The Girl Who Struck out Ruth And Gehrig


Back to back! What?

On April 2, 1931, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the New York Yankees played an exhibition game against their AA  minor club team the ‘Lookouts.’  It’s pitcher was 17-year-old Jackie Mitchell, a woman in an almost exclusively-male dominated sport.

After the team’s first pitcher let a few Yankees on base, the Lookout’s coach sent Jackie to the mound with her odd, left-handed, sidearm delivery.  Her first batter?  The ‘Sultan of Swing’ himself, Babe Ruth. The Babe swung mightily  and missed twice before taking a called third strike.  He then lambasted the umpire for the call and stalked away from the plate.

Lou Gehrig was up next and he didn’t look too happy.  The “Iron Horse” swung and missed three times, striking out on just three pitches stunning the crowd.  That was the Lookouts high point in the game.  They predictably were crushed by the Yankees 14-4.

After the game, Ruth said, “I don’t know what’s going to happen if they begin to let women in baseball. Of course, they will never make good. Why? Because they are too delicate. It would kill them to play ball every day.”

What did Mitchell get for her triumph?  She was immediately banned from Major and Minor league baseball by Commissioner Landis.

Were the strikeouts an “act” for the hometown crowd?  Most people don’t think so. Although Ruth led the league in home runs for his career, he was also known as the “Strikeout King,” topping the league in that category for 5-years*.  Gehrig just wasn’t a guy who fooled around much on the diamond. Neither took Jackie Mitchell seriously and her strange pitching style may have thrown them.

Jackie Mitchell shaking hands with Babe Ruth.

You can read more about baseball’s greatest woman pitcher here.

*Although Babe Ruth was a master of big hits, he wasn’t exactly known for his all-around baseball expertise.  Ty Cobb, often judged as the “best” player EVER in the game, was jealous of the Bambino.  Once when asked to say something “good” about Ruth, Ty said, “Well, for a fat guy, he runs pretty good.”

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