By Tim Lacy, Special to the AFRO
Negro Leagues legend Mamie “Peanut” Johnson has gone to play ball with that Heavenly baseball team, but her legacy lingers on.
Before I warm your hearts with this story, let me introduce you to Peanut. Mamie Johnson was born in Ridgeway, S.C. in 1935. This was during an era when Jim Crow was the big dog in the South. Being colored and a female, she was stricken with a double dose of prejudice. For this reason, she had to put her love for baseball on the back burner while she honed her skills on fields with rocks the size of your fist strewn about the playing surface.
(Courtesy Photo/All-American Girl Professional Baseball League Twitter @AAGPBL)
Not to be daunted, she continued to fight for the right to play with the boys and was noticed by the Indianapolis Clowns, who signed her. The history books were opened and an entry was made covering the signing of this young woman to play baseball with a professional team, albeit the Negro Leagues. During her debut she faced a batter who was determined to turn the screws concerning her gender. He made remarks about her being nothing but a peanut so there was no way she could strike him out. She sat him down and the name “Peanut” stuck.
When she retired from baseball, Mamie became a nurse. She worked at this craft until retirement, but still maintained interest in her first love: baseball.
It is only fitting that Mamie’s life should segue into the story of a group of young African-American boys who had to overcome adversity to play the game at a competitive level. The youth in D.C. are hard pressed to find a baseball diamond to hone their skills upon. Unlike basketball and football, decent baseball diamonds are hard to come by.
This absence of baseball diamonds isn’t something new. When I was a youth, there were a half dozen basketball courts within walking distance from my house. We played football anywhere we could find a patch of grass. But, our baseball was relegated to a small triangular shaped street divider. A long fly ball found us dodging cars and fire trucks. One of our members got hit by a fire truck, and he hopped to his feet and I think he is still running. Mom and POP were not fans of our designated playing fields.
Fortunately for today’s youth, the Mamie “Peanut” Johnson Little League was formed. And for the first time, an all Black team won the championship. These boys will be headed for Connecticut to play at the next level.
Raising funds for this outing is proving to be a struggle but what else is new? If you find you have an extra couple of bucks, send them to the Mamie “Peanut” Johnson Little League to help these kids along. If you need an address, check with Google.