Ridgeway’s ‘Peanut’ Johnson dead at 82

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The professional baseball trailblazer and Ridgeway native Mamie “Peanut” Johnson has died at the age of 82. Celebrated as the first female pitcher in the Negro Leagues, she signed with the Indianapolis Clowns in 1953 and played three seasons with them. She was one of only three women to play in the historic Negro Leagues. Her story has been covered by Sports Illustrated, National Public Radio and the New York Times, among other national publications, and she was also the subject of a 2002 book, “A Strong Right Arm,” by Michelle Y. Green.

Johnson | Getty Images

As reported by the New York Times in 2010, Johnson had “first wanted to try out for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, the circuit later immortalized in the movie, A League of Their Own. She went to a tryout in Washington with a friend … ‘They looked at us like we were crazy, as if to say, What do you want here?’” Johnson said. “’We stood around for maybe 10 or 15 minutes. I didn’t say anything. Rita didn’t say anything. And they didn’t say anything, either. So I said to Rita, I guess we better go. I don’t think we’re wanted here. So we left.’”

Johnson was born in Ridgeway but left the area at age nine.  Known as “Peanut” because of her short stature – 5-foot-3 and 115 pounds – she held a 33-8 record and a .270 batting average. She attended New York University and graduated from North Carolina A&T with a degree in nursing. She lived in Washington, D.C., where she raised her son Charles, worked as a nurse for 30 years, coached youth baseball and managed a Negro Leagues memorabilia shop.

The Town of Ridgeway presented Johnson with a key to the town in 2010, where a street has been named in her honor.