What Happened to Baseball Player Edward 'Ace' Stone
The last years of a Wilmington Negro Leagues baseball player remain shrouded in mystery.
Stone left the Stars in 1946 to play baseball in Mexico.
Delaware has always been proud of its most decorated Negro Leaguer, Hall of Fame third baseman Judy Johnson. There’s even a commemorative plaque and statue at Wilmington’s Frawley Stadium, which Blue Rocks fans will be able to see when the minor-league team plays its home opener at Judy Johnson Field on April 16. But not every local Negro Leaguer receives such recognition. For instance, whatever happened to Edward “Ace” Stone, a Wilmington native who was an outfielder in the ’30s and ’40s? Stone enjoyed a fairly solid career in the Negro Leagues, as well as with several integrated teams in Latin America.
But when he died, possibly in the early ’80s, his remains seemingly vanished, his burial location left unknown to legions of modern Negro Leagues scholars and enthusiasts. While Stone did make a name for himself in the Negro Leagues, beginning in the early 1930s with the Atlantic City Bacharach Giants, he can’t be considered an all-time great, says Neil Lanctot, a historian and expert on black baseball in the Mid-Atlantic states. “I don’t know much about Stone,” he says. “He was not a star in the Negro Leagues, but he was obviously a solid ballplayer—he was recruited to play in Mexico, which was basically AAA-level baseball.” In May 1946, for example, famed African-American sports scribe W. Rollo Wilson lamented Stone’s decision to leave the Philadelphia Stars for a team in Mexico, praising the outfielder’s abilities. “Stone, one of the real sluggers of the [Stars],” Wilson wrote, “and whose long hits have kept many a rally going in past years, has already left for south of the border, where he will be assigned to one of the power-packed clubs of so-called ‘outlaws.’”
Two years later, during another one of Stone’s jaunts to Mexico, syndicated columnist George Lyle Jr. also described Stone’s talent. “Ed Stone, who was a standout athlete while in Wilmington’s Howard High, and swung a heavy bat for the [Newark, N.J.] Eagles and the Stars, is really whamming the pellet in Mexico,” Lyle penned. But after Stone retired from baseball in the early 1950s, he seemingly dropped off the face of the Earth, and his fate remains virtually unknown. No one has been able to even pin down the exact circumstances of his death or, more tragically, where he is buried. Lanctot said such a situation is common for Negro Leaguers, who toiled in the shadows of the national pastime during the sad era of segregation before Jackie Robinson integrated the major leagues in 1947. “Many died in obscurity before the Negro Leagues had been ‘rediscovered’ in the past 20 or 30 years,” he says. “Thus, they were never interviewed about their lives.”
Even a former family member is stumped by the mystery of Ed Stone’s whereabouts. Denise Oliver-Velez, who lives in New York, was a cousin of Ed Stone’s wife, Bernice. The couple was married in the 1930s. Oliver-Velez says Bernice Stone didn’t say much about her husband. Their marriage ended in divorce. “I wasn’t totally clueless,” Oliver-Velez says, “but I never met Ed Stone. I knew he was a baseball player, but nothing else.” She also lost touch with Bernice Stone over the years. The former Bernice Baskerville, who was originally from Newark, N.J., ended up in Las Vegas, where she died in 2007 at the age of 95. Oliver-Velez said she doesn’t know where Bernice is buried. Ed Stone was born in Wilmington around 1910, according to U.S. Census records, to Daniel Stone and the former Lillian Russell.
Daniel’s ancestral roots trace back to Nash County in North Carolina, where numerous Stones still live today, but where a genealogical research ends in a cold trail. Lillian Russell Stone was from New York but later moved to Delaware. She died in 1925, according to her Delaware death certificate. She was supposed to be buried at Simpson United Methodist Church cemetery in Wilmington. But church representatives say they have no records of any Stones in the church cemetery. Oliver-Velez is realistic about the lack of information on Ed Stone during a racially charged time. “All of the issues of race and sports are just things you grow up accepting,” she says. “People today have to learn what it was like, because few of them do. People don’t understand now. They take things for granted.”