"THE GIRLS OF SUMMER"
JACKIE MITCHELL PAGE 1 of 2

Jackie Mitchell
Photo Courtesy The Chattanooga Regional Historical Museum


JACKIE MITCHELL
1914-1987
Pitcher

Chattanooga Lookouts, 1931


In the spring of 1931, Joe Engel, owner of the Southern Association's AA Chattanooga Lookouts, signed 17-year-old pitcher Jackie Mitchell. The Chattanooga papers were full of stories about the first woman to ever play in the minor leagues.
(Jackie Mitchell was actually the second woman to sign a minor-league contract. In 1898, Lizzie Arlington played one game, pitching for Reading (PA) against Allentown.)

On April 2 of that year, the New York Yankees stopped in Chattanooga for an exhibition game, on their way home from spring training down south. A crowd of 4,000 came to watch, including scores of reporters, wire services, and even a newsreel camera.

Manager Bert Niehoff started the game with Clyde Barfoot, but after Barfoot gave up a double and a single, the manager signaled for Jackie Mitchell. The rookie southpaw took the mound wearing a baggy white uniform that had been custom-made by the Spalding Company. The first batter she faced was Babe Ruth.

Jackie only had one pitch, a wicked, dropping curve ball. Ruth took ball one, and then swung at -- and missed -- the next two pitches. Jackie's fourth pitch caught the corner of the plate, the umpire called it a strike, and Babe Ruth "kicked the dirt, called the umpire a few dirty names, gave his bat a wild heave, and stomped out to the Yank's dugout."

The next batter was Lou Gehrig. He stepped up to the plate and swung at the first sinker -- strike one! He swung twice more, hitting nothing but air. Jackie Mitchell had fanned the "Sultan of Swat" AND the "Iron Horse," back-to-back.

After a standing ovation that lasted several minutes, Jackie pitched to Tony Lazzari, who drew a walk. At that point, Niehoff pulled her and put Barfoot back in. The Yankees won the game 14-4.

CONTINUED

 


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