We had a great time on Saturday at the Black Memorabilia Show in Gaithersburg.
Jimmy Bland, who played with the Indianapolis Clowns, told me he had a chance to sign with the Giants in 1963.
Mamie “Peanuts” Johnson wore her Clowns gear and effervescent smile. I told her I remembered meeting her when I bought my Grays hat at the Oxon Hill Negro Leagues outlet. This was some years ago before they closed in 2007. The store owner, a tall older black man, was standing behind the counter. As he was processing my order, I glanced over at a calendar on the counter, and did a double take.
“Is that you?”
Yes, indeed. Al Burrows played ball in the black leagues. After he handed me my receipt, he said, that’s Mamie Peanuts Johnson sitting over there.
Johnson was the first woman pitcher to play in men’s professional baseball, and only one of three women to play professionally in the Negro Baseball League. Rosedale Recreation Center in NE is named for her.
We also met Pedro Sierra, a legend in Cuban baseball circles. We told him we had just been to Cuba. He told me he visited Connie Marrero just days before he passed away last week.
Senators fans will remember Fred Valentine. He played eight seasons, five with Washington in the 1960s. His best season was 1966 (3.5 WAR). Valentine told me when he played centerfield for the Senators, he had to help out Frank Howard who had limited range. He chuckled when I quipped, “yea but he gave you a lot of home run trots!”
You hear things about baseball such as “for the love of the game.” These players, and those who blazed trails before them, embody that spirit. If you get the chance, shake their hand and thank them for their contributions to the game and life. After all, moments such as these can be the best memories of all.