Women who paved the way: Mamie “Peanut” Johnson

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Courtesy of dbking on Creative Commons

Mamie “Peanut” Johnson was a pitcher and one of the first three women to play professional baseball.

Emily Dvareckas, Photo Editor

In light of Women’s History Month, The Hawks’ Herald is featuring important women from throughout history. The third week of March highlights women who have paved the way in sports.

Mamie Johnson was born on September 27, 1935 in South Carolina. Growing up, she loved to play baseball and would play every day using sticks and rocks to mimic bats and balls. When she was 10 years old, her grandmother passed away and she moved to New Jersey to live with her aunt and uncle. She tried to join the girl’s softball team but had gotten so used to the roughness that came with playing baseball with the boys in her South Carolina neighborhood that she quit.

Moving on from softball, Johnson tried out for an all-white boys baseball team and became part of the team as the only girl and only Black person.

Any doubts cast on her due to her gender or skin color were quickly put to rest when people saw how good of a player she was. She helped the team go to two championships. She had a mean fastball and also found out how to outsmart batters who underestimated her ability.

In 1947, Johnson moved to Washington, D.C. where her mother worked as a dietician at Freedman’s Hospital. In D.C., she began to play semi-pro baseball with two male Black teams.

When she graduated high school, Johnson tried out for the All-American Girls Baseball League but was turned away before even stepping on the field. She went on to marry Charles Johnson and they had a son.

By 1953, Johnson was working at an ice cream parlor and playing baseball on the weekends. At this time, baseball teams were integrating Black and white players. While playing on the weekends, a scout for the Indianapolis Clowns saw Johnson play which led to her trying out for the team. She was hired and joined the two other recently hired women, Toni Stone and Connie Morgan.

She took the mound of her first game and helped lead the team to a win, in turn winning the respect of her teammates. The team traveled across the country and while the male players slept on the bus, the three female players were made to find families in the area to let them stay the night because hotels would not let them in.

Between 1954 and 1955, Johnson played 150 games and in her three seasons of playing, she won 33 games and lost 8. She was one of the top pitchers in the league. After the 1955 season, Johnson retired so she could graduate college after taking some classes during her time playing and raising her son.

She graduated from New York University and became a nurse, spending 30 years in the profession. While she worked as a nurse, she also coached several youth baseball teams. When she retired, she worked in her son’s memorabilia shop.

Mamie “Peanut” Johnson passed away on December 18,  2017. She will always be remembered for her determination that led her to break down several barriers that stood between her and her love of baseball.