The baseball season was just getting underway as 17-year-old Jackie Mitchell took the mound for the minor-league Chattanooga Lookouts in an exhibition game against the New York Yankees in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and on April 2, 1931, became  one of the first and female pitchers in professional baseball history.

The game had gotten off to a rocky beginning for the Lookouts with their starting pitcher (male) giving up hits to the Yankees’ first two batters. The teenage Mitchell was brought in to face a couple of guys named Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Mitchell’s first pitch to Ruth was a sinker that darted low for ball one. She followed with a sinker on the outside corner, which the Babe swung through and missed. Grinning, the “Sultan of Swat” swung at her next pitch and missed again for strike two. Another sinker on the corner of the plate, and Ruth watched it sail by for a strike three call. “The Babe kicked the dirt and gave his bat a wild heave as he stormed unhappily to the dugout.”

Gehrig came to bat and promptly missed three straight dipping sinkers, swinging early each time. On seven pitches, the Chattanooga teenager had struck out Ruth and Gehrig, two of the game’s greatest hitters. The hometown crowd rewarded her with a standing ovation. The next day, one newspaper cleverly suggested that “maybe her curves were too much for them.”

Unfortunately, Mitchell’s game against the Yankees was also her last.  Just days after her legendary performance, (male) baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis voided her contract because the sport of baseball was “too strenuous for women.” Although Jackie went on to tour with other prominent female athletes and play on women’s teams for a short time, Landis had pretty much wrecked her professional career, and she bowed out of sports at age 23.

 

Freddie experienced the sort of abysmal soul-sadness which afflicts one of Tolstoy’s Russian peasants when, after putting in a heavy day’s work strangling his father, beating his wife, and dropping the baby into the city’s reservoir, he turns to the cupboards, only to find the vodka bottle empty. ― P.G. Wodehouse

 

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