08 Jan 2010

The Best Pitcher You've Never Heard Of – Maime "Peanut" Johnson

All too often I hear about something getting named, dig into the person we’re supposed to be honoring, and find out that it’s just some middle manager who has successfully pulled the right lever for thirty five years. Not so for the field at Rosedale Recreation Center at 19th and F Streets Northeast.

On Tuesday, Councilmember Wells introduced the “Maime ‘Peanut’ Johnson Field Designation Act of 2010”, renaming the multipurpose field at Rosedale Rec Center after, you guessed it, Maime “Peanut” Johnson. Now, if you leave an empty plot of land or a school cafeteria alone too long, there’s a very real chance some politician will come along and re-name it, but we can’t fault Councilmember Wells on this honor.

Peanut Johnson is one of only three women to have played professional baseball in the United States, and the only pitcher. She racked up 33 wins with only 8 losses in 150 games with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro Leagues from 1953 to 1954. Impressively for a pitcher, she managed to keep a career .270 batting average. She was tagged with the moniker “Peanut” by Kansas City Monarchs third baseman Hank Baylis, when he taunted her, “What makes you think you can strike a batter out? Why, you aren’t any larger than a peanut!”. He had time to think about that as he walked back to the bench.

While originally from South Carolina, Maime Johnson spent much of her youth in Washington, DC. Her mother was a dietitian at Freedman’s Hospital (now Howard University Hospital), and she was initially discovered by a scout at the field that may soon bear her name.

We wish the Act a speedy passage and hope that Peanut Johnson Field is part of a bright, shiny new Rosedale Recreation Center. While the Parks and Rec Department has run into a few problems with managing their contracts, now that the project has been moved to the Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization we expect to see some progress. According to Charles Allen, Councilmember Wells’ Chief of Staff, the project is “likely going to be delayed, but only by a matter of a couple of months”.

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2 responses to “The Best Pitcher You've Never Heard Of – Maime "Peanut" Johnson”

  1. Seth says:

    Very interesting piece, but factually incorrect. There have been far more than three women to play professional baseball in the United States. There was a professional woman’s league from 1943 until 1954 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All-American_Girls_Professional_Baseball_League) and many more professional woman baseball players (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women%27s_baseball). Perhaps Peanut Johnson was one of only three women to play professional baseball along side men, but that would be much harder to prove. (Sorry to use wikipedia references, but they were very easy to find quickly.)

  2. Tim Krepp Tim Krepp says:

    Quite so, Seth, I left off an important qualifier. She is one of three women to have played professional ball in an American men’s league. Thanks for catching it.

    Please don’t make me watch A League of Their Own again. I’ll be more careful next. Pleeeease!

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