Jane of All Trades

Babe Didrikson Zaharias excelled at baseball along with many other sports

March 29, 2012

When asked by a newspaper reporter in the early 1930s if there was any thing she doesn’t play, Babe Didrikson Zaharias replied, “Yeah, dolls.”

Among the sports that Zaharias did play were track and field, golf, baseball, basketball, football, tennis, swimming, boxing and diving. She was also good at billiards, cycling, polo, shooting, roller skating, bowling, riding horses and even the harmonica.

"My goal was to be the greatest athlete who ever lived," she said.

Born in 1911, Mildred (Babe) Didrikson Zaharias was voted the world’s greatest woman athlete of the first half of the 20th century in a poll conducted by the Associated Press. She was named Woman Athlete of the Year six times by the Associated Press. She won two gold medals and one silver medal in track and field in the 1932 Olympics and 33 golf tournaments, including 10 majors.

Zaharias claimed to have earned the nickname “Babe” after hitting five home runs in a childhood baseball game. During the 1930s, Zaharias pitched in exhibition games for the Philadelphia Athletics, Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Cardinals, and toured with the House of David barnstormers.

Zaharias helped to launch the LPGA and reportedly out-drove Babe Ruth on a golf course during a driving contest in Florida.

“There is no questioning the fact that the Babe, meaning the lady Babe, is the greatest woman athlete of all time,” said sportswriter Grantland Rice in 1952. “She is beyond all belief until you see her perform. Then you finally understand that you are looking at the most flawless section of muscle harmony, of complete mental and physical coordination, the world of sport has ever seen.”

Samantha Carr is the former manager of web and digital media for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum