The bright and vivacious Effa Manley was a large part of Negro League baseball for nearly 15 years. Although she was born to white parents, she was raised by her white mother and black stepfather, which led her to be considered a light-skinned black.
Manley fought for better pay and
accommodations for her players
-- and equal rights for all
The first woman inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Effa (1897-1981) met Abe Manley at the World Series in 1932. Abe, who made his money in real estate, was a huge baseball fan. He was able to buy two weakened Negro League franchises, the Brooklyn Eagles and Newark Dodgers, and combined them to form the Newark Eagles in 1936.
Once they were married, Abe made Effa a big part of the front office operation. Her official title was business manager, but she did more than that. She combined a strong head for numbers with marketing savvy, scheduling promotions with a racial awareness focus, such as "Anti-Lynching Day" in 1939. She also fulfilled many of her husband's duties as treasurer of the Negro National League.
However, Effa's dalliances with players were not well received by husband Abe. The story goes that when he found out of her affair with cocky, flashy-dressing, diamond-sporting pitcher "Speed" McDuffie, Manley swapped the hurler to the New York Black Yankees on the spot-for two old bats and a pair of used sliding pads.
The revitalized team was only 30-29 during its first year under the Manleys, but they moved up to second in 1937 and repeated in 1939, losing to Baltimore in the playoffs. They finished either second or third until too many of their key players were drafted into service.
But when Leon Day and Monte Irvin returned in 1946 under well-liked manager Biz Mackey, the Eagles were unstoppable. Day pitched a no-hitter on Opening Day, and the team put together a 47-16 record. The Eagles then toppled Satchel Paige's Kansas City Monarchs in a thrilling seven-game World Series. They won first-half honors in 1947 as well. But after the sale of its best players to the white leagues, the team folded.
Effa Manley also had a role to play in improving the conditions for all the players in the Negro Leagues. She spoke out in favor of better scheduling, improved pay, and upgraded accommodations. She even provided her team with an air-conditioned Flexible Clipper bus.
Manley's social activism was reflected in her work for the Newark Chapter of the NAACP and the Citizens' League for Fair Play. For the latter, Manley organized a 1934 boycott of Harlem stores that refused to hire black clerks. After six weeks, the owners of the stores gave in, and a year later, all 300 stores on 125th Street employed African-Americans. The Special Committee on Negro Leagues elected her to the Hall in 2006.
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