The Woman Who Struck Out Babe Ruth
And Lou Gehrig too.
On April 2, 1931 the seventeen year-old Jackie Mitchell struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig back-to-back. They were arguably the deadliest hitting duo in baseball history, and she did it in only seven pitches. Which is pretty damn impressive. Less impressive is what happened afterwards. "They are too delicate. It would kill them to play ball every day."
Ruth wasn't the most gracious in defeat (via), and some historians have dismissed the exhibition game as an April Fool's Prank. It's unlikely that Ruth would have been visibly upset if he struck out on purpose, nor would he have asked the umpire to inspect the ball. And a few days later, Mitchell's contract was voided on the basis that baseball was "too strenuous" for women. Yeah, beating some of the most famous players of all time sounds really strenuous. What if she broke a nail?! /sarcasm She kept playing anyway.
So clearly the game wasn't TOO strenuous (she died in 1987 at the age of 74). She joined the amateur team House of David in 1933, and retired in 1937. Meanwhile, women weren't formally banned from the MLB until 1952, though unofficially they were often kept off the field. Such was the case for Eleanor Engle, who never took the field. The President of the minor leagues stated that no contract with a woman would be approved because “not in the best interest of baseball that such travesties be tolerated.” In the 1970s girls were allowed to join Little League, in the 80s women joined college baseball, and in the 1990s, Ila Borders joined the St. Paul Saints of the independent Northern League. But no female player has reached the majors (yet).
But the 100-year anniversary of the time a teenage girl struck out some of the toughest hitters in baseball history. Maybe it'll happen again in 2031?