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September 21, 2013

Throws Like A Girl [Bumped]


On April 2, 1931, during an exhibition game between the minor-league Chattanooga Lookouts and the New York Yankees, 17-year-old pitcher Jackie Mitchell found herself facing Babe Ruth. She struck him out in four pitches. “I had a drop pitch,” she said, “and when I was throwing it right, you couldn’t touch it.”

The New York Times reported that Ruth “flung his bat away in high disdain and trudged to the bench, registering disgust with his shoulders and chin.”

“I don’t know what’s going to happen if they begin to let women in baseball,” he told a Chattanooga newspaper. “Of course, they will never make good. Why? Because they are too delicate. It would kill them to play ball every day.”

Next up was Lou Gehrig. She struck him out, too. -- A Day’s Work – Futility Closet

Posted by gerardvanderleun at September 21, 2013 10:53 AM. This is an entry on the sideblog of American Digest: Check it out.

Your Say

I remember my father saying that while Babe Ruth was famous for his total of home runs, he was contemporaneously famous for either hitting a home run or striking out -- rarely anything in between. In fact, he set a record for striking out:


He always swung to hit a homer, and knowing that would make the job of a savvy pitcher easier.

Posted by: Darkwater at September 20, 2013 9:20 AM

Yeah, women could pitch but they couldn't keep up a 162 game schedule. And it would take an incredible specimen of a woman to be able to pitch in the big leagues.

Posted by: Christopher Taylor at September 20, 2013 10:23 AM

Growing up 40 miles south of Chattanooga, the Lookouts and the Atlanta Crackers were the closest I got to professional baseball as a kid. I remember seeing Harmon Killebrew when he played for the Lookouts; he gave my brother an autograph by the third baseline bleachers at Joe Engel Stadium in 1957. Baseball wasn't all the entertainment at a Lookout's game. Joe Engel was called The Barnum of Baseball for all the acts and antics he used to draw a crowd. And speaking of pitchers, Satchel Paige got his start with the Chattanooga Black Lookouts in 1926.

Posted by: twolaneflash at September 20, 2013 10:48 AM

Darkwater, of Babe Ruth's 2,873 hits, 2,159 of them were not home runs, all of which he racked up while hitting .342 over his career, good enough for 10th all-time. So there were a lot of pitchers who didn't get him out, even though they knew he was swinging for the fences. And while he did strike out a lot by the standards of the day, leading the AL 5 times, his highest total there was 93. And that year, he also batted .393, with 41 hr, 131 rbi and 170 walks, while winning the AL MVP. Pretty fair trade-off for a few K's, I'd say.

Posted by: waltj at September 20, 2013 12:28 PM

She musta throwed 'em the spitter.

Posted by: james wilson at September 20, 2013 1:18 PM

I have been making my way through Ken Burns Baseball documentary on Netflix. It is absolutely fascinating. In it you learn that a girl was recruited by a major league team to pitch in the early 1900s but it didn't follow through. Also, there were multiple black pro players almost 80 years before Jackie Robinson, including some on actual MLB teams, but that got shut down real fast. Lots of other great stuff; it's more than 12 hours altogether, each episode called an inning.

Posted by: Donald Sensing at September 20, 2013 1:46 PM

I know what you mean. Here's another strong endorsement for Ken Burns Baseball which I watch a couple of years back. Very illuminating and entertaining at the same time.

Posted by: vanderleun at September 20, 2013 2:51 PM

There's good reason to believe that Babe Ruth had a little chocolate in his system. There were more than a few people who slipped into the system, but were called "chief" and stuff like that. No, he's not a negro, of course not! Indian! That's the ticket!

And yeah, Babe wasn't an all-homerun hitter, he hit for high average and had a lot of walks.

Posted by: Christopher Taylor at September 20, 2013 3:09 PM

And yeah, Babe wasn't an all-homerun hitter, he hit for high average and had a lot of walks.

He probably read "Moneyball".

Posted by: SteveS at September 20, 2013 7:47 PM

No, CT, there's no good reason to believe Ruth had a speck of black in his system. That witless rumor ran with black people who believed he was just ugly enough to be one of them. Their opinion, not mine.

Posted by: james wilson at September 20, 2013 9:52 PM

I couldn't care less what sort of bloodlines the Babe had. Anyone who could hit 50+ home runs, bat in 150+ runs, draw 150+ walks while hitting .350, and, if needed, pitch a complete game shutout, could play for my team anytime.

Posted by: waltj at September 20, 2013 10:19 PM

Gurls could never, ever make it in the Big Leagues, for many reasons amongst of which is "the Monthly All Star Break"

Or was that where the "Designated Hitter Rule" came from?

Posted by: Geo at September 21, 2013 5:43 AM

There are a lot of women fast pitch softball players who could out pitch most men. I have seen TN high school girls out throw most of the South Dakota farmers I've batted against in my youth. And those guys were great pitchers!

Posted by: Madtntaxpayer at September 21, 2013 11:11 AM

Fast-pitch softball is a pitcher's game because the mound is only 43' from the plate, not the 60'6" it is in baseball. Yes, the ball is bigger, but because of the way the human eye perceives motion, it still takes the batter about 15-20' to pick it up once it leaves the pitcher's hand. (Some exceptional hitters like Ted Williams could do it faster, but that's part of what makes them exceptional). So, in softball, the batter has less than 30' to go from making up his mind whether to swing to putting the ball in play. When the pitcher is throwing upwards of 80mph, that time is very short indeed. Move the pitcher back to the baseball mound, and it becomes more of an even contest. The pitcher still has the edge, because he knows what he's throwing and where he wants it to go, but the hitter sometimes guesses right, and pitchers make mistakes.

Posted by: waltj at September 21, 2013 11:55 AM

I went to a couple of Dukes games in '99 but didn't see one in which Ila Borders pitched. Still, it was a good feeling to have history on the home team.


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Posted by: Tracey Chopp at October 23, 2013 12:33 PM

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