Remembering Mamie ‘Peanut’ Johnson
The first woman to pitch in the Negro Leagues dies at 82
5:18 PMHank Bayliss must have thought he was doing something. The Kansas City Monarchs third baseman was having himself a day running his mouth as he stood opposite of 5-foot-3, 115-pound Mamie Johnson.
He exclaimed that the right-handed pitcher was “no bigger than a peanut.” And he was no better at hitting after talking all that trash. Johnson, a Ridgeway, South Carolina, native, struck him out and turned the jab into her nickname.
She took all of the slights in stride, including when the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, an all-white league, turned Johnson away. She decided to play three seasons with the Indianapolis Clowns in the Negro Leagues from 1953-55.
“They didn’t let us try out,” Johnson said in a 2003 interview with NPR. “They just looked at us like we were crazy, as if to say, ‘What do you want?’ ”
Johnson, the first woman to pitch in the Negro Leagues and a mentee of Negro Leagues baseball legend and Baseball Hall of Famer Satchel Paige, died on Dec. 19. She was 82. Bob Kendrick, the president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, announced her death. She was the last of the three women who played in the Negro Leagues to die. Toni Stone and Connie Morgan died in 1996.
“It’s a sad day for all of us,” Kendrick said Tuesday. “We lost a member of our family. She was truly a pioneer.
“It’s representative of the inclusive nature of the Negro Leagues, that it created an opportunity for women to do things that they weren’t allowed to do in the rest of the country.”
The Clowns, Hank Aaron’s team before he joined Major League Baseball, recruited Johnson to play on the team. Johnson compiled a 33-8 record in her three seasons with a .270 batting average.
Johnson credited Paige for her unhittable curveball.
“Tell you the truth, I didn’t know of his greatness that much. He was just another ballplayer to me at that particular time,” Johnson told The State (Columbia, South Carolina). “Later on, I found out exactly who he was.
“I got to meet and be with some of the best baseball players that ever picked up a bat, so I’m very proud about that,” Johnson said in an NPR interview.
It took many years for people to see Johnson, who was born in 1935, as a trailblazer. But when she finally started to get her due, it came in droves.
When she was out of season, Johnson attended New York University and eventually received a nursing degree from North Carolina A&T State University. At the conclusion of her career, Johnson focused on raising her son, Charles, and practiced as a nurse for three decades.
The 2002 book A Strong Right Arm, by Michelle Y. Green, is based on Johnson’s story. The White House hosted Johnson in 1999, and that same year, Columbia, South Carolina, Mayor Bob Coble presented Johnson with a proclamation. A decade later, the Library of Congress welcomed her as a guest lecturer for a symposium.
A year before her Library of Congress lecture in 2008, Johnson and other living alumni from the Negro Leagues era were drafted by major league franchises. The Washington Nationals drafted Johnson, as she spent most of her adult life in the nation’s capital. The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, has Johnson in two exhibits: one dedicated to members of the Negro Leagues and another for women who have pioneered in the sport.
Ridgeway presented Johnson with a key to her hometown and named a street in her honor. In 2012, Mo’ne Davis, the phenom pitcher for the Little League World Series’ Anderson Monarchs, was introduced to Johnson.
As a child, Johnson had such a passion for pitching that she would forgo her work with the crops to play baseball. Her uncle, Leo “Bones” Belton, taught her how to throw by tossing stones at crows that sat perched on her grandparents’ fence.
“It’s what people do in the country,” Johnson told The State in 2010. “You use what you had.”
Said Kendrick: “We lost a voice with her passing, but her legacy plays on at the Negro Leagues Museum. Hers is a story of hope, a story of perseverance and an example of how to overcome adversity and achieve your dreams.”
Daily Dose: 12/19/17
Kendrick Lamar is about to rock the college football world
4:52 PMAll right, kiddos. All good things must come to an end. This is the last day of Daily Dose. I’ll be switching gears to a different role involving some new things. It’s been a fun ride, y’all. See you on the radio.
If your instastory looks like this – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – I just want you to know I’m not watching that.
— Karlie Hustle (@THEkarliehustle) December 19, 2017
Look at that, the House Republicans got something done. What did they do, you ask? Well, they passed a massive tax reform bill that’s going to benefit businesses and rich people. They’re referring to it as a legislative victory, which, depending on what side of Uncle Sam you reside, could be construed as a mischaracterization. It’s the largest overhaul of the tax code in 30 years, which I guess on some level is an accomplishment in itself? The devil, of course, is in the details.
So, I have a lot of feelings about Star Wars: The Last Jedi. For various reasons. One, I’m an uber fan, so there’s that. Secondly, I write about these sort of things for a living now, so I take it extremely seriously. Monday, I went on a very long tweet rant about the latest flick, so if you don’t want spoilers, don’t read that. But if you’ve seen the film and are looking for some more analysis of the latest episode, VICE has you covered. To be clear, this person did not like the film at all.
Tavis Smiley is officially wilding out. The longtime PBS talk show host is not only vehemently defending his position in light of multiple sexual misconduct allegations, he’s actively spouting his reasoning for said defense in an awful way. His rationale is basically “my game is tight.” He clearly has zero understanding of the relationship between power and coercion, never mind how that can affect an environment like a newsroom. He did an interview with Tucker Carlson of all people Monday night, and it did not go well.
Y’all aren’t really ready for Kendrick Lamar. King Kenny is continuing his amazing run at the College Football Playoff National Championship game in Atlanta, where he’ll be performing the halftime show. This is dope not just because it’s K. Dot but also because it’s the first time this has happened for this event. It’s going to be a free show in Olympic Park, which promises to be a banger, no questions asked. There’s an argument that it might end up being more popular than the game itself.
Coffee Break: If you don’t know who Dapper Dan is, you should. His groundbreaking work dating to the ’80s is a pillar in the hip-hop fashion community. His roll was slowed when major fashion houses shut him down based on copyright laws, but now he’s back. And in full force.
Snack Time: For the second time in a month, a plane has been grounded so the passengers can use the bathroom after a malfunction; 2018 can’t get here fast enough.
Dessert: It’s been fun y’all. I’m reupping this Black Thought heater because it’s just a great note to end on.
Daily Dose: 12/18/17
Diddy wants to buy the ‘North’ Carolina Panthers
6:33 PMWell, what a day. Our president, John Skipper, stepped down, noting his own substance abuse issues as the reason. The Undefeated does not exist without Skipper, which is a plain fact. Going to miss that guy.
— Aesthetics + Art (@passionfuI) December 9, 2017
Tavis Smiley is fighting back. The longtime PBS host, who has built a career being one of the most prominent black faces in media, was suspended for allegations of sexual misconduct, which we’ve obviously seen a lot of in recent months. Now he’s attempting to defend himself in the public eye, but it appears he doesn’t fundamentally understand the nature of the problem. To claim that you have cards and letters that prove your relationships over the years were consensual, well, that’s not really the point here.
Prayers go out to Seattle. Earlier today, an Amtrak train derailed, killing multiple people. Perhaps as important, though, the optics of a train dangling off a bridge in a relatively big city in America, with seemingly no relief in sight, is really disheartening. How we feel about American infrastructure efforts is very much regulated by what we can see, and this is not good. The stories of what happened to the people actually on the train are extremely harrowing and worth a read.
George Zimmerman is back on his bull#!@. Now that Jay-Z is making a docuseries about the night that Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, an incident that sparked a revival in the attention on the deaths of unarmed black people, particularly at the hands of people in positions of authority. Reminder: Zimmerman was a self-appointed neighborhood watch person. Not some officially appointed guy. Now he’s throwing shade at Jay, like he wants to get in a confrontation with him too. Yeah, that’s gross.
The situation with the Carolina Panthers is bad news. Owner Jerry Richardson has been accused of a whole lot of really foul things, including openly telling women to turn around so he could look at their behinds and allegedly requesting that a black employee apply suntan lotion to his face. Now, in an attempt to get away from it, he’s selling the team. Tina Becker is now running the team, and Diddy has said he wants to buy the squad, but he doesn’t know their name (he called them the “North Carolina Panthers” in a video) and he has no idea who the quarterback is.
Coffee Break: There’s a new novel from Zora Neale Hurston coming out, and I could not possibly be happier about this. The legendary writer has long since left us, so the notion of new work coming from one of the best minds in human history is really exciting.
Snack Time: If you haven’t seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi, what are you doing with yourself? In all seriousness, though, check out this story of Kelly Marie Tran, who is the breakout star from the film.
Dessert: If you need something to zap your productivity, here you go.
Daily Dose: 12/15/17
Black Thought is God’s gift to hip-hop fans this Christmas
5:11 PMWhat up, gang? I’m finally back home. It’s snowing, it’s grimy, but I saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi on Friday, so I’m happy.
Whys there always huge puddles on the ground under public male urinals? Lol people act like its a contested 3 instead of an open layup
— Jeremy Lin (@JLin7) December 14, 2017
When I first heard that Black Thought had a 10-minute freestyle on HOT97, I didn’t know what to think. I had just seen him at NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert a month or so ago, and it was great, so I didn’t want to ruin that memory with what was sure to be some over-the-top interview with Funkmaster Flex screaming and dropping bombs all over The Roots’ frontman’s flow. There’s always a place for that, but Thought is a god, and I don’t like seeing him disrespected. Then I watched it. And I watched it again. And again. Fam. It’s completely insane.
Now that weed is legal, so to speak, in many places, it’s hard to watch. There are entire facilities full of black and brown folks who sold weed, and it put them behind bars for the rest of their lives. It broke up their families, ruined communities and destroyed careers. Not because someone smoked marijuana, but because the so-called war on drugs was such a massive overplay from the government that was effectively rooted in racism. But now that it’s popular, oh, guess what? Weed is a luxury lifestyle. It’s borderline sickening, but it’s real.
In the early days of chat, there was but one beast. It was AOL Instant Messenger, the original app that got us all hooked on the concept of direct, private, instant communication. Well before texting was the thing, AIM was what people used not just to talk with each other but also to express themselves. It was customizable with colors, there were “away messages” — which were, in some ways, the earliest form of Twitter — and it was generally just vital to life. Now, it’s completely done. But we had to pay respect to the originator one last time.
Saturday night, a legendary New York Knicks player makes a return to Madison Square Garden. No, not Charles Oakley, I’m talking about Carmelo Anthony. The Oklahoma City Thunder, who picked up Melo along with Paul George this summer, are not in fact very good at all, but that’s beside the point. Anthony’s legacy in New York is an interesting one, as the team basically was not very good at all while he was there, and now that he’s gone they’re competitive again. Their new star, Kristaps Porzingis, thinks that the Garden should cheer him.
Coffee Break: We’re at the point of the year that if you go to an all-Christmas music soundtrack in your home or office, no one could blame you. We’re 10 days out, so it’s officially time to crank out the carols and holiday cheer. Check out this thread of black Christmas songs.
Snack Time: Queen Latifah is very smart. She’s been in the game for quite a long time, and she knows the game very well. And she’s got a clause in all her movie contracts that says something very interesting.
Dessert: This man is my hero. Atlanta, stand up.