A Negro League Legend Takes on Bryce Harper’s Hustle and Obama’s Throwing Arm

Susan Davis
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Susan Davis
May 8, 2014, 1 a.m.

Mam­ie John­son was the only wo­man to pitch in the Negro Leagues, and the long­time D.C. res­id­ent re­cently shared her story with Na­tion­al Journ­al. She also gave some thoughts on Bryce Harp­er, Barack Obama and the des­ig­nated hit­ter.

John­son, on mod­ern base­ball play­ers: “Base­ball is not base­ball now. It’s a mil­lion­aire thing now, you know. To me, you’re play­ing like a 12-year-old. You missed the ball, and you stand up and look at it? What is this?”¦ How are you ap­ply­ing your­self to the job that you are sup­posed to be do­ing? That’s not so good, you know. So this is how I judge the ball­play­ing.”

On the Na­tion­als’ Bryce Harp­er, who was re­cently benched for fail­ing to run out a ground ball: “I used to love my little fella over there, Harp­er, but he made me very angry with him the oth­er day. He made me angry when he didn’t hustle to first base. That threw me off. That showed me that you are not ap­ply­ing your­self to what you’re sup­posed to be do­ing. He should have been benched for the next month. If he’d been play­ing for me, he’d have been benched for the next month.”¦ Who does that in a game that you’re try­ing to win?”

On the des­ig­nated hit­ter: “I don’t know where they get this thing—what you call it, des­ig­nated hit­ter? I don’t even know where that comes from. What is this? I had a .257 bat­ting av­er­age [as a pitch­er]. If you can bat, you can bat. If you can’t, you can’t. A whole lot of them stand up there with the bat on their shoulder and don’t even swing it. Not only the pitch­ers, a whole lot of the oth­ers. They would be sit­ting on the bench if they were play­ing ball when I was play­ing. They would be on the bench. What’s wrong with your bat? Why can’t you swing it? You might ac­ci­dent­ally hit it. Really.”

On Pres­id­ent Obama’s at­tempts to throw out the ce­re­mo­ni­al first pitch be­fore base­ball games: (Laughs) “He’s a bas­ket­ball play­er, not a base­ball play­er. He’s all right though.”

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