Years ago there were two great sports “Babes”.   The most prominent was George Herman “Babe” Ruth, arguably the greatest baseball player of all time.  Not a day goes by without someone somewhere, mentioning his name or extolling his legend.

Babe Didrikson Zaharias

But the other “Babe” these days is too often overlooked.   Her name was Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias, who without debate is the greatest female athlete the world has ever known.  Do I know that for sure?  No, because I’m too young to definitively make the claim, but I do believe it.   I’ve seen the film clips, and I’ve read the stories, and based on this “research” I’m sold on her place in history – she is indeed number one.  Still, because she competed so long ago, coupled with the fact that we seldom, if ever, give female athletes their just due, this Babe is not mentioned nearly enough.

Today would have been Babe Didrikson Zaharias’ 100th birthday.  She died from cancer in 1956 at the age of 45.   Even though she died so young, she nonetheless was able to accumulate one of sports’ most significant resumes.  But in acquiring her bounty of medals, trophies, prize money and fame she also had to triumph over innuendo, and suspicion.   How could a woman be so good?   Underneath she just had to be a man – right?  For others she wasn’t pretty enough, or even pretty at all, which made the nasty gossip of the time even more vicious and cruel.

Still Babe played on.  And played better than anyone else.

Her credentials for greatness are unquestioned.  She won two gold medals at the 1932 Olympic Games.  She set a world record in the hurdles, and she also won gold throwing the javelin, and got a silver medal in the high jump.  There was seemingly no sport which presented her a serious challenge.

She also excelled in just about every other sport in which she competed: baseball, basketball, tennis, bowling and later golf.

Babe Didrikson Zaharias

As a professional golfer, she was the LPGA’s first superstar. She won a total of 48 tournaments in her career, including a all-time professional golf record (men and women) of 14 consecutive victories.   She competed in a number of PGA events, and became the first woman to ever make the cut in a PGA event, a feat which she accomplished several times.

In 1953 she was diagnosed with colon cancer.   Fighting against the disease through surgeries and treatments, she was actually able to win several more tournaments.   But cancer is the one competitor she wasn’t able to defeat, and she died September 27, 1956.   The sports world lost one of its greatest champions.   Let’s hope though that her sports legacy will never be forgotten and will no longer be ignored.

Happy 100th Babe, you are the greatest.

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