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Negro Leagues' Mamie 'Peanut' Johnson Dies At Age 82

Dec 20, 2017
Originally published on December 20, 2017 6:17 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

OK. Let's take a minute to reflect on the life of Mamie "Peanut" Johnson. She was one of just three women to play professional baseball in the Negro Leagues. She died yesterday at the age of 82.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Johnson was born in South Carolina. And she went to a tryout for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, you know, the one from "A League Of Their Own." But as Johnson told MORNING EDITION'S Bob Edwards in 2003, she and a friend were turned down because they were black.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

MAMIE JOHNSON: They didn't let us try out. They just looked at us like we were crazy as if to say, what do you want?

GREENE: Now, Johnson said that looking back, she was glad about that because had she played in the women's league...

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JOHNSON: I would be just another lady ball player somewhere. But now I'm proud to say I'm the only and the first lady major-league pitcher.

MARTIN: Mamie Johnson joined the Indianapolis Clowns in 1953 at the age of 18. She played three seasons and compiled impressive stats - a pitching record of 33-8 while batting .270. During her time in the Negro League, she played with some all-time greats.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

JOHNSON: Mr. Satchel Paige, he was a sweet gentleman. He was kind enough to help me to perfect the curveball. I knew how to throw it, but the technique that he gave me helped me so much in my baseball career. And then I was, you know, I was able to strike a whole lot of fellas out there.

MARTIN: After retiring, Mamie "Peanut" Johnson worked as a nurse for 30 years and coached youth baseball. She was honorarily (ph) selected by the Washington Nationals in the 2008 draft.

(SOUNDBITE OF CINCINNATI POPS ORCHESTRA'S "SUITE (FROM THE NATURAL)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.