Took a few days off, had another cool project to work on. It’s actually for someone who hired me as a researcher, but I myself have become enraptured by it. Maybe I’ll try to tell a little bit about it in an upcoming post. It’s not Negro Leagues-related, but it does have to do with African-American history.
But for now, let’s revisit Wilmington, Del., native and outfielder Ed “Ace” Stone, about how I just turned in a story to Delaware Today magazine. The article revolves around the mystery of where Stone is buried — and when and where he even died, exactly. I’ve discussed that topic specifically here and here, but something else about Stone also captivates me — his notorious penchant for jumping to Latin America.
After playing for some hometown semipro teams in Wilmington and then with the Atlantic City Bacharach Giants, Stone signed up with the Brooklyn-turned-Newark Eagles just as new owner Abe Manley was starting to assemble a Negro Leagues powerhouse that eventually included Hall of Famers Willie Wells, Ray Dandridge, Mule Suttles and Leon Day, in addition to other top-level stars, like second baseman Dick Seay, who joined with Suttles, Wells and Dandridge to form the “Million Dollar Infield.”
In fact, Seay figures into one of Ed Stone’s first forays into Latin America. An April 1939 article in the New York Amsterdam News outlining the Eagles’ upcoming season refers to Seay and Stone’s imminent, expected return from Puerto Rico.
But in spring 1946 — just as Jackie Robinson (and Johnny Wright) were undertaking their season with the International League’s Montreal club — Stone got into major hot water with the Negro Leagues powers-that-be by hopping over the Rio Grande. I’ll let the Pittsburgh Courier’s W. Rollo Wilson explain in a May 11, 1946, article:
“The Pasquel brothers of Mexico stopped feasting on the white major league clubs long enough last week to bite off another Negro National League player. This nip was right at home, for the athlete taken was Ed Stone, vintage outfielder of the Philly Stars, Ed Bolden’s entry in the Eastern loop. Stone, one of the real sluggers of the club and whose long hits have kept many a rally going in past years, has already left for south of the border, where he will be assigned to one of the power-packed clubs of so-called ‘outlaws.'”
From Mexico, Stone apparently decided to head even further south; a July 1946 article in the Philadelphia Tribune claims that “Ed Stone, burly outfielder and a native of Wilmington, Del., … was marooned in Venezuela.”
Stone stayed in warmer climes in 1947, playing for Mexico City with, among other top-shelf Negro Leaguers, Ray Dandridge. However, it seems Stone’s tenure in 1947 wasn’t exactly a smooth one — in February, Stone was one of a dozen players to hold out for more bucks in an effort to earn equal pay as their white brethren. Here’s the February 22, 1947, Baltimore Afro-American:
“Jorge Pasquel, president of the Mexican Baseball League, is due here Thursday to attempt to put down a wholesale uprising and American diamond stars who were the backbone of his South-of-the-Border circuit last year. …
“The players … have served notice on Pasquel that they do not intend to return to Mexico for the 1947 season unless each receives a sizeable [sic] increase in his 1946 salary.
“The group is said to be in open rebellion against the Mexican League head for his action in signing a large number of white major leaguers at substantially higher salaries than they were receiving.”
That conflict was apparently resolved, though, at least to Stone’s satisfaction, for the Delaware kid expressed his intention to once again play in Mexico in 1948. But that seems to have earned him (and a bunch of other players) an informal “ban” from playing back Stateside in the Negro Leagues. A February 1948 column by George Lyle Jr., though, stated that the NNL would life its ban if the majors removed their similar one, and if that happened, Stone would be among the players welcomed back to the U.S. and, for Stone, the Philly Stars.
But that appears to have been it for Stone in terms of flying south; he spent his last couple years in the Negro Leagues playing mainly for the Black Yankees. But the team-hopping undertaken in the past by Stone and a slew of other players remained a sore spot for many on the Negro Leagues scene. That included Lyle, who, in a June 1950 column, lamented those players’ penchant for am-scraying south:
“What is the real reason behind these players’ moves? Money, of course, is the big item, and yet I know that some of the guys were getting what they asked in the way of salary.
“Can it be the romantic idea of life lived in those hot-blooded countries to the South? Well, hardly, for many of them have told me about the incredibly poor living conditions that exist. And the food can do things to a guy’s stomach …
“Whatever the lure — we’ve lost a number of top players to Latin America — players whom we could ill afford to let go, for their contributions to the national scene could have meant more major leaguers.”
On a final note, it’s fascinating to track Stone’s movement between the latitudes with ship and plane passenger manifests. One such list for a March 1936 voyage from San Juan, Puerto Rico to NYC pegs Stone as a 26-year-old native of Newport, Del. Another passenger on the trip? None other than Hall of Fame first baseman Buck Leonard.
Another manifest, this one describing the passengers of an autumn 1935 voyage of the S.S. Borinquen from the Big Apple to San Juan, lists Stone as a native of “Welington, Del.” Listed right below him is his Eagles teammate, Dick Seay.
A manifest from September 1939 on a sailing from New York to San Juan lists Stone traveling with his wife, Bernice, while a January 1940 document includes Bernice traveling sans husband back to the States from PR.
Stone’s later trips to Mexico are documented by airplane passenger lists, while another mentions him and Bernice flying on American Airlines from Miami to Havana, Cuba, in March 1948.
But the absolute best manifest is the one below. It’s for a November 1936 voyage of the S.S. Coamo from NYC to San Juan. Why’s it awesome? Because, aside from Ed Stone, the manifest lists a few other pretty decent baseball players — Terris McDuffie, Leroy Matlock, Dick Seay, George Scales and some dude named Leroy Paige, whose birthdate, and this is just a feeling, is listed incorrectly.