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MAMIE "PEANUT" JOHNSON
MAMIE "PEANUT" JOHNSON
MAMIE SIGN AUTOGRAPHS AND GREETS FANS AT TONY DEE'S...SUMMER 2004
There was a pitcher who had a 38-6 lifetime record, who beat some of the best players in baseball history. Yet even some of the best baseball fans have never heard of her. Yes.. her.
Her name was Mamie "Peanut" Johnson. She was one of three women to play professional men's baseball. At a time when even black men couldn't play baseball with the white men, she was one of three women to play baseball in the Negro leagues.
Her brief three-year career was brought down not by injury, or losing her arm, but by the end of the leagues that gave her the opportunity to play.
She was "discovered" at Rosedale playground in Washington D.C. A scout saw her there. She said he always watched them play, but he didn't talk to her until she was 18 or 19. The scout's name was Bish Tyson.
Mamie signed with the Indianapolis Clowns when she was only 19 years old. She got her nickname "Peanut" when she was playing in Birmingham and a Black Barons player asked, “How do you expect to strike any body out? You're no bigger than a peanut!" She struck him out.
Mamie said she loved traveling around to all the cities, even though life on the road was hard for Negro League players. Many hotels and restaurants would not serve black people, and hotels were hard to find. When Mamie was on the road, instead of staying in hotels or barns with the men, the team arranged for her to stay in people's homes.
She pitched at legendary stadiums such as Yankee Stadium, Comiskey Park and Griffith Stadium.
Mamie said that not only black people came to the games but a lot of white people came too.
The Clowns had spring training in Richmond, Virginia. Spring training started at the end of March. The regular season started in mid-April. They played at Parker Field in Richmond during spring training. They got their name because they had three men who traveled with them and did clown tricks in the 7th inning stretch.
While playing for the Clowns, she became a friend of the legendary Satchel Paige, who taught her how to throw a wicked curve ball.
Mamie was born on September 27, 1935 in Ridgeway, South Carolina. In her biography, "A Strong Right Arm," she said "Mama never mentioned it, but I'm sure I was born with a baseball in my hand."
She said she honed her skill by knocking birds off fences with homemade baseballs in her hometown of Ridgeway, South Carolina. "That's how I learned to throw strikes," she said.
As a child, she had to make her own baseballs. She did this by taking a rock and wrapping it really tight with twine. Then she sewed the end. Last, she wrapped the whole thing in tape.
In 1955 Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. Soon after that Satchel Paige became the first black pitcher in the American League. More and more major league teams were raiding players from the Negro Leagues. It became hard for the Clowns to survive. While the National Association was changing its mind about letting black men into white baseball, women would still be banned from their leagues. Mamie's baseball career was coming to a close.
Rosedale playground, the park where Mamie was "discovered", will be re-named after her.
Mamie's name appears on the Negro Leagues Wall of Fame, the only thing preserved from the old County Stadium in Milwaukee.