Mamie Johnson, baseball trailblazer, hopes for local baseball field
Mamie “Peanut” Johnson is a legend—and the D.C. area is lucky to call her one of our own.
Johnson was one of only three women who played in the Negro Leagues and the only pitcher. At the age of 77, she still lives in the row house in northeast D.C. that she has lived in for decades.
When asked whether the men were surprised when she would strike them, out, Johnson laughed, saying, “Well some of them don't like it too well, you know but hey, that all right.”
"I'd been doing it all my life. I started playing baseball…when I was six years old," she said.
When she was 18 and the only girl playing with church teams at nearby Rosedale Rec Center Field, a Negro League scout spotted her and sent her to see the Indianapolis Clowns when they were in D.C.
The "next day, I was on the bus, and I made the team and I was gone,” Johnson said.
The clowns were innovative and played serious baseball—another example of this was Goose Tatum, the great Harlem Globe Trotter in basketball, who first played baseball and clowned for the Clowns. In the early 50s, a five foot, three inch, 115 pound Mamie Johnson started pitching.
Reminiscing, Johnson said one Birmingham Black Barons player "asked me how did I expect to strike anybody out—I wasn’t big as a peanut, and I struck him out.”
The name peanut stuck—between 1953 to 1955, she won 33 and lost eight games. Yet, baseball was integrating and Negro Leagues were folding, and Mamie said she had a small son.
“I went back to school to nursing school and became a nurse for 30 years," she said.
Johnson said she grew up playing baseball on the Rec Center Field that's named after her, but she miffed at the fact that it is more of a football and soccer field.
“You dedicate a field to me and then you make it a football field and soccer field,” she said.
She said the city promised a baseball design was coming. If, and when it does, Johnson says “I’m gone bring baseball back to northeast… when they get the field ready, I'm gonna be right there."
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