Goodbye, Dave Thomas Circle: The area that was once home to DC’s most chaotic intersection will now be known as “Mamie ‘Peanut’ Johnson Plaza.” The moniker won a public vote to name the trio of green spaces coming to the intersection of New York Avenue, Florida Avenue, and First Street NE. According to the NoMa BID, Mamie “Peanut” Johnson Plaza won 40% of the vote, beating out four other finalists.
So, who was Mamie “Peanut” Johnson?
She was a barrier-breaking baseball player
Johnson was one of three women to play in the Negro leagues and the only female pitcher. She attempted to try out for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in 1951. However, the 17-year-old was barred from the process: Although it was several years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in major league baseball in 1947, the women’s league would not allow Johnson to join due to her race.
Rather than quit, Johnson found another pitcher’s mound to stand on. She became the first woman ever to pitch in men’s professional baseball, playing with the Negro league’s Indianapolis Clowns from 1953 to 1955. During her time with the team, Johnson had a 33-8 pitching record.
She spent most of her life in DC
As a child, Johnson spent a period of time in Washington. She became a nurse in the District following her baseball career, and later ran a Negro leagues memorabilia shop in Capitol Heights, Maryland. Johnson passed away in 2017 at age 82.
In addition to the new plaza, there are already a few homages to Johnson around DC. A baseball field in Rosedale Recreation Center is dedicated to her, and she’s also represented in a Major League Baseball mural on U Street. There’s also a local Little League that bears Johnson’s name.
She’s also known as “Peanut”
The nickname—part of the plaza’s title—comes from Johnson’s small stature. Despite throwing pitches to rival her male counterparts, Johnson stood at 5’3″. According to the MLB, another player once asked how Johnson could strike someone out when she was no larger than a peanut. Johnson did, in fact, strike them out.