for more than a decade, handling scheduling, travel, payroll, promotions and contracts. The New Jersey team won the Negro Leagues World Series in 1946, one year before Jackie Robinson broke the major league color barrier.

“She was very knowledgeable, a very handsome woman,” said Hall of Famer Monte Irvin, who played for the Eagles while the Manleys owned the team.

“She did a lot for the Newark community. She was just a well-rounded influential person,” Irvin said. “She tried to organize the owners to build their own parks and have a balanced schedule and to really improve the lot of the Negro League players.”

Mrs. Manley was white, but she married a black man and passed as a black woman, said Larry Lester, a baseball author and member of the voting committee.

“She campaigned to get as much money as possible for these ballplayers and rightfully so,” Mr. Lester said.

Mrs. Manley used baseball to advance civil rights causes: In 1939, for example, she staged an Anti-Lynching Day at Ruppert Stadium.

She died in 1981 at 84.

“She was a pioneer in so many ways in terms of integrating the team with the community,” said Leslie Heaphy, a Kent State professor on the committee. “She’s also one of the owners who pushed very hard to get recognition for Major League Baseball when they started to sign some of their players.”

This year’s Hall of Fame class — 18 members, including former reliever Bruce Sutter — is by far the biggest in history, breaking the record of 11 in 1946.

Former Negro League players Ray Brown, Willard Brown, Andy Cooper, Biz Mackey, Mule Suttles, Cristobal Torriente and Jud Wilson were elected yesterday.

Buck O’Neil and Minnie Minoso, the only living members among the 39 candidates on the ballot, were not chosen by the 12-person panel.

Five pre-Negro Leaguers — Frank Grant, Pete Hill, Jose Mendez, Louis Santop and Ben Taylor — were chosen. Executives Alex Pompez, Cum Posey, J.L. Wilkinson and Sol White also were elected.

The new inductees will be enshrined with Sutter, who was elected by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America last month, on July 30 in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Only 18 Negro Leagues players had been chosen for the Hall before this election, which was the culmination of a Hall of Fame project to compile a complete history of blacks in the game from 1860 to 1960.

More than 50 historians, authors and researchers spent four years sifting through box scores in 128 newspapers of sanctioned league games from 1920 to 1954. The result was the most complete collection of Negro Leagues statistics ever compiled, according to the Hall, and a database that includes 3,000 day-by-day records and career leaders.

Candidates needed nine of 12 votes from the committee of researchers, professors and baseball historians for election. Vote totals were not released.

O’Neil, now 94, started his playing career in the 1930s and hit .288 lifetime. He became the first black coach in the majors in 1962 with the Chicago Cubs and played a key role in the building of the Negro League museum in Kansas City. He served on the Hall’s Veterans Committee for nearly two decades.

Minoso played in the major leagues for 17 seasons, mostly with the Chicago White Sox, and hit .298 lifetime. He was a seven-time All-Star and won three Gold Gloves in the outfield.

“If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be, and I am truly honored to be considered,” the 83-year-old Minoso said. “I’ve given my life to baseball, and the game has given me so much.”

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