"The teennage girl who struck out Babe Ruth." This was how one fan letter was addressed for Jackie Mitchell after the news of her striking out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig spread like wild fire.
Virne Beatrice "Jackie" Mitchell was born only weighing three and a half pounds. From the time she could walk she went to the baseball diamond with her father. She was living in Memphis Tennessee, at the time. She had a minor league ball player named Dazzy Vance, who would later play for the Brooklyn Dodgers, as her neighbor. Dazzy recognized the talent that Jackie had and even taught her his favorite pitch which he called the "drop pitch." Although she was only five or six years old she learned the pitch, impressing her teacher.
Jackie went on to play for a women's team in Chatanooga, Tennessee when she was sixteen. Then, she turned seventeen and attended a baseball school in Atlanta, Georgia. While there, Jackie attracted the attention of the Chatanooga Lookouts President, Joe Engel. He then offered her a contract to play for the Lookouts for the netire 1931 season. She signed her contract on March 28, 1931.
On April 2 the New York Yankees were making their way back to New York after just finishing up spring training. As they had in previous years, they made their stop in Chatanooga to play the Lookouts. It rained on April 1st delaying the game to the next day. When the rain finally stopped the Yankees and Lookouts were set to play at 2:30 PM. Jackie was not starting pitcher, but after a few hits by the Yanks, with Babe Ruth up next to bat, the manager pulled the pitcher and brought Jackie to the mound. Her first pitch was a little high but the next three were strikes with her third dropping right over the plate.
The crowd went wild, but Jackie had Lou Gehrig, the clean-up hitter for the Yanks, up next to bat. She sturck him out on three pitches! And the rest was history from there. Jackie finished her season with the Lookouts and went on to play for a traveling baseball team for the next five years. She ultimately settled back in Chatanooga for the rest of her life, passing away in 1987.
Jackie, what a story!