The 18-Year-Old Woman Who Struck Out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig

The 18-Year-Old Woman Who Struck Out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig

In the depths of the Depression, Joe Engel, the “Baron of Baloney,” would do almost anything to promote his minor league baseball team. The owner of the Chattanooga (Tennessee) Lookouts traded a shortstop for a 25-pound turkey, placed singing canaries in grandstands, and featured elephants and a base-running ostrich in a promotion for a game. Engel was an outstanding self-promoter, too: He named the Lookouts’ ballpark after himself.

But perhaps no Engel promotion generated as much publicity as on April 2, 1931, when he pitched 18-year-old Jackie Mitchell against a New York Yankees team featuring Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Mitchell—one of the few females to play professional baseball against men—struck out the future Hall of Famers in an exhibition game in Chattanooga.

Or did she?

“It was a stunt,” Major League Baseball official historian John Thorn says of the “feat,” which drew nationwide attention. “Mitchell couldn’t break a pane of glass.”


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