Peanuts at the ballpark

Someone asked me if my handle was a nod to Jimmy “Peanut” Carter. Much as I admire that excellent gentleman, there’s a another delicious example of the legume — we’re not nuts, honest — that I think of annually on baseball’s opening day.

Meet Mamie “Peanut” Johnson, righthanded pitcher extraordinaire, pictured here at age seventeen. Having what it takes for a girl to make her mark in the world — some heat and a curveball — she looked to the Women’s Professional Baseball League to ply her craft, but the all-white organization “… didn’t let us try out … They just looked at us like we were crazy as if to say, ‘What do you want?'” (NPR interview, 02/18/04)

Undaunted, Peanut Johnson successfully tried out for the men’s Negro Leagues and “got to meet and be with some of the best baseball players that ever picked up a bat, so I’m very proud about that.” She played alongside legends like Hank Aaron and the great Satchel Paige, who helped her refine her curve. She played three seasons of pro ball (1953 to 1955) with the Indianapolis Clowns.

While pitching her first game with the Clowns, a batter on the opposing team yelled to her, “What makes you think you can strike a batter out? Why, you aren’t any larger than a peanut!” Mamie never said a word, but the batter soon found out what she could do! 1 – 2 – 3 – OUT! From that day, the 100 pound baseball player had the nickname, “Peanut.” (SC African American History Online)

She had a few problems initially with men who thought she should be “in a kitchen” or off “having somebody’s baby.” In her NPR interview, Peanut Johnson said simply, “That wasn’t my shot.”

I wish I could have seen Peanut Johnson in action, but if the separating forces of time and space wouldn’t allow that, sharing a particular bliss — love for the craft of pitching — transcends those limitations. I don’t have much of an arm (though I did learn to throw a knuckleball), but my fellow Peanut’s as much an inspiration as if I’d seen her amass her winning record of 33-8, and hold her own at the other end with a batting average ranging from .264-.283.

Bliss is like that. Any craft, calling or even pastime that’s invigorating, often frustrating and perplexing, but always inspiring in some way connects you with others in magical and unpredictable ways. You see those affirming currents of connection when enthusiastic professionals talk shop or among parents watching their kids splash around the wading pool, or in yourself when a kindred spirit in history touches you through time. Whether it’s making your mark professionally, dedicating yourself to family, or honing a talent, the pursuit of happiness was a concept important enough to place alongside life and liberty in the Constitution. The founders wisely realized that to leave it out would be to give people life, but without the juice of living.

One of the most frustrating aspects of the Bush administration in action is their systematic erosion of people’s right to pursue happiness. There’s an insidious attack on people’s joys as well as freedoms being waged by Bush’s most ardent supporters; it’s the unreported War on Bliss. Corporate extremists, who’d gut the economy long term for immediate profit, and religious fanatics, whose apparent ecstasy comes from stifling everyone else, are the biggest offenders, but his apologists and enablers are on the front lines of this unnecessary war of choice. Who in their right minds would go so far out of their way to prevent others from finding the best in themselves and sharing it with others?

Is dedicating yourself to the well-being of your family your particular bliss? If you’re gay, ooh, sorry, BushCo will throw more energy to making you miserable than helping you pursue this happiness. Regardless of your partner’s chromosomal makeup, you’ll have considerable anxiety over the fate awaiting your children. They’ll have the burden of paying off an obscene deficit — much of it racked up to line already bulging pockets — but a reduced access to the decent education and training that will give them fighting chance to thrive while doing so.

Did you strive to learn and hone a profession or trade that would support you through life? If you’re one of the millions of longterm unemployed, you may suddenly find yourself juggling several menial part-time jobs just to stay afloat and facing the prospect of starting at the bottom again. Not all of us have the Preznit’s luxury of half-assedly coasting through new ventures, screwing up miserably, and then starting at the top again thanks to Poppy and his friends.

Did you work hard all your life to be able to enjoy a healthy and happy retirement? Sorry, seniors, BushCo promised his big pharmaceutical donors a winning lottery ticket, and his pal Ken Lay the opportunity to raze your nest eggs like a wildfire.

Is love of your country something that gives you bliss? Patriotism is now the official property of the Republican party. Big party donors who outsource and don’t pay taxes and religious extremists who want to impose the Christian version of Sharia law are the official patriots now. People who continue to uphold principles like freedom of speech and assembly, representative government and truth in media are terror-loving traitors, relegated to the margins by outright persecution, media blackouts or being moved bodily to “free speech zones”.

Even the art and craft of baseball has been co-opted as the sole property of the Republican party. When the Baseball Hall of Fame wanted to honor Bull Durham, Republican Dale Petroskey decided to stomp on that particular bliss, as he explained in his letter to Tim Robbins.

Dear Mr. Robbins:

We believe your very public criticism of President Bush at this important–and sensitive–time in our nation’s history helps undermine the US position, which ultimately could put our troops in even more danger. As an institution, we stand behind our President and our troops in this conflict. As a result, we have decided to cancel the April 26-27 programs in Cooperstown commemorating the 15th anniversary of Bull Durham.


Dale Petroskey

Who the hell are Dale Petroskey or the doofus who traded Sammy Sosa from the Texas Rangers for three magic beans and a cow to artificially revise baseball’s history?

Crash Davis: Time out. Why do you get to choose?
Annie Savoy: What?
Crash Davis: Why do you get to choose? I mean, why don’t I get to choose, why doesn’t he get to choose?

Petroskey’s ludicrous rationalization was that Robbins would “politicize” the event. (Yup, it’s the other party politicizing things.) Petroskey didn’t seem to have that concern when co-opting the Hall of Fame for partisan events like fund-raising or letting Ari Fleischer drop by to sing his boss’s praises. Robbins brushed Petroskey back with some loud chin music worthy of Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLouche:

I had been unaware that baseball was a Republican sport. I was looking forward to a weekend away from politics and war to celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of Bull Durham. I am sorry that you have chosen to use baseball and your position at the Hall of Fame to make a political statement. I know there are many baseball fans that disagree with you and even more that will react with disgust to realize baseball is being politicized.

And so they did, from both parties, because bliss is a uniter. Take it from Peanut Johnson. When you have the stuff and the opportunity to bring it, even your adversaries come around. The teammates who objected to her signing were soon glad to have her when they saw her stuff. “I had 26 brothers,” she said. Even her opponents had to revise their initial impression, possibly while watching one of her bat-freezing pitches sail past them. “After you strike three or four of them out, you know, it’s alright.”

(The Other Other Peanut, Jimmy Carter, will be throwing the first pitch on the Padres opening night at San Diego, April 8th.)


Comments: 7


Another beaut, Peanut.

One of the most frustrating aspects of the Bush administration in action is their systematic erosion of people’s right to pursue happiness. There’s an insidious attack on people’s joys as well as freedoms being waged by Bush’s most ardent supporters; it’s the unreported War on Bliss.

Same old culture wars, Ray-gun style. Gays, boobies, soap operas, fa(s)t food, whatever. Distracts attention from the gun at your back and the grubby hands in your pocket.


religious extremists who want to impose the Christian version of Sharia law

And who, lest we forget, don’t pay taxes either.


Play Ball!

As I type these words, my beloved Seattle Mariners are only 131 minutes away from opening their 2004 campaign.

I’m an arrogant cuss, but not nearly arrogant enough to imagine myself the equal of those who have written about baseball so beautifully…


Peanut, you can truly do it ALL— from your dynamite graphics to your quickie snarkjobs to today’s inspirational sermon.

I hope Seb gets better soon, but when he comes back, he’d be a fool to let you get away.

s.z. is also great of course, but she already has her own first-rate blog. (BTW her long article today at World O’Crap showed a new side of her first rate talent as a more or less serious reporter, too.)

So, Peanut, as a Satchel Paige lover whose parents used to take him to St. Louis Browns games as a baby, I doff my chapeau to both you and your namesake.

PS Oh yeah, and I also doff Blair’s chapeau for him, because he’s too busy doing whatever it is he does to have time to doff it himself.


Dear Peanut,

I too have been enjoying the axis of guest bloggers here while Seb is in the hospital although I certainly hope he is back soon feeling better. And this post was really something wonderful to start out my day here in Egypt. Thanks to all of you for maintaining the ISO for Sadly, No.


Thanks for the thumbs-up! Glad to be relevant and happier still to give Seb’s fingers some, er, time off their feet. I do miss his astringent commentary and unique presence in Blogistan, so my regular transmission of good health vibes isn’t entirely altruistic. 😉


how about those royals


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