Mamie ‘Peanut’ Johnson, 1st Female Pitcher to Play in the Negro Leagues, Dies at Age 82

Mamie Johnson—baseball legend, trailblazing icon—the first female pitcher to play in the Negro Leagues, died Tuesday at the age of 82.


“Peanut,” as Johnson was also known, was one of three women to ever play in the Negro Leagues, WUSA 9 notes. 

As a black woman, Johnson had to overcome unique adversity during her time, when segregation and discrimination were commonplace, however, that did not dim her passion for baseball and her determination to make a name for herself.

As the news station reports, when Johnson was only 17, she got her first brutal taste of rejection after she was not accepted to be a member of the White Female Baseball League.

“If I had played with white girls, I would have just been another player, but now I am somebody who has done something that no other woman has done,” Johnson said.

And she didn’t just smash through all the barriers placed in front of her.

In 1947, Johnson moved to the nation’s capital to live with her mother, where she worked at an ice cream shop and played baseball on the weekends. It was while in Washington, D.C., that she was recruited by a scout for the Indianapolis Clowns, who introduced her to the business manager. From there, they arranged a tryout and the rest was written in history.


Johnson played professional baseball with the Clowns from 1953 to 1955. In the span of those three seasons, she and her team won 33 games and only lost eight. Her batting average was a cool .262 to .284.

Of course, for outstanding grit and her outstanding tenure, she received several honors, including the Mary McLeod Bethune Continuing Award. She was also honored by then-President Bill Clinton and first lady Hilary Clinton as a female baseball legend. In 2003, there was a book released about her life, A Strong Right Arm.


In 2008, Johnson and other living players from the Negro League were finally acknowledged and drafted by Major League franchises prior to the 2008 MLB First-Year Draft.

Johnson, naturally, was selected by the Washington Nationals.

On Tuesday the team released a statement in a tweet honoring her as the “DC-baseball royalty” she was.


Read more at WUSA 9.

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Oh wow. I had the pleasure of meeting her some years ago at a minor league game. I got there early so I got a chance to talk to her for 10-15 minutes about her experiences and she was a complete joy. I got caught up in the moment and forgot to get something to have her sign, but she had someone go get a fresh ball and autographed it for me. When my little girl gets older I’ll get to give her something from a true pioneer of our people.