From “Curveball” to “Toni Stone”: A Theatrical Adaptation

November 2014

Newspapers during her professional playing days in the Negro League called her “the female Jackie Robinson.” By the time she was sixty and still playing neighborhood games, sports historians named her “the best ballplayer you’ve never heard of.” Toni Stone was the first woman to play professional baseball in the Negro League. When a young Henry Aaron left the Negro Leagues for the majors, Stone replaced him. No woman matched her baseball accomplishments and, many would say, her intransigence—then or ever since. In the 1950s as the United States was poised between Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement, Toni Stone waged her own battle against prejudice. This seminar will bring together two former Radcliffe fellows to begin crafting a new American play based on the life of Toni Stone. Martha Ackmann RI ’09 wrote Curveball, a narrative nonfiction book on Stone, while a fellow at Radcliffe. Playwright Lydia Diamond RI ’13, who spent her Radcliffe year finishing one play and beginning another, will adapt Ackmann’s book for the stage. This workshop will place Ackmann in conversation with Diamond, joined later by Tony award-winning director Pam MacKinnon and producer Samantha Barrie. The resultant exchanges will shape the initial steps in transforming Curveball into “Toni Stone.” The play will portray the trajectory of Stone’s baseball career as well as her impact on the struggle for equality and social justice in the United States.