Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Jackie Mitchell: Batting Helmets Off

The coolest thing about Jackie Mitchell (of early minor league team The Chattanooga Lookouts) is that she not only struck out Babe Ruth, but also Lou Gehrig during an exhibition game against the Yankees in 1931 (back to back). From Exploratorium's Science of Baseball:

Manager Bert Niehoff started the game with Clyde Barfoot, but after Barfoot gave up a double and a single, the manager signaled for Jackie Mitchell. The rookie southpaw took the mound wearing a baggy white uniform that had been custom-made by the Spalding Company. The first batter she faced was Babe Ruth.

Jackie only had one pitch, a wicked, dropping curve ball. Ruth took ball one, and then swung at -- and missed -- the next two pitches. Jackie's fourth pitch caught the corner of the plate, the umpire called it a strike, and Babe Ruth "kicked the dirt, called the umpire a few dirty names, gave his bat a wild heave, and stomped out to the Yank's dugout."

The next batter was Lou Gehrig. He stepped up to the plate and swung at the first sinker -- strike one! He swung twice more, hitting nothing but air. Jackie Mitchell had fanned the "Sultan of Swat" AND the "Iron Horse," back-to-back.

[Note: Mitchell was the 2nd woman, behind Lizzie Arlington, to sign a minor league contract.]

A few days after the exhibition game, Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis voided Jackie Mitchell's contract, claiming that baseball was "too strenuous" for a woman.

At the age of 23, she retired and went to work in her father's optometry office, although she continued to play with local teams from time to time.

[Another Note: My next installment will be dedicated to Lizzie Murphy, as previously promised. I just got so excited about the strike outs, I had to move Mitchell up.]


At 5:42 PM, Blogger JeresMom said...

Definitely didn't throw like a girl.

At 7:15 PM, Blogger 01245 said...

No way :)

The worst part (there was more to the story) was how heartbroken she was over the voiding of her contract. She loved playing more than anything else and because of bruised egos (of men), she could not. Imagine taking work as your dad's secretary when you've got enough talent to strike out baseball's finest hitters?

Sadly, I don't think times have changed much.


Post a Comment

<< Home