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Northeast D.C. Could Honor "Peanut" Johnson

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Longtime D.C. resident Mamie "Peanut" Johnson was the first and only female pitcher in the Negro Leagues.
Rebecca Sheir
Longtime D.C. resident Mamie "Peanut" Johnson was the first and only female pitcher in the Negro Leagues.

By Rebecca Sheir

The first and only woman to pitch in the Negro American League is one step closer to being commemorated in Northeast D.C.

Mamie Peanut Johnson was one of just three females to play baseball in the Negro Leagues. And the field where she was discovered soon could bear her name.

At a sprightly 75 years old, Mamie Peanut Johnson loves telling how she earned her nickname. It was 1953, she'd just started pitching for the Indianapolis Clowns, "and a young man I was playing ball against said I wasn't as big as a peanut; how did I expect to strike anybody out?," Johnson recalls. "So I struck him out, and that's where it came from!"

Johnson is sitting outside City Council chambers, where public comments were heard today on The Mamie Peanut Johnson Field Designation Act of 2010, which would designate the multi-purpose field at the Rosedale Recreation Center in Ward 6 as the Mamie Peanut Johnson Field.

This field in Northeast D.C. is where a Negro League scout discovered Johnson nearly 60 years ago. She then spent nearly three seasons throwing fastballs, sliders and screwballs for the Clowns.

As D.C. resident Michael Ackerstein suggests, her story should inspire just about anyone.

"Johnson holds the distinction of being the first female to pitch among men in an all-male professional baseball league," he says. "And as such, she provides a role model for anyone else trying to succeed in a field not historically dominated by members of their race or gender."

Though the council still must vote on the bill, Chairman Gray says he has a hunch how it will go.

"I have a sense of what an enormous accomplishment it was to walk out there and do what you did," he says to Ms. Johnson during the hearing. "So this vote is not an 'if.' I think its a when, w-h-e-n. And it will be a win, w-i-n when this happens!"

And winning is something Johnson knows well. By the time she left baseball to study nursing in 1955, her record was 33 and 8.

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