The Strike-Out Queen
By Marissa Moss
It was April 2, 1931, and something amazing was about to happen. In Chattanooga, Tennessee, two teams were about to play an exhibition game of baseball.
One was the New York Yankees, a legendary team with famous players – Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Tony Lazzeri.
The other was the Chattanooga Lookouts, a small team, a nothingteam, except for the pitcher, Jackie Mitchell.
Jackie was young, only seventeen years old, but that’s not what made people sit up and take notice. Jackie was a girl, and everyone knew that girls didn’t play mayor league baseball.
The New York Daily News Sneered that she would swing”a mean lipstick” instead of bat. A reporter wrote that you might as well have “a trained seal behind theplate” as have a woman standing there. But Jackie was no trained seal. She was a pitcher, a mighty good one. The question was, was she good enough to play against the New York Yankees?
As long as she could remember, Jackie had Played Ball with her father. She knew girls weren’t supposed to. All the kids at school, all the boys in her neighborhood told her that. When one boy yelled at anotherone, “You throw like a girl!” it was an insult-everyone knew girls couldn’t throw. Or that’s what they thought.
Day after day, in the neighborhood sandlot, Jackie’s father told her differently. He said she could throw balls, and she did. She ran bases, she swung the bat. By the time she was eight years old, Dazzy Vance, the star pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Had taught her how to pitch. Areal pitcher talking to a little girl was all Jackie needed to start dreaming of playing in the World Series. Her father saw her talent and so did Dazzy. He told her she could be good at whatever she wanted, as long as she worked al it. And Jackie worked at baseball. She worked hard.
She practiced pitching till it was too cold and dark to stay outside. She threw balls until her shoulder achedand her fingers were callused. She pitched until her eyes blurred over and she couldn’t see where she was throwing. But it didn’t matter, her arm knew.
And now she was finally going to have her chance to play on a real baseball team, to pitch to real players. The stands were packed. A crowd of four thousand had come to see the strange sight of a woman on the pitcher’s mound.
She stoodtall on the field and looked back at the crowd in the bleachers. They were waiting for her to make a mistake, and she knew it. They were waiting for her to prove that baseball was a man’s game, not her game.
“It is my game, “she muttered to herself and bit her lip. The Yankees were up, top of the first, and the batter was walking up to the plate. Jackie was ready for him, the ball tight in herleft hand.
Except the batter was Babe Ruth- Babe Rut, the “Home Run King,” a big mountain of man – and Babe didn’t like the idea of a woman pitcher at all. He thought women were “too delicate” for baseball. “They’ll never make good,” he said. “It would kill them to play ball every day.”
He walked to the plate and tipped his cap at Jackie. But if she thought he was going to go easy on her,she could forget it! He gripped the bat and got ready to slam the ball out of the ballpark.
Jackie held that ball like it was part of her arm, and when she threw it, she knew exactly where it would go. Right over the plate, right where the Babe wasn’t expecting it, right where he watched it speed by and thwunk into the catcher’s mitt.
Babe Ruth gaped-he couldn’t believe it!The crowd roared. Jackie tried to block them out, to see only the ball, to fell only the ball. But Babe Ruth was facing her down now, determined not to let a girl make a fool out of him. She flinched right before the next pitch, and the umpire called a ball. “Hmmmmph.” The Babe snorted. “You can do it!” Jackie told herself. “Girls can throw – show them!” But the next pitch was another ball....