Mamie Johnson, one of a handful of women to play in baseball’s Negro leagues in the early 1950s — and the only one known to pitch — died on Monday in a Washington hospital. She was 82.
She had been admitted to the hospital because of problems with her pacemaker, her stepdaughter Yvonne Livingston said. Johnson lived in Washington.
The Negro leagues were waning when Johnson joined the Indianapolis Clowns in 1953. Jackie Robinson had integrated the majors with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, and the most talented black players were being recruited by major league teams.
But Negro league teams still cultivated talented players. (Hank Aaron played for the Clowns some years before Johnson joined the team.) And the Clowns were open to signing women: Two others, Toni Stone and Connie Morgan, also played for the team in the early 1950s, both as infielders.
Johnson, who stood about 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighed about 120 pounds during her playing days — hence the nickname Peanut — was initially signed largely as a novelty. Besides serious baseball, the Clowns and other teams in the Negro leagues also staged comedy routines and barnstormed playing exhibition games to supplement what they earned from competitive play.