The Woman Who (Maybe) Struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig

Of all the strange baseball exploits of the Depression era, none was more surprising than Jackie Mitchell’s supposed feat

Days after Jackie Mitchell (center) struck out Yankee superstars (from left) Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth, the duo watched the female phenom demonstrate her fastball during spring training in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on April 4, 1931. (Getty Images)
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In Thorn’s view, it is players like Yoshida, throwing knucklers or other off-speed pitches, who represent the likeliest path to the majors for women. Asked if this breakthrough might occur in his lifetime, the 66-year-old historian pauses before replying: “If I live to 100, yes. I believe it could be possible.”

My son, for one, thinks it will happen much sooner than that. Shortly before our visit to Cooperstown, his Little League team was defeated in a playoff game by a team whose girl pitcher struck out batter after batter and stroked several hits, too. No one on the field or sidelines seemed to consider her gender noteworthy.

“Don’t be sexist, Dad,” my son chided when I asked if he was surprised by the girl’s play. “I wish she was on our team.”


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