Since the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPL) folded in 1954, women in professional baseball have been few and far between, although on the high school level hundreds of girls play on boys’ teams these days. The demise of the AAGPL didn’t stop Mamie “Peanut” Johnson from achieving her dream of playing ball professionally — and making sports history at the same time.
In 1953, Johnson became the first female pitcher for the Negro American League (NAL), playing for the Indianapolis Clowns until 1955. At that time, the Clowns were one of the last of its teams still standing in the NAL, which had recruited two other female players along with Johnson. And while the Clowns might’ve recruited Johnson to drum up publicity to fill seats, her pitching record reflects a genuine talent.
Better known by her nickname Peanut back in the day, Johnson cites an impressive record of going 33-8 and hitting .260 with the Clowns. Barely topping 5’3”, Johnson’s presence on the mound attracted spectators eager to see a woman tossing to the male players.
And speaking of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, Johnson intended to try out for the ladies’ league in the 1940s, but was turned away from the all-white association because she was black.
Johnson told The New York Times in 2010: “I’m so glad to this day that they turned me down. To know that I was good enough to be with these gentlemen made me the proudest lady in the world. Now I can say that I’ve done something that no other woman has ever done.”
After her baseball career ended, Johnson was a STEM student at NYU studying medicine and engineering and went on to become a nurse.
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