It’s with a heavy heart we report that a baseball legend has passed. Mamie “Peanut” Johnson, who died at 82 years old on Dec. 18 due to a “heart ailment,” was not allowed to try out for the segregated female baseball league that started during WWII, so she became one of just three women to play in the Negro League, and the first and only to take the mound as a pitcher.
She was nicknamed “Peanut” because at 5’3,” she was tiny even while standing on top of the mound. However, she had a huge arm as demonstrated by her 85 MPH fastballs.
“Back then, I could throw anything anybody else could throw,” she said in the documentary, “A Strong Right Arm,” which chronicles her life.
Johnson grew up in Ridgeway, South Carolina and moved to Washington, D.C. She started playing baseball at a young age because it was the thing “to do.”
“I say I was about 5, 6 years old, and this is all we had to do,” she said. “We didn’t know anything about football or basketball. All we knew was baseball, and everybody was playing it. So, you know, you do what everybody else does.”
At 17, she moved to Alexandria, Virginia to attempt to secure a spot on the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. However, because of her skin color, she was turned away from the tryout.
In 1953, she landed a spot on the Indianapolis Clowns, a Negro League team, where she played alongside men and went 33-8 as a pitcher while batting .270, according to ESPN.
Following her baseball career, she was a nurse for three decades and then ran a Negro League memorabilia shop in Maryland.
In 2008, she was one of several former African American baseball players who were discriminated against to be recognized by Major League Baseball, where she was ceremoniously drafted by the Washington Nationals, her hometown team.
“Today is one of the greatest days of my life, to be recognized as the only woman to be drafted to the Major Leagues, and it’s a great thing, and I’m very pleased,” she told Growing Bolder. “I’m very glad that I wasn’t picked because if I had been picked by the girls, I wouldn’t be who I am today.”
Learn more about Johnson, a true trailblazer on the diamond and beyond: