September 27, 2007

September 27 | Babe Zaharias

June 26, 1911 - September 27, 1956: Age 45

"She is beyond all belief until you see her perform...Then you finally understand that you are looking at the most flawless section of muscle harmony, of complete mental and physical coordination, the world of sport has ever seen."
– sportswriter Grantland Rice, quoted by ESPN.

"It would be much better if she and her ilk stayed at home, got themselves prettied up and waited for the phone to ring."
— sportswriter Joe Williams, New York World-Telegram.

In 1932 Mildred "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias entered eight events in the Amateur Athletic Union championships. She won five outright and tied first for a sixth. That year she went on to represent the US in the Olympics, entering three events and medalling gold in two (her winning high jump was disqualified because the judges didn't like her style of diving head first over the bar).

By 1935 she had become interested in golf, and went on to become the most celebrated and beloved golfer of all time. She was the Tiger Woods of her day. Both Associated Press and Sports Illustrated voted her "Female Athlete of the 20th Century" and she was ranked #10 in ESPN's list of the top 50 athletes of all time, the first woman on the list.

"It's not enough just to swing at the ball. You've got to loosen your girdle and really let the ball have it."
— Babe Zaharias

In 1953 she was diagnosed with colon cancer. In 1954 she won a major title (the Vare Trophy) one month after cancer surgery. In 1955 her cancer re-emerged, but she managed to win two titles before succumbing to the disease in September 1956, at 45 years old, still among the top rank of female golfers.

Sources: Wikipedia, US Olympic Committee

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