In an earlier time, Effa Manley was the Boss. She ordered her Newark Eagles to play hard and dress well, so they would be ready for the major leagues when the insane racial barriers came down.
When baseball finally did open up, Manley unloaded big-time scorn on Branch Rickey for recruiting the best talent in the Negro leagues. The pious Rickey described it as a social mission; Manley would have preferred a return on her investment.
Now Manley is joining Rickey in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Manley, the operator of the Eagles, was chosen on Monday in a special mass election to include many glorious figures from the days of the Negro leagues. Seventeen individuals were chosen to join the 18 veterans of the Negro leagues who had been previously chosen, not counting the many black players who made their mark primarily after the majors opened in 1947.
Baseball is doing the right thing because the rigorous annual review was not including the proper number of stars and officials from the Negro leagues. As the old men die off, we are only beginning to understand just how good those leagues were.
Black segregated baseball cannot be measured just by the superior performances by Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby in the majors. There was also a tsunami of tactics and initiative, which the black players had refined in their admirable parallel universe.
The cruel part of elections is that good people fall by the wayside. Buck O'Neil, who had a grand career in the Negro leagues and was the first black coach in the majors, with the Cubs, did not receive the minimum nine votes from the 12 qualified voters on Monday, a lamentable mistake.
Manley belongs in this contingent because she ran one of the great teams of the Negro leagues, bankrolled by her husband, Abraham Lincoln Manley, a banker in the vast numbers network.
"She was the brain trust behind the Newark Eagles," Larry Lester, a panel member from Kansas City, said on Monday at the announcement in Florida.
"You found her name on all the correspondence, you found her making the decisions at the board meetings, not her husband, Abe. It was an easy decision to see where the power was, where the authority was placed in her behalf. Abe was just mostly a financier and had very little involvement in running the club," he said.
The Manleys moved the team from Brooklyn to Newark in 1936, and she showed persuasiveness Rickey would have admired. When Doby was slow in responding to a contract he did not appreciate, she sent him a note saying his mother had raised him with better manners than that. She was tougher on the other owners.
"Invariably, Mrs. Manley would become involved in an argument with one of her colleagues over which team her club would play on such profitable days as Easter Sunday, Decoration Day, Fourth of July, and other holidays," Wendell Smith, a pioneer sportswriter with The Pittsburgh Courier, once wrote. "If she didn't get what she wanted, Mrs. Manley would wrinkle up her pretty face and turn on the sprinkling system."
Manley grew up in the black community in Philadelphia, with a white mother. When she was young, she was told she was the product of her mother's brief affair with a wealthy white man, but she never wavered from the life she knew.
"I guess you could say she's the blackest white woman in the world," Lester said with respect on Monday.