Meet Most Overlooked Babe in Sports

New book looks at the life of multi-sport athlete Babe Didrikson
By Tim Karan,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 27, 2011 5:24 PM CDT
The Most Overlooked Babe in Sports History
Babe Didrikson throws the javelin to win the gold medal during the Women's Track and Field javelin event at the 1932 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles, California.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Arguably the greatest American athlete named Babe would have turned 100 this weekend, and it's not the Babe you think. Babe Didrikson—the only woman in the top 10 of SI's list of the top 100 athletes of the 20th century—won two gold medals and one silver in track and field at the 1932 Olympics, was a basketball star, and won three US Women's Open championships in golf before dying of cancer at 45. The author of a new book on Didrikson told NPR she "excelled at every sport she tried to play."

Didrikson grew up in a poor household in Texas, and left high school early so she could work for a company that would allow her to play professional sports. She was an accomplished basketball player when she took up track, and she was sent as a one-woman team to qualify for the Olympics. "Babe Didrikson won five events [broad jump, baseball throw, shot put, javelin, and 80-meter hurdles] within three hours and single-handedly won the national track championship," says the author. She took up golf at 21, and won her third US Open after being diagnosed with colon cancer. At one point, many questioned her gender. "It really did get under her skin," says the writer. "It bothered her a lot, but she dug in and just kept at it." (Read more Babe Didrikson stories.)

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