Told from Mamie "Peanut" Johnson's
point of view:
hard. It was hard to find a job and even harder to make any money.
That's why I lived with my Gram and my uncle. Sure, I miss and love
my mom, but I also love my uncle and Gram, and I LOVE playing baseball.
I'm not talking about "sissy ball" either! THE Ball -- BASEBALL!
One day, I was
doing what I loved doing best when my uncle showed up at the park with
bad news. My Gram had gone to heaven. Boy, I sure was sad!
My mom came to visit and she told me I was going to live with my Auntie
and my Uncle, whom I didn't even know, in the south. I knew right
then that my life was about to change.
it did! I had to learn which stores to go in, which water fountains
to use, where to sit on a bus, and what teams I could play on. One
time I wanted to play baseball on a police sponsored baseball team.
When I asked if I could play, the coach scoffed and said that it wasn't
against the law or anything, and then walked away. Well I thought
about what my Grandma had always told me, you can do anything you set your
mind to. Then, I stopped by the precinct the next day to ask if there
was a law against me playing on their baseball team. When the sergeant
said "no", I started showing up at the practice every day until they finally
let me play. Those boys were laughin' at me when I walked on the
field, but they were surely cryin' when I sent them off with another strikeout!
playing ball through the day, and going to school at night. Like
all the guys, I was going to do something in the science or medicine field.
Anyway, I kept playing ball and made it into the Sandlot leagues- where
scouts were rumored to watch up and coming players. One day after
playing another team with a really great pitcher, this pitcher started
complementing my strong right arm. We spent half a day together and
he taught me how to throw the hiccup ball (a pitch the commission ruled
illegal to use because no one could hit it) and a curve ball. By
the end of the day, I could throw the best curve ball the world had ever
seen- maybe, except for his.... You better watch that guy- he'll be going
places. His name is Satchel. Satchel Paige!
so many great stories to tell that you're just gonna have to read my book.
But I want to leave you with my favorite story of all... It's how I got
my name. I was playing a championship game in the American Negro
Baseball League. It was the bottom of the 9th, we were ahead by one,
there were 2 outs, the other team's best hitter was coming up to bat, and
if that doesn't beat all, there was a heckler in the crowd! I threw
a little Tom first (Satchel's name for a slow fastball). STRIKE 1.
I didn't get my hopes up though. Most batters let the first one go
by in order to size up the speed of the pitcher. Well, I wanted to
keep that guy on his toes, so I threw him a ball. BALL 1. I
felt the rawhide on my palm and the seams between my fingers, and I just
let my Big Tom rip (Satchel's name for a fast fastball)! STRIKE 2.
Just then, that heckler started up again. He said, "why that pitcher's
no bigger than a peanut." The crowd hooted and hollered with laughter.
I didn't let it bother me, though. I stood up proud and straight,
fully extending my 98 pound, 5'2" body on the mound before winding up and
pummeling out the best curve ball I had ever thrown. STRIKE 3!
As the crowd cheered for our victory, I pointed at the heckler and hollered,
just "call me Peanut!" And the name stuck.... Miss Mamie "Peanut"
Johnson, one of the best pitchers the Negro Leagues had ever had! (Andi
I just met the most wonderful
person between pages 1 and 105 of this book. Mamie Johnson was born
to play baseball. She even slept with one under her pillow sometimes.
She couldn't stand softball, because it was "too slow and sissy".
After being told "you're just a dumb girl and you're colored besides" she
responded with "a ball's a ball all the same. It don't know nothing
about the person who's throwing it except if they're good or not".
And good she was. She worked her way onto a police sponsored all
white, all male, baseball team and then onto a sandlot team where a scout
found her, but not before the great Satchel Paige showed her his famous
curve ball. She said trying to sleep before her big tryout for
the Negro Leagues was like "trying to get butter from a duck!" This
5'2" peanut with determination and skill was one of only three women to
ever play in the Negro Leagues. She overcame prejudice just by chasing
her dream and letting her "strong right arm do all the talking."
I think you'll enjoy her story in A Strong Right Arm.
(New Hampshire Great
Stone Face Committee, 2004-05)