Obit of the Day: Babe Didrikson Zaharias (1956)
Babe Didrikson Zaharias was simply the greatest female athlete of all time. According to ESPN’s SportsCentury she was the 10th greatest of the 20th century, male or female. For a full re-telling of her absolutely phenomenal athletic ability, click on the post heading or the photo for an excellent article from October 8, 1956 by Sports Illustrated’s Paul Gallico. Here are some jaw-dropping highlights:
• The seminal event in Didrikson Zaharias’ legend was the 1932 AAU National Championships held In Evanston, Illinois. She participated in eight of ten events, won five and and tied for first in a sixth. At the end of the day she had claimed the team championship by herself. She was eight points ahead of the second place team which had twenty-two athletes.
• A few weeks later at the Olympics in Los Angeles she won two gold medals (javelin and hurdles) and would have won a third and set a world record in the high jump but was disqualified for an illegal jump. Her head went over the bar before her body, a style that is now completely legal.
• After the Olympics she toured with her own basketball team and as a player on the famed House of David baseball team.
• She began playing golf in 1933 and owned the sport. In 1946 she won thirteen consecutive
tournaments. In ten seasons as a pro (she helped found the LPGA) she won ten major titles.
• She was 5’ 5” and could drive the golf ball 250 yards.
• She was named AP Female Athlete of the Year five times: 1932, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1950, and 1954.
• Cancer killed her at the age of 45.
Here’s what Gallico had to say:
…there was hardly any game at which she could not perform creditably, or at which she could not have become a champion, and these included swimming, diving, billiards, lacrosse, bowling and tennis. But she also invaded the men’s fields. Her record for throwing a baseball still stands. She could pitch, hit and cover a bag. She could peg a football and kick left-footed. Once she even thought of boxing. Nothing came of it, but it is recorded that when she threw a punch it wasn’t a roundhouse or a fly-swatter like a woman, but straight down the old trolley wire a la Ruby Goldstein, a sharpshooter of our era.
(Image courtesy of Rap 361)