Stovey is considered to have been the first great black pitcher, a 19th-century pioneer. He played for several white clubs before complete segregation in the late 1880s. In 1886 he was the top pitcher for Jersey City of the International League, holding opposing hitters to a .167 batting average. He moved to Newark in 1887 and went 34-14, setting a still-standing IL record for wins. He also played the outfield and hit .255.
Stovey was scheduled to pitch an exhibition game against the National League Chicago White Stockings on July 19, but Chicago’s Cap Anson refused to take the field. Stovey, feigning illness, withdrew from the game. Apparently, John Ward of the New York NL club tried to buy Stovey in 1887, but Anson again protested so strenuously that the deal died. The color line was drawn in the International League that winter and Newark released Stovey. He went on to play mostly for black teams, and none of his records survive.