This Friday, April 12, 2013, 42 the story of Jackie Robinson hits theaters. Who doesn’t love America’s favorite pastime?! I’m particularly excited because I love to see the stories of people of color’s impact on American history told on the big screen. In my excitement about 42, I began to reflect on African American women in baseball. I did a little googling and came across three women who left their mark in men’s baseball.
A woman who refused to wear a skirt or shorts while she played baseball with the men, Toni Stone played second base as the replacement for Hank Aaron for the Indianapolis Clowns. Stone was born on January 21, 1921, in West Virginia but was raised in St. Paul, Minnesota. In 1953, when she signed with the Clowns, she became the first woman to play in the Negro Leagues. Stone passed away in 1996 but not before being inducted in the Women’s Sports Foundation International Hall of Fame in 1985.
An all-around athlete, Connie Morgan, was born in Philadelphia in 1935. From 1949 until 1954, Morgan played for the all-female baseball team, the North Philadelphia Drippers and played for the city’s Rockettes, a basketball team, in the off-season. After hearing that the Clowns signed Stone, Morgan contacted Clowns’ owner, Syd Pollack, and requested a tryout. Morgan went on to play for the Clowns for two seasons and then retired from the sport. After being inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 1995, Morgan passed away in 1996.
Mamie “Peanuts” Johnson
Hailing from my home state of South Carolina, Mamie “Peanuts” Johnson grew up loving baseball and fashioning bats from tree limbs, bases from pie plates and balls from rocks wrapped in tape. Not satisfied with the level of play in women’s softball or baseball, Johnson found her way to the Negro Leagues. In 1953, Johnson, a pitcher, became the third woman signed to the Clowns. After a career that included 33 wins, 8 losses, and a batting average of 270, Johnson went on to practice as a registered nurse and often coached youth baseball teams.