One of my earliest memories is a picture of my mother apparently taken in 1947 at the Hardscrabble Country Club Open in Fort Smith having just completed hitting one of her drives. She was an avid golfer, played in many tournaments there and around the state of Arkansas and had a whole passel of golfing friends as a result. While this photo did a great job of capturing the finish of her powerful swing, the remarkable thing about it was the following handwritten inscription in the lower right corner. As I recall, it read: "To Ruth: With love to you, Tom and the kids". "Babe". Babe in this case was Babe Didrikson Zaharias who died from cancer on September 27, 1956, and would have been 100 years old yesterday.
I had all but forgotten about that photo until just by chance I caught a tribute to her yesterday on ESPN, which I rarely watch, but then got home later to read a wonderful article in the New York Times sports section also commemorating her centennial. So, for those of you who are not familiar with Babe and her remarkable life and sports achievements, I am going to take the liberty to borrow some of that article written by Don Van Natta, Jr., author of the book: "Wonder Girl: The Magnificent Sporting Life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias" because many of her sports accomplishments are unparalleled even today. To quote W.L. Pate, Jr., president of the Babe Didrikson Zaharias Foundation and mayor pro tem of Beaumont, Texas: "Every time I tell her story, people have trouble believing everything she was able to do during her life...and she did so much in so little time". Mr. Natta even labels her "perhaps America's greatest all-around athlete, male or female".
Born on June 26, 1911, in Port Arthur, Texas, she grew up in her teens playing baseball as well as basketball with the boys because they provided much better competition. She was a brash, tough talking and very confident woman who would often declare before a golf tournament "The Babe's here! Who's going to finish second?" But no one excelled more at sports and games than she, becoming an all-American basketball player, a two-time Olympic track and field gold medalist and winner of 32 golf tournaments including 14 in a row, a feat unmatched to this day by either male or female golfer. She was one of the founders of the L.P.G.A., the first woman ever to play against men in a PGA Tour event and the first American to win the British Women's Amateur Championship. And golf actually came later in her life after being outstanding in baseball, softball, tennis, billiards, swimming, diving and bowling.
But her most spectacular achievement probably occurred at the amateur track and field championships in Evanston, Illinois on July16, 1932. She singularly comprised the entire team representing Employers Casualty Insurance Company of Dallas, Texas and competed as a "one-woman track team" (her own words) against other company teams of up to 22 members. Over the course of that afternoon she sprinted from event to event where she finished first in five events (broad jump, shot-put, javelin, 80-meter hurdles and baseball throw) and tied for first in a sixth event (high jump). At the end of the day she had qualified for three Olympic events and compiled 30 team points for her team, followed in second place by the Illinois Women's Athletic Club with 22 team points which, coincidentally, matched exactly the size of their team at 22 members. "Implausible is the adjective that best befits the Babe" is how Arthur Daley described her amazing accomplishment in the NYT. She went on to win gold medals in the javelin and 80-meter hurdles and a silver medal in the high jump in the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles and thus became the most famous female athlete in the world.
Following that high point she found very few places where she could compete, and then the economic depression hit which all but eliminated any sports opportunities. After traveling around the country performing quirky gigs like riding donkeys around baseball parks in small towns across America, she finally turned to golf the toughest game for her, but one she mastered by practicing up to 10 hours a day. By 1938 she had married George Zaharias, a professional wrestler who helped in her personal makeover to the public and the press. In 1946 and 1947 she dominated the game by winning those 14 tournaments in a row mentioned above, one being the Hardscrabble Open, and continued the game until April 1953 when she was first diagnosed with rectal cancer. At that time doctors told her she would never play professional golf again. However, fifteen months later after her surgery she won the United States Women's Open at Salem Country Club in Peabody, Massachusetts by a phenomenal twelve strokes. She then became an active crusader against cancer often talking about her illness at a time when public figures remained silent on such matters.
Two years after her amazing victory at Salem she was dead but not forgotten. In fact, upon learning of her death, President Dwight Eisenhower opened one of his news conferences with this tribute: "She was a woman who, in her athletic career, certainly won the admiration of every person in the United States, all sports people all over the world, and in her gallant fight against cancer, she put up one of the kind of fights that inspire us all". In short, she was truly one of a kind.
ARTISTS - Visual and Musical
Laura Raborn at http://paintingsofhome.com and http://claygifts.com
Jim Johnson at http://yessy.com/jimjohnson/gallery.html
Russ Powell at http://powellphotos.com
Linda Flake at http://lindaflake.com
Tom Herrin at http://tommysart.blogspot.com
Matt McLeod at http://firstname.lastname@example.org
Artists Registry at http://www.arkansasarts.org/programs/registry/default.aspx
Sandy Hubler Fine Art at http://sandyhublerfineart.com
George Wittenberg at http://postcard-art-gallery.com
Will Barnet at http://www.google.com/images?hl=en&expIds=17259,17315,23628,23670,24472,25834,26095,26328,26562,26637,26761,26790,26849,26992,27095,27126,27139,27147,27178&sugexp=ldymls&xhr=t&q=will+barnet&cp=9&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=univ&ei=xpfETMT1O4L6lwf66ugE&sa=X&oi=image_result_group&ct=title&resnum=2&sqi=2&ved=0CEkQsAQwAQ&biw=1350&bih=501
Barry Thomas at http://barrythomasart.com
Sherry Williamson at http://meowbarkart.com
Julie McNair at http://juliemcnair.com
Phoebe Lichty at http://phoebelichty.com
Local Colour Gallery at http://localcolourgallery.com
Chroma Gallery at http://chromagallery.com
Cantrell Gallery at http://cantrellgallery.com
Greg Thompson Fine Art at http://gregthompsonfineart.com
Red Door Gallery at http://reddoorgalleryonline.com
M2 Gallery at http://m2lr.com
UALR Gallery Program at http://ualr.edu/art
Gallery 26 at http://gallery26.com
Boswell Mourot Fine Art at http://boswellmourot.com