Often rejection seems to be the final answer. In reality, it is just a temporary response. Such was the case in the baseball career of Mamie “Peanut” Johnson. Born in the mid-1930’s South, Johnson developed a love for baseball that prejudice could not extinguish.
At the age of 17, Mamie confronted the obstacles to playing the sport she loved at a time when professional and minor league sports practiced segregation. Since the White Female Baseball League declined Johnson the chance to try out and no Black female equivalent existed, Mamie found her place in the men’s Negro Baseball League. This being the first time Johnson experienced racial ignorance directly, she fondly looks back on its outcome instead of dwelling on the experience itself. She was quoted in an article honoring her contribution to baseball and South Carolina’s Black history, ” If I had played with white girls, I would have been just another player, but now I am somebody who has done something that no other woman has done.”
Johnson’s career lasted from 1953 to 1955, as one of three women who played in the Negro League. She won 33 games and only lost eight. “Peanut” became her nickname when an opponent doubted her pitching abilities because she “…was no bigger than a peanut”. She swiftly struck him out. While her playtime took place shortly after Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier, Peanut’s career quickly evaporated as females regardless of race were not included in major league play.
Mamie went on to earn a nursing degree from NYU and embarked on a 30-year career of helping others at their weakest. Although her baseball career may have ended after only three short years, Peanut Johnson maintained her link to America’s favorite pastime by managing the Negro Baseball League Memorabilia Shop in Prince George’s County, Maryland.
Even though Peanut played ball in an era that did not appreciate her talent on a large scale due to her race and her gender, on June 5th, 2008, Mamie “Peanut” Johnson joined 29 surviving members of the Negro Baseball League in Orlando, Florida where several Major League Baseball teams drafted the former players in an honorary pre-draft ceremony.
Thanks to Dave Winfield and others who respect and appreciate the Negro League’s contribution, rejection was temporary and acceptance is eternal.