Mo'ne Davis honors 'Peanut' at mural unveiling

Negro League stars Johnson, Gibson added to historic wall in DC

July 12th, 2018

WASHINGTON -- Mo'ne Davis still cherishes the signed ball Mamie "Peanut" Johnson gave to her, as well as a shirt with the latter's face on it. Davis first met Johnson on a 4,000-mile trip with her Little League team -- the Anderson Monarchs -- around the country on a 1947-style bus in 2015. With the Monarchs set to play a game on the tour right by Johnson's home in Virginia, Steve Bandura -- founder of the team -- reached out to Johnson. The groundbreaking first female pitcher in the Negro Leagues didn't hesitate to come out and watch Davis -- an embodiment of her legacy -- pitch.
Bandura told the story of the Monarchs' 2015 journey at the unveiling of a mural in downtown Washington, D.C., that honors the late Johnson and 12-time Negro League All-Star Josh Gibson. Included in the mural are images of Johnson in recent years before her death and as a young woman pitching, as well as Gibson and his Negro Leagues team, the Homestead Grays.
"I would always remember everything she told me, [like] 'Never throw it over the heart of the plate,'" Davis said of Johnson at the unveiling of the mural. "So every time I pitch, that's what I think about. She inspired me, and she's one of the greats that I've modeled my pitching after."
Davis, who made headlines in 2014 as a dominant pitcher at the Little League World Series, was joined in speaking to the crowd by Sean Gibson, who was there to represent his great-grandfather Josh.
Members of the DC Grays -- a squad in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League named after Gibson's former team -- were also in attendance, along with Davis' teammates on the Monarchs.
Both Johnson and Gibson were depicted by artist Aniekan Udofia in the famous alley beside Ben's Chili Bowl -- a D.C. institution that draws crowds from afar and locals for late-night dining. The two Negro League greats now share the alley with U.S. presidents, national icons and local celebrities.
In D.C. lore, having your face on the side of the 60-year-old Ben's Chili Bowl rivals the honor of being invited to the White House, which Johnson was -- by President Bill Clinton.
"For me and my family it's an honor," Gibson said after the ceremonies. "There are a lot of great African-American legends and icons already on the wall, and to add Mamie 'Peanut' Johnson, Josh Gibson and the Homestead Grays, for us it's a blessing because you're just as important as these other guys on the wall across from them."
Johnson, Gibson and the rest of the Grays on the mural are now permanent symbols of ground-breaking athletes who can hopefully inspire a next generation of pedestrians on D.C.'s U Street block to do the same, Gibson said.
"That's the goal," Gibson said. " … Hopefully we can get more young people to come out and play baseball."