She was 5-foot-3, 110 pounds. An opponent, after striking out, complained she was no bigger than a peanut and the nickname stuck. She won 33 games, lost 8. After baseball, she moved back to Washington and worked as a nurse for 30 years.
The future would be Mo'ne Davis, 11, who lives in South Philadelphia. Mo'ne has been barnstorming the country for the last 19 days as the only girl along with 15 10- and 11-year old boys who play on a travel baseball team based at the Marian Anderson Recreation Center in Philadelphia.
The largely African American team, riding in a 1947 bus without bathroom or air-conditioning, has tried to honor and recreate the experience of Negro League ballplayers back in the day.
Their experience in places such as Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and South Point, Ohio, has been pretty much the opposite of what the Negro League players might have faced - largely white crowds welcoming them to town with police escorts, ovations, barbecues.
In addition to playing games in cities and towns, the Monarchs have attended seven Major League games, met many players, been down on the field. The Cleveland Indians, for instance, let them stretch with players, had them sprint from home plate to the center-field wall, and then let each Monarch run the bases after pretending to homer.
Sami Wiley got to talking with Tony Sipp, an Indians pitcher, and admired his glove. Sipp took it off his hand and gave it to Sami, who now has a treasure for life.
Steve Bandura, the coach and organizer of this trip, a recreation leader at Anderson, assembled his first Monarchs team in 1995, and he named them after the Kansas City Monarchs, perhaps the best of the Negro League teams.
Bandura tries to begin picking players for the Monarchs when they are just 5 or 6 years old. His theory is that with the same time, training, and discipline, these city kids can be as good as or better than any suburban baseball team.
Bandura well remembers the first time he met Mo'ne.
She was 7.
He was raking the ball field on his tractor after a fall game, and he couldn't take his eyes off this girl throwing beautiful, effortless, accurate spirals with a football across the field.
He invited her to basketball practice the following week, thinking he'd never see her again. She showed up as he was running a three-person weave. She got in back of the line.
When her turn came, she was running the weave like she'd done it all her life.
Mo'ne is now the Monarch's No. 1 pitcher, and she bats fifth in the order. Bandura has seen many of his former players get college scholarships, so when he raves about her, he has some context.
'Throw it right under his arm'
Johnson and her husband arrived at the field right as the Monarch bus was pulling in.
Johnson was in the front seat of her car. Mo'ne walked up.
"You're supposed to hug me," Johnson said, pulling her close, then taking a good look. "You pretty, too."
"Thank you," said Mo'ne.
Johnson walks with a cane. She made her way to the visitors' bench, which was shaded, and sat herself down. It was about 4 p.m., the hottest part of the Virginia afternoon. Mo'ne sat next to her.
They talked while the boys warmed up.
"Don't ever throw the ball down the heart of the plate," Johnson said. "Always throw it inside, outside, side to side. And if he's too close to the plate, throw it right under his arm."
Mo'ne, with her beautiful tight braids, nodded.
"She reminds me of me," declared Johnson, who started playing baseball on the farms of her native South Carolina well before 11. "I wasn't no baby doll," she said, "No girlie girl. Baseball was all I knew. And I loved it."
She told Mo'ne, "I've done something no other woman has ever done."
A journalist, there to chronicle the moment, asked Mo'ne, "What's your signature pitch?"
"Strike," she said,
"You go, girl," said Johnson.
"Do you think you'll be playing professional some day?" the reporter asked.
"Yes!" she replied. "But basketball, not baseball."
Two great games
The opponent this night was the Loudoun South Eagles. Loudoun County has the highest median household income of any county in America, $119,540.
Bandura arranged a game here because last year, playing this team in a tournament, the parents of the team's one black player approached him after the game and told him how thrilled they and their son were to see an African American team, unique in the travel leagues they play.
Bandura thought it would be great to play this team again, and he was looking for a game in the Washington area, so he could get Johnson out to meet Mo'ne.
The Monarchs had lost a game the previous night in South Point, Ohio, blowing a two-run lead in the last inning, but it had all been part of the wonderful overall cultural experience.
"They said, 'y'all,' " Monarchs pitcher Alex Johnson explained. He imitated the opposing player using his own best attempt at a southern accent: "Don't hang your heads. Y'all played a great game."
There was no need to hang their heads against Loudoun. The Monarchs jumped out to a one-run lead, and in the bottom of the first inning, Mo'ne got the first two outs on routine grounders, gave up a single to the third batter, then struck out the meaty cleanup hitter.
All game long, Johnson shouted encouragement to Mo'ne from the bench.
"Take your time. Take your time," Johnson yelled. "Inside, outside. Find the plate, baby. Throw strikes. Find the plate. Settle down, Mo."
Mo'ne didn't need much settling down. She threw five shutout innings, and her team led, 6-0, going into the last inning. After tiring in the sixth, giving up a run and loading the bases, Mo'ne was pulled by her coach with two outs.
She walked into the dugout, greeted by Johnson. "You did good, baby."
The final score was 6-4, Monarchs.
The teams shook hands, traded gifts, and ate hoagies together in the bleachers. The Loudoun cleanup hitter, James Smith, was asked what it was like to be struck out by a girl. "She's just like any normal pitcher," he said, "except she's good."
Johnson headed back to Washington.
"I think she's going to be the first girl to play in the Major Leagues," she declared of Mo'ne. "She just needs to work on her follow through, how she comes off the mound. She pitches too much with her arm, not enough with her body. If I could just work with her for a week or so . . . "
Watch videos of the barnstorming Monarchs baseball team at www.philly.com/monarchs. Also, view photo galleries and follow the series as The Inquirer travels with the 10- and 11-year-olds on part of their 22-day road trip.
Contact staff Michael Vitez at 215-854-5639 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @michaelvitez on Twitter.