Women are coming into their own, setting records, breaking down barriers! Shouldn't have taken so long.
Could It Be Real!
Is it really possible that a 17-year-old young teenager struck out the Great Babe Rith and Iron Man Lou Gehrig? On April 2, 1931, at an exhibition game between the New York Yankees and the minor league team, the Lookouts. of Chatanooga, Tennessee. And, it was in front of 40,000 fans.
Her name was Jackie Mitchell, who played locally, and her neighbor, "Dazzy" Vance (later inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame), taught Jackie how to pitch the "drop ball." The week before the Yankees were to arrive, the owner of the Lookouts, Joe Engel, signed Jackie to a baseball contract. This contract was believed to be the first professional baseball contract given to a woman. When interviewed by the papers, Jackie took out her compact and powdered her nose.
Engel was a showman and a promoter, and combined with the newspaper's publicity; the 40,000 fans were in for a surprise. Jackie took her place on the mound. First up was Babe Ruth, who tipped his hat to the lady. Jackie threw her trademark sinker "drop Ruth swung and missed. Another throw, and he missed again. Ruth turned to the umpire and asked him to inspect the ball. Her next pitch caught the outside corner for strike three. Furious, Babe flung his bat and stormed to the dugout.
.Next up was Lou Gehrig, who in 1931 was batting .341 but again Jackie struck him out. Next up was Tony Lazzeri but now the Lookouts pulled her off the mound. The Yankees went on to win 14-4.
After The Famous Strike Outs
Controversy surrounded the game about Jackie's striking two great batters. Ruth was quoted as saying, "women will never make good in baseball, too delicate. It would kill them to play ball every day." Baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis voided Jackie's contract citing the reason "too strenuous for women." This was when African Americans and women were banned from major league baseball.
The media continued to say the game was a hoax, and no way could a 17-year-old woman strike them out. But remember, the Babe himself admitted he did strikeout upon occasion and in his career, he had over 1330 strikeouts.
It would take over forty years before girls could play Little League and almost fifty years before women broke into men's college ball. It's possible and probable that women will be playing in MLB before long. Times are indeed changing.
Jackie continued to play minor league baseball and had also played for the House of David baseball team from Michigan. But, she grew tired of their "circus" antics on the field and retired from baseball in 1937 at age 23 and returned home to Chatnooga and worked with her father in his dentist office. Ahe did have a newsreel of the famous game which shows her hitting the strike zone on at least three consecutive pitches. Neither Ruth nor Gehrig ever denied her pitches. Jackie said she always had her memories of her striking out two great MLB players. She died in 1987 and is buried in Forest Hills Cemetery, Chatanooga, Tennessee. Unfortunately, she never made it to the record books
fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on February 16, 2021:
Thanks, Pamela for your comments and for stopping by. I lived in Florida for over 20 years now back in COLD ohio! I do miss the weather and flowers in Florida.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on February 16, 2021:
This is such an interesting article, Fran. I had never heard of Jackie before, and the fact she sturck out 2 superstars is amazing. I enjoyed reading about her and thinking of how athletic she was.