When she learned how to walk, Jackie’s father took her to the baseball diamond and taught her the basics of the game. Her next door neighbor, Dazzy Vance, taught her to pitch and showed her his “drop ball”, a type of breaking ball. Later, Vance would pitch in the major leagues and eventually be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
When Mitchell was 17, she played for a women’s team in Chattanooga, Tennessee and attended a special baseball school in Atlanta, Georgia. There, she attracted the attention of Joe Engel, the president and owner of the Chattanooga Lookouts, who offered her a contract to play for the 1931 season. On March 28, Mitchell signed the contract and became an official member of the Lookouts, a Class AA minor league team.
Seventeen-year-old Jackie Mitchell, brought in to pitch in the first inning after the starting pitcher had given up a double and a single, faced Babe Ruth. After taking a ball, Ruth swung and missed at the next two pitches. Mitchell’s fourth pitch to Ruth was a called third strike. Babe Ruth glared and verbally abused the umpire before being led away by his teammates to sit to wait for another batting turn.
Next up was the Iron Horse Lou Gehrig, who swung through the first three pitches to strike out. Jackie Mitchell became famous for striking out two of the greatest baseball players in history.