Mamie “Peanut” Johnson, A Baseball Legend, Dies at Age 82
Mamie "Peanut" Johnson grew up in a league of her own with a passion and talent to do one thing.... Pitch the baseball and strike the fellas out.
Today, tomorrow and for the rest of "Herstory", we will remember the legendary, Mamie "Peanut" Johnson as she passed away yesterday (December 19) at age 82. But she did not leave us empty handed. She left us inspired, motivated, determined, confident.
Born Mamie Belton September 27, 1935 in South Carolina, she lived with her maternal grandmother, Cendonia Belton and attended school at Thorntree school, a two-room schoolhouse. At about 6-years-old, Mamie began playing baseball with her Uncle Leon "Bones" Johnson, who was close to her age and quickly became passionate about the game. Baseball equipment as we know it today was not available to her, and improvisation was the only way. So, she and her uncle made baseball bats out of tree limbs, bases out of plates and balls out of rocks wrapped in twine and tape. In an interview, she explained the process.
We wrapped rocks in thick twine until they were the size of a baseball. Then we wrapped them in tape and IT WOULD FLY!
To strengthen her arm, Mamie threw rocks at birds sitting on the fence on her grandmothers farm with the goal being to knock them off. Needless to say, she developed a mean fast ball that even the fellas had to respect.
Mamie always credited her grandmother for supporting her passion for baseball and giving her the confidence she need as a double minority in the field.
The fellas would gather with my uncle. When they played, I played and I got mad if I didn't play. So, I'd tell my grandmother and she would make them let me play.
When Mamie's grandmother passed away, she moved to New Jersey with an aunt and uncle and tried her hand at girls' softball. She quickly grew frustrated, as she was used to playing baseball with the boys and knew she was good. She then tried out for an all-white team and made it. Her indisputable talent over road the fact that she was the only woman and the only black on the team. She helped carry the team to two division championships. She credits this experience for teaching her how to out smart batters and for strengthening her right arm. For her the outsmarting opponents was the easy part because always underestimated her.
After graduating high school, Mamie attempted to try out for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. She wasn't even allowed on the field. Mamie left pissed and more determined than ever to play ball.
In 1953, Mamie married, had a son and was working at an ice cream shop and playing baseball on weekends. A Scout for the Indianapolis Clowns (of the National Negro Baseball League) saw her and invited her to try out for the team. She made the team and hopped a bus headed to Portsmouth, Virginia for spring training.
Stepping out on the pitcher's mound for her first game with the Clowns was a highlight of her life.
She soon won the respect of her fellow male teammates. On the field, Mamie's greatest joy was striking out hitters. After traveling with the team to play in cities such as Little Rock, Atlanta, Birminham, Chicago and many others, she felt she had achieved her lifelong ambition, but began to realize she would not be able to achieve her ultimate mission to play in the major leagues. She decided to go back to school and pursue a future outside of baseball.
She later returned to baseball and played 150 games per season with the Clowns. In three seasons she won 33 games and lost only eight, with a batting average of 270. That made her one of the top pitchers in league history.
However, playing ball in the Negro Leagues did not always pay well. She made $400- $700 per month. With dimming hopes of getting to play in the major leagues and a pushing desire to raise her son, she retired from baseball at the end of her 1955 season. She went back to college and finished as an LVN.
Find out how Mamie Johnson explains how she got the nickname "Peanut".
Watch an interview below of Mamie "Peanut" Johnson reflecting on growing up the only girl playing baseball.
Peanut Meets Monet. See below....