On this date in History ..... April 2, 1931:
Mitchell, the second woman to play baseball in the all-male minor leagues, pitches an
exhibition game against the N.Y. Yankees and strikes out both Babe Ruth and Lou
Gehrig. Her appearance on the mound “…became a Depression Era sensation.”
Growing up in Memphis,
Mitchell had been coached by minor league pitcher Charles “Dazzy” Vance, who
later went on to lead the National League in strikeouts for seven years in a
row. Her family later moved to
Chattanooga where she joined a high school affiliated with the city’s Class-AA
Minor League team, whose president loved doing exhibitions to attract the
crowd. Mitchell was about to be one of
those crowd-attracting exhibitions. He
signed up Mitchell with what was possibly the first professional baseball
contract to a female.
He invited the Yankees to
play his team against the 17-year old girl pitcher.
After the regular pitcher
walked the first two batters, Mitchell was put on the mound to face what was
called “Murderers’ Row”. First up was
the Sultan of Swat himself, Babe Ruth.
Figuring an easy hit, it is reported that Ruth took a relaxed stance and
took the first pitch as a ball. On the
second pitch, Ruth swung and “missed it by a foot”. When Mitchell struck out the home run king,
Ruth threw his bat down and retreated to the dugout.
Next to bat was Lou
Gehrig, who would tie Ruth in 1931 for the lead in homers. He swung and missed
three consecutive pitches. 17-year old
Mitchell walked the next batter and was then pulled from the game.
The newspaper stories the
next day included a quote from Babe Ruth, who said, “women will
never make good” in baseball because they are too delicate. It would kill them
to play ball every day.”
The day after she struck
out Ruth and Gehrig, the Baseball Commissioner voided her contract, claiming
baseball was too strenuous for women. The ban was not overturned until 1992.