Oh, the possibilities: A woman struck out Ruth and Gehrig

We love stories with a “David and Goliath” theme, don’t we?

Stories of the little guy taking on a powerhouse and coming out on top inspire us to tackle challenges that appear overwhelming, to seek out the weak spot in whatever giant stands in our way, and to keep the faith.

On the flip side, these stories invite rumours of hoax or conspiracy, and they elicit retaliatory denigrating remarks.

mighty-jackieOne such story involves a woman: Jackie Mitchell. In an exhibition game, the seventeen-year-old girl struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig of the New York Yankees, back to back.

In 1931, Mitchell signed to what is believed to be the first professional baseball contract offered to a woman. She played with the Chattanooga Lookouts, and on April 1, 1931, she was called in to pitch. Babe Ruth was the first batter she faced, and she struck him out. Next in the line-up came another all-time great, Lou Gehrig. She struck him out, too.

A “David” of a woman bested two “Goliaths” of baseball. 

A few days after this happened, the baseball commissioner voided her contract and declared women unfit to play baseball.

Reports written at the time contain sexist references to lipstick, curves and powdered noses. Babe Ruth declared that women would never play baseball because they are “too delicate”.

Reports written in recent years question the authenticity of the event, with allegations of a hoax or publicity stunt. Proponents of the publicity stunt angle don’t question that Mitchell did strike out the batters, they simply don’t believe she did it by seeking out the weak spots of those two giants, keeping the faith, and hurling a wicked curve ball.

So, I can choose to believe that a woman struck out two of the greatest batters of all time, or I can choose to believe that two of the greatest batters of all time played a role in a publicity stunt that set back the participation of women in the game.

Life is short, so I’ll go with the inspirational story. I’ll believe that overwhelming challenges can be overcome, I’ll look for the weak spots in the giants I face, and I’ll keep the faith.


Read more:

“The Myth of Jackie Mitchell, the Girl Who Struck Out Ruth and Gehrig”

“The Woman Who (Maybe) Struck Out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig”

Mighty Jackie: The Strike-Out Queen by Marissa Moss



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