A Strong Right Arm: The Story of Mamie "Peanut" Johnson


Motivated by her love for the game and inspired by the legendary Jackie Robinson, Mamie Johnson is determined to be a professional baseball pitcher.  But in a sport that's determined by white men, there is no place for a black woman.  Mamie doesn't give up-from the time she insists on trying out for the all-male, all-white Police Athletic League until she realizes her dream and becomes one of three women to play in the Negro Leagues.  Mamie Johnson's life shows that with courage and perseverance ...

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Motivated by her love for the game and inspired by the legendary Jackie Robinson, Mamie Johnson is determined to be a professional baseball pitcher.  But in a sport that's determined by white men, there is no place for a black woman.  Mamie doesn't give up-from the time she insists on trying out for the all-male, all-white Police Athletic League until she realizes her dream and becomes one of three women to play in the Negro Leagues.  Mamie Johnson's life shows that with courage and perseverance one can overcome even the greatest challenges.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
I've said it before and I'll say it again, I love it when I learn new things from children's books. Did you know that with all the fuss made over A League of Their Own, women getting to play baseball, and so forth, that African-American women were not included? In fact, back in the 1940s there were three African-American women who played in what was then known as the Negro Leagues with the men. Mamie Johnson first wanted to try out for the all white, all male Police Athletic League team but was told to run along by the coach. The next day, she went to the police station and asked for a chance to try out. After the coach had her pitch to him, he signed her up. She said, "Excuse me, sir...what are you going to tell the boys?" He answered, "How 'bout we let that strong right arm of yours do all the talking?" A wonderful, personal story about a virtually unknown part of baseball history. 2002, Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin Putnam,
— Sharon Levin
The author, who also created the children's series Willie Pearl, delves into an undiscovered niche in baseball lore. To attract more fans during their waning years, the Negro Leagues recruited a handful of female players, including a feisty South Carolina teenager with an amazing pitching arm. Nine-year-old Mamie Johnson lived with her grandmother because her single mother could not afford to provide for her. There an uncle taught her to play baseball until her grandmother's death forced Mamie to move north. She was miserable until she happened by a field where the Police Athletic League was holding baseball tryouts. After overcoming prejudice for being female and black, she made the all-white team and excelled as a pitcher. Meanwhile her family watched as Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in professional ball. By the age of fifteen, Mamie was playing professionally for the Indianapolis Clowns in the Negro Leagues where she was dubbed "Peanut." She and her teammates still faced segregation and ever-thinning crowds as many good black players headed for the newly integrated big leagues. When the league began shutting down, the majors were not accepting women, but Mamie had saved money to go to college to fulfill her other dream of becoming a nurse. Today Mamie teaches youngsters about the Negro Leagues and hopes to refurbish an old field they once used. Her story is well written and inspiring for all young baseball lovers—especially females who are told "Girls can't..." Photos. Source Notes. Further Reading. VOYA CODES: 3Q 3P M J (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2002, Dial,128p,
— Kevin Beach
From The Critics
Dreams enable a person to reach goals, and that is what happened to Mamie "Peanut" Johnson, a 5'2", 98 pound Black girl who dared to cross the boundaries of gender and race. In elementary school, Mamie had the spunk and tenacity to become the first girl to integrate a local baseball league team. At seventeen, she became one of three women who played professional baseball, becoming a pitcher for the Indianapolis Clowns, a Negro League team. Laced with such historical names as Satchel Paige and Jackie Robinson, the reader learns of these famous African-Americans, and others who helped break down racial integration barriers in the 1950s. As the reader comes to know, segregation during the 50s, throughout the South and North, was pervasive, but on the ball field, walls slowly crumbled. This biography—filled with great information about life in early baseball and the struggle of young Blacks to gain acceptance in a White world—will inspire readers to see people as more alike than different. And it introduce us to one unique individual—ballplayer and African American, Mamie "Peanut" Johnson, a figure who deserves our attention and admiration. 2002, Dial, 111 pp.,
— Joy Frerichs
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-Johnson played professional ball for the Indianapolis Clowns for three years in the waning days of the Negro Leagues. She succeeded as a professional athlete, competing on an equal footing against some of the best male ballplayers in the country. As her story makes clear, even though Jackie Robinson had broken the major-league color barrier a few years before, the U.S. was still mired in segregation and prejudice, and Johnson faced an equally pervasive bias against female athletes. She never let any of this stand in her way, however, and her love of baseball kept her going. This isn't an autobiography, but the author, who obviously interviewed her subject extensively, wisely tells the story in the first person. Consequently, whereas some sports biographies are a rather dull catalog of accomplishments, this one is peppered with colorful language and filled with Johnson's natural exuberance and love of life. While readers might wish for more descriptions of some of the professional games she played in and how she developed her impressive skills as a pitcher and infielder (she won far more games than she lost and had a respectable batting average), this is an enjoyable account of a part of baseball history that will come as a surprise to many readers. Black-and-white photos are scattered throughout.-Todd Morning, Schaumburg Township Public Library, IL Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
By chance, the author visited the newly opened Negro Leagues Baseball Shop in Maryland and discovered that there really were women who played professional baseball-and one of them was right there in the store. She was smart enough to ask Mamie Johnson if anyone had ever written her story and smart enough to grab at the chance. The result is at once unique, yet sadly representative of the hold racism had on every facet of society. From the time she was a young child, Mamie just wanted to play baseball. She had been taught to play like the boys, and her pitching ability had far surpassed most of the youngsters she played with and against. As she grew older, she had to constantly overcome the double prejudice of gender and race, but she usually managed to find a way to play. When Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in major league baseball in 1947, teams quickly began raiding the Negro Leagues for their best talent. It was at this time that Mamie and two other black women were contracted to play in the Negro Leagues. Although it was initially an economic decision made to boost gate receipts, the women made the most of the opportunity and were wildly popular. It was there that Mamie was given her nickname of "Peanut," a reference to her small size. Mamie is a strong, feisty woman who is-rightfully-immensely proud of her place in baseball history. She has formed the They Played Baseball Foundation to allow former Negro League players to pass on their vast knowledge of baseball. Green has wisely allowed her to tell the story in her own voice, a charming and personable one. The reader is richer for the opportunity of meeting Mamie in this poignant and fascinating story of a great lady.(Biography. 10-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780142400722
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 3/8/2004
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 128
  • Sales rank: 152,593
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.84 (h) x 0.35 (d)

Meet the Author

Michelle Y. Green is a graduate of the University of Maryland College of Journalism and the Johns Hopkins University Masters Program in Writing. She teaches "The Art of Writing for Children," and two other courses at The George Washington University School of Continuing Education.

Ms. Green is the author of A Strong Right Arm: The Story of Mamie Peanut Johnson, the true story of the first woman to pitch professional baseball in a men’s league. She is also the author of the award-winning children’s book series, Willie Pearl, a book about her mother set in a Depression-era coal mining town.

Ms. Green lives with her two sons, Bryan and Evan, in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, where she roots for her favorite team, the Baltimore Orioles.

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Table of Contents

Introduction xi
The Wall 3
Carolina Summers 5
Blackberry Sky 11
Knuckleball 15
Long Branch 22
The Tryout 37
Bannecker Field 47
Change-up 61
Full Count 69
Call Me Peanut 82
Miller's Field 99
For More 107
The They Played Baseball Foundation 110
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 18, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    My 10 year old who hates reading found this to be a very enjoyable book.

    My 10 year old who hates reading found this to be a very enjoyable book.

    I read it myself and enjoyed it as well.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2006

    Best Book Ever

    A Strong Right Arm was one of the best books I have ever read. It is a nonfiction novel on Mamie 'Peanut' Johnson and about her life and baseball. She was good at batting and fielding, but her biggest talent is on the pitchers mound. She is black and played baseball with whites and she even got to play in the negro leauges. Mamie played ball with the boys, only 1 or 2 other girls. Oh she was made for baseball, not softball. This is an outstanding book. You should get a chance to read it, please read it. If you read it, I think you will love it as much as me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2011

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