The North American Baseball Season begins in ten days, and March is National Women’s History Month. In order to honor both of these events, this post sheds light on one day in the amazing life of Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias.
Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias is listed as one of the greatest female athletes of the 20th century. But if you really examine her sports record, you will see that she was an amazingly talented athlete, regardless of sex.
Mrs. Zaharias excelled in the 1932 Olympics, winning two gold medals and setting new world records for the javelin throw, 80-meter hurdles, and high jump. After the Olympics she used her celebrity status to tour with many different sports teams, from billiards to baseball.
On March 20, 1934, Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias pitched one inning for the Philadelphia Athletics spring training exhibition game against the Brooklyn Dodgers. She allowed one walk and no hits that day, though the Dodgers still managed to win 4-2. Babe went on to pitch other games that spring, and even managed to strike out Joe DiMaggio. Cardinals pitcher Burleigh Grimes was quoted in the press as saying “Babe would be one of the best prospects in baseball if she were a boy.”
Not satisfied with her baseball or basketball careers, Babe went on to dominate golf, becoming a world champion golfer. In both her amateur and professional victories, Zaharias won a total of 82 golf tournaments.
Babe Didrikson Zaharias was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1953, and had surgery to remove that cancer. One month after the surgery, she went on to win the 1954 Women’s National Open. Sadly the cancer returned, and she succumbed to the disease on September 27, 1956.
In 1950, the Associate Press named her female Athlete of the Half Century, and in 2000, Sports Illustrated named her Female Athlete of the 20th Century. She was an incredible athlete then, and can still be found in the top ten lists of greatest female athletes of all time.
Sportswriter Paul Gallico once asked her if there was anything she did not play. “Sure,” Babe shot back, “Dolls.”
Interested in reading more about the life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias? Contact your librarian here.
See you at the first Salem Red Sox home game!
*Photo taken in 1934 of Babe Didrikson on the mound. Library of Congress. Public Domain.
Source- Babe Didrikson Zaharias: The Life I’ve Led: My Autobiography, A.S. Barns & Co, New York, NY, 1955.