Skip To Content

    The 17-Year-Old Girl Who Struck Out Babe Ruth And Lou Gehrig

    Yerrrrrr outta here!

    On April 2, 1931, left-handed pitcher Jackie Mitchell struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig back-to-back. It only took her seven pitches total.

    Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics / Getty Images

    When Jackie Mitchell was a child, her family lived next to future Hall of Famer Dazzy Vance. Known for his fastball, Vance taught Mitchell how to throw a mean breaking ball when she was only five or six years old.

    Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics, Getty Images)

    At 16, Mitchell joined an all-girls team in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Her sinking curveball caught the attention of Joe Engel, owner of the AA Chattanooga Lookouts. He signed her as a pitcher on March 28, 1931.

    When Babe Ruth learned he'd be facing a 5'8" girl, he told the New York Times, "I don't know what's going to happen if they begin to let women in baseball. [...] They are too delicate. It would kill them to play ball every day."

    Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics / Getty Images

    The next day, while facing Jackie Mitchell, Babe Ruth whiffed twice and struck out looking. Gehrig went a bit more gracefully, swinging and missing at three consecutive pitches.

    Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics / Getty Images

    After striking out Ruth and Gehrig, Mitchell walked the next batter and was pulled from the game. The Yankees beat the Lookouts 14-4.

    The NYT reported on the game, acknowledging that Mitchell was too inexperienced for the majors, but that she should be fine in the minors. The article concluded, "The prospect grows gloomier for misogynists."


    Unfortunately, Jackie Mitchell's contract with the Chattanooga Lookouts was voided a few days later, when baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis echoed Babe Ruth's bruised ego and claimed the game baseball was "too strenuous" for a woman.

    Jackie Mitchell continued pitching on a traveling men's team, House of David, who were known for their long hair and beards and combination of performance and sport.


    To understand the House of David team, imagine the Harlem Globetrotters making three-pointers while riding elephants.

    Jackie Mitchell retired from baseball in 1937, at only 23. She declined to join the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, formed in 1943.

    Women were not formally banned from the MLB until 1952, 21 years after Jackie Mitchell struck out two of the greatest men to play the game. Jackie Mitchell passed away in 1987.