June 27, 1942, New Journal and Guide clip
Have I made any progress on the Ed Stone story? Well, yes and no. Am I any closer to figuring out when, where and/or how he died as well as where he’s buried? Nope. That’s the bad news.
The good news is I’m definitely getting movement on filling in his background, both in terms of roots and ancestry, as well as his playing career. In fact, on that count, I’ve found a pretty fair amount of stuff, so much so that it might take two posts.
So, first things first. I did an e-mail interview with scholar and author Neil Lanctot, who kind of specializes in Philadelphia, New Jersey and Mid-Atlantic Negro Leagues. If was a somewhat clipped interview because, as he wrote me, “I don’t know much about Stone.”
“He was not a star in the Negro Leagues,” Lanctot added, “but he was obviously a solid ballplayer — he was recruited to play in Mexico, which was basically AAA-level baseball.”
Lanctot added that Stone worked in a defense plant during WWII while also playing baseball, and that he reportedly went to Howard High School in Wilmington. (That’s something I’ll try to look into.)
As far as Stone’s playing career, the only thing Neil could really offer was that in 1942 — the year of the newspaper clip above — he earned $185 with the Newark Eagles, compared to the team’s highest-paid player, the one and only Willie Wells, who cashed in $275 a month.
Then there was the big question I asked Lanctot: Do you have any knowledge of the details of Stone’s death and/or burial? Neil said, unfortunately, that he did not.
So it looks like I’m running out of options to find out the ultimate fate of Edward Stone, outfielder in the Negro Leagues, especially because I’ve failed in my attempts to get in touch with either of his sons.
So in the meantime, I’ve done some more database research about Ed Stone, including his family history and his playing career. In this post, I’ll take some snapshots from his time on the diamond.
One pretty cool things I found out is that Stone’s paid baseball career might have started earlier than I thought, and not in Wilmington. Previously, my first sighting of Stone — or a guy I assume to be him — is in a May 1932 article in the Philadelphia Tribune about the Wilmington Hornets’ 22-15 loss to a team called the Bartram Artisans. The third slot in the Hornets’ lineup is filled by a center fielder named Stone, who tallied one hit and one run.
But it looks like the Wilmington native’s career began at least a year earlier, in 1931, with the Bacharach Giants of Atlantic City. That would have made Stone just 21 or so at the time.
A July 1931 story in the New York Amsterdam News features a report on the Bees’ 4-2 loss to Hilldale, in which the New Jersey squad’s center fielder and leadoff hitter is named Stone (who cracked two hits and scored a run in the contest). The same man also appears to be listed in an article in the Tribune a month later about the Bacharachs’ 7-4 triumph over the North Phillies in which Stone goes hitless but scores a run.
Then, in January 1932, Pittsburgh Courier columnist Rollo Wilson pegs an outfielder named Stone preparing to suit up for a revitalized Harrisburg Giants team being assembled by Col. William Strothers. However, later articles from 1932 list a player named Stone manning the infield, not the outer garden. In addition, 1932 features multiple articles including center fielder Stone back with the Wilmington Hornets batting clean up.
The calendar then leafs over to May 1933, with more proof that Ed Stone started his pro career in Atlantic City. A report in the Philly Trib describes the formation of an aggregation called the Wilmington Giants, who are “composed of players from the Bacharachs, Philadelphia Giants, Newton Coal Company, Lincoln University, Delaware City Monarchs, and many of the original Hornets.”
It adds, “The team boasts of such veterans of the game as Naylor of Lincoln University, Stone and Loatman of the Bacharachs” and a bunch of other seasoned players. The likelihood that this Stone is indeed Ed Stone is fairly high, given that he’d be playing for his hometown team of Wilmington. The article would thus link Ed Stone somewhat conclusively to the Bacharach Giants.
But the Wilmington Giants apparently didn’t last very long, or at least center fielder Stone hopped back to the Wilmington Hornets within a month later, because he’s listed in a Tribune cover of a Hornets’ victory over Enoch Johnson‘s All Stars.
What’s pretty cool, though, is that, according to a June 10, 1933, column by Wilson, the Hornets are managed by none other than the Ghost himself, Oliver Marcell, who, claims an article subhead, is “Putting Wilmington on [the] Map.” Along with asserting that the new gig has revitalized Marcell and his career, it also pegs “Eddie Stone” as a member.
Stone’s presence on the Hornets’ roster is confirmed in a Baltimore Afro-American article that same day, a reportage of the Wilmington team’s embarrassing 8-2 defeat at the hands of the Johnson Stars. Stone, though, led his squad with two hits.
But then, of course, we have more team-hopping: Just a couple weeks later, the Philadelphia paper includes a left fielder named Stone in the lineup for the Bacharachs in their upcoming five-game set with the Hilldales. By now it’s starting to get tough to track Stone’s team-hopping, but in August 1933 Stone slashed three hits in the Atlantic City squad’s 8-0 whitewashing of a team from Salem.
From there, Stone’s Negro Leagues career took off, beginning with a fairly lengthy — well, at least for him — stint with the Brooklyn-turned-Newark Eagles. In an ensuing post, perhaps this weekend, I’ll take a look at Stone’s notorious reputation for bailing on Stateside teams and heading south of the border to play, where he made more money and received more respect than he ever could staying in the States.