Born: June 26, 1911 in Port Arthur, Texas
Died: Sept. 27, 1956
Mildred Ella Didrikson, better known as “Babe” Zaharias, was a multi-talented athlete. She played forward for the semi-professional Golden Cyclones women's basketball team, the national champions from 1930 to 1932. At the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, she won two gold medals and a silver, breaking world records in the javelin toss, high jump, softball throw, and 80-meter hurdles.
Babe took her first golf lesson in 1931, and won her first event in 1935. She came from a working-class background and was a tireless self-promoter, delighting in the kind of publicity stunts which challenged the public's idea of women as the weaker sex.
She pitched at spring training for the St. Louis Cardinals, held golf ball driving exhibitions with Gene Sarazen, played donkey-softball with an all-male, all-bearded touring softball team, and at one point even challenged the winning horse of the Kentucky Derby to a foot race. Babe’s second nickname became the "Texas Tomboy."
As Babe grew older, she drew more and more disapproval for her "unwomanly" activities. She came to the painful realization that further success depended on recasting herself to conform to the accepted notions of femininity. In 1938, Babe met and married George Zaharias, a well-known wrestler. Golf became Babe’s focus, and George became her manager.
Babe revolutionized women's golf, setting standards for play and attracting large purses which helped to legitimize it. She won 13 consecutive tournaments and helped found the LPGA in 1950. During her professional career, she won 31 tournaments. She was diagnosed with cancer in 1953 but continued to play golf and win tournaments. She was a member of the LPGA Hall of Fame and was posthumously awarded the 1957 Bob Jones Award for distinguished sportsmanship.