Here’s a great story for you jaded baseball buffs!
Jackie Mitchell, pitcher for the Chattanooga Lookouts, a minor league baseball team, struck out baseball legends Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig during an exhibition game. Born in 1912, Mitchell showed a talent for baseball from a young age. Her next door neighbor, future Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Dazzy Vance, taught her how to pitch as a girl, including his special “dr…op ball” pitch.
At 17, Mitchell joined a women’s team, attended baseball school in Atlanta, and was soon offered a contract by the Chattanooga Lookout for the 1931 season — one of the first professional baseball contracts given to a woman. It was during this season that Mitchell became famous for striking out two of the greatest baseball players in history Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, pictured with her below. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter, the baseball commissioner voided her contract, declaring the game “too strenuous” for women. Jackie Mitchell continued to play professionally with traveling teams until her retirement from the sport in 1937.
There are two wonderful books for young readers about Mitchell’s fascinating story: “Mighty Jackie: The Strike-Out Queen,” a picture book for 4 to 8 (http://www.amightygirl.com/mighty-jackie-the-strike-out-queen) and an early chapter book “The Girl Who Struck Out Babe Ruth” for 6 to 8 (http://www.amightygirl.com/the-girl-who-struck-out-babe-ruth).
Tom Boswell, Washington Post sportswriter. (Photo courtesy of Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
I first encountered Tom Boswell, the Washington Post sportswriter, while sitting on a beach on the island of Mauritius in 1986. I discovered what a good writer he is while reading his book How Life Imitates the World Series. It was the best baseball book I had ever read, up to that point. From time to time, my international career has brought me back to Washington, D.C. and since reading that book I started paying more attention to Boswell’s frequent articles in the Washington Post. Most are about baseball. He is my all-time favorite baseball writer.
His article in the Post on March 22 (2014) is a typical ‘perfect pitch’ from him, about how Las Vegas and the media are again predicting the Nats, on paper, are the best team in the National League. They did the same thing last year at this time, and we all know how that turned out. I sure hope the team is not paying much attention to this type of hype right now.
Boswell’s March 30th article was an astute piece about how much (or how little) the manager can influence a team’s fortunes. The Nats opening game (March 31) was a textbook example of this. Last year’s Nats would not have won that game. (Note: I have lot’s of real affection for Davey Johnson, who is not a bad manager at all. It’s just that his “time” had passed; the Nats needed a change in managers.) In yesterday’s game the Nats simply refused to lose! They clawed their way back from the abyss several times and finally prevailed in the 10th inning. And new manager Matt Williams’ affect on the team was crystal clear to me as I watched most of the game. He made numerous decisions such as bringing rookie Aaron Barrett in to pitch the 9th inning (his first major league game ever). This took GUTS! But it worked. And I may never forget the walk that Danny Espinosa worked after eight pitches in the 9th inning! Danny has been (until March 31) a very impatient batter who could be induced to swing at almost anything that moved. He was a pitcher’s delight, until yesterday. Again, Williams brought Danny into the game at the right time.
Boswell’s March 31 piece was another thoughtful, well-researched article about what opening days of a new season are all about.
Boswell has written several books. Besides the one I mentioned above, I’ve also read and enjoyed Why Time Begins on Opening Day.