September 14, 2015
She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Don Tate
She Loved Baseball:
The Effa Manley Story
by Audrey Vernick
illustrated by Don Tate
Even when she was still a girl in school, Effa hated being told “how things are.” The principal told her not to play with those “Negroes” on the playground. Never mind that those children were her brothers and sisters. Lighter skinned children were often told not to play with darker children.
When the moved to Harlem as an adult, she couldn’t believe that even the department store in Harlem refused to employ black clerks. Many of the businesses in Harlem were white-owned. Effa organized a civic organization. They boycotted the store and encouraged other Harlem residents to do the same. “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work!” Eventually the stores hired over 100 clerks from the area.
Effa married Abe Manley. The couple started a team, the Brooklyn Eagles, in the new Negro National League. Effa discovered how much she enjoyed arranging schedules and transportation and buying equipment. Over time, she took on more and more responsibility for the team and her players who called her “mother hen.”
When Effa attended league meetings, the other owners would complain that baseball was no place for a woman. When they saw that she understood not only the game but the business, she won their respect.
Time and time again, Effa acknowledged a barrier by treating it as her next challenge, even conducting a letter writing campaign to get Negro League players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. It came as no surprise to those who had worked with her when the Hall of Fame inducted her as its first woman member.
I have to admit that I had never heard of Effa Manley when I picked up this book. Or, if I had heard of her, I didn’t remember. But one of my son’s friends is a major league baseball fan. Thank you, dear friend!
Tate’s illustrations are realistic without being “text booky” but also very expressive. When you turn the page and see Effa peeking through her fingers while another baseball fan stares with his mouth open wide, you want to read on and find out what is happening.
Whether someone is a baseball fan or interested in either sports history, women’s history, or African-American history, this book is a must. It doesn’t gloss over any of the problems faced by Effa Manley but it is very matter-of-fact in describing how again and again she rose to meet a new challenge. This is definitely a women that our young people need to study both for the many elements of history that come together in her life but also for her heroic can-do attitude.