Effa Manley is the only woman ever to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Her Cooperstown plaque reads: “A trailblazing owner and tireless crusader in the civil rights movement who earned the respect of her players and fellow general owners as business manager and co-owner of the Eagle, ensured team’s financial success with creative promotions and advertising.
Beloved by fans because she integrated her players into the community and fielded consistently competitive teams, highlighted by a 1946 Negro Leagues World Series Championship. Represented team at league meetings and established a precedent of Negro League Clubs receiving fair compensation for players signed to Major League contracts.”
Effa Brooks was born on March 27, 1897 in Philadelphia. She moved to New York after high school. In the 1930s, she helped organize a boycott of a Harlem department store that catered to black customers but refused to hire any black workers. With her group, The Citizens League for Fair Play, she picketed the store for weeks until the owner of the store relented and agreed to hire black workers.
She wielded influence in all areas of her life. As a female business manager and co-owner (with her husband, Abe Manley), she demanded respect in the all-male world of Negro League Baseball. She was the one who organized the team’s schedules, arranged transportation, ordered equipment, negotiated player’ salaries. She went beyond the realm of the typical business manager by encouraging her players to be active members, role models, within the Newark community. She followed her own suggestion, serving as treasurer of the Newark NAACP chapter.
When Major League Baseball broke the color barrier with Jackie Robinson, most people cheered. Effa saw another side to the story. She spoke out about how wrong it was for MLB owners to help themselves to the best Negro Leagues players without compensation to the Negro League teams the players were contracted to play for. By speaking out, and standing firm in her negotiations, Effa set a precedent that Major League Baseball would pay Negro League teams for their players, rather than just helping themselves.
In her later years, Effa lobbied the Baseball Hall of Fame to honor Negro League players. Over time, they did. And they honored Effa, too, inducting her right along with two of her Eagles players, in 2006.
Effa Manley died in Los Angeles, California, on April 16, 1981. Her tombstone reads: She Loved Baseball. And yes, I do believe the year of her birth is incorrect on her tombstone. And that “Bishop” as opposed to “Brooks,” well, that’s a long story…