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Ben Kirchner

The Woman Who Struck Out the Babe

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Ben Kirchner

Joe England loved wacky promotions. The owner of the AA Chattanooga Lookouts, Engel once traded a player for a turkey and stocked the grandstands with singing canaries. But in March 1931, he pulled his riskiest stunt yet—he signed a girl.

Jackie Mitchell was only 17 when she signed up to play pro ball. A southpaw from Tennessee, Mitchell had learned how to throw a nasty sinker from her neighbor, future Hall of Famer Dazzy Vance. But that didn’t matter to Engel: He was just curious if a female on the mound could boost ticket sales.

That April, he got his answer. The stands were packed for an exhibition game against the New York Yankees. And when the Lookouts’ starting pitcher was benched in the first inning, the fans got what they came for. Mitchell hit the mound—and Babe Ruth stared her down from the batter’s box.

Mitchell’s first pitch missed the mark, but her second was a masterful sinker. Ruth hacked—and missed. The crowd went nuts. When Ruth swung and missed a second time, he asked the umpire to check if the ball had been doctored. It hadn’t. When Mitchell’s fourth pitch nipped the corner of the plate, the ump called strike three. The crowd erupted. Ruth threw his bat, kicked up dirt, and cussed out the umpire before his teammates had to drag him to the dugout.

But Mitchell was just getting warmed up. When Lou Gehrig stepped to the plate, Mitchell struck him out on three straight pitches. The crowd gave her a standing ovation. The Yankees ultimately won 14–4, but Mitchell stole the headlines. “The prospect grows gloomier for misogynists,” a New York Times editorial lamented. Today, some historians believe Ruth and Gehrig whiffed on purpose—and it’s possible they did. But there’s no question that Mitchell had a killer arm. After a short tenure with the Lookouts, she spent five years playing for the semipro House of David club. In 1933, she got another chance to square off against the pros, pitching against the St. Louis Cardinals. This time around, she came home with a win.

This story originally appeared in an issue of mental_floss magazine. Subscribe here.

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Fox Sports, YouTube
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Pop Culture
The Simpsons's Classic Baseball Episode Gets the Mockumentary Treatment
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Fox Sports, YouTube

Opinions vary widely about the continued existence of The Simpsons, which just began its 29th season. Some believe the show ran out of steam decades ago, while others see no reason why the satirical animated comedy can’t run forever.

Both sides will no doubt have something to say about the episode airing Sunday, October 22, which reframes the premise of the show’s classic “Homer at the Bat” installment from 1992 as a Ken Burns-style mockumentary titled Springfield of Dreams: The Legend of Homer Simpson.

As Mashable reports, “Homer at the Bat” saw Montgomery Burns launch his own baseball team and populate it with real major league players like Wade Boggs, Steve Sax, and Jose Canseco to dominate the competition. In the one-hour special, the players will discuss their (fictional) participation, along with interviews featuring Homer and other members of the animated cast.

It’s not clear how much of the special will break the fourth wall and go into the actual making of the episode, a backstory that involves guest star Ken Griffey Jr. getting increasingly frustrated recording his lines and Canseco’s wife objecting to a scene in which her husband's animated counterpart wakes up in bed with lecherous schoolteacher Edna Krabappel.

Morgan Spurlock (Super-Size Me) directed the special, which is slated to air on Fox at either 3 p.m. EST or 4:30 p.m. EST depending on NFL schedules in local markets. There will also be a new episode of The Simpsons—an annual Halloween-themed "Treehouse of Horror" installment—airing in its regular 8 p.m. time slot.

[h/t Mashable]

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Great Big Story, Youtube
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Seattle Mariners Fans Are Going Crazy for These Crunchy Grasshopper Snacks
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Great Big Story, Youtube

Seattle Mariners fans have more than warmed up to the newest, offbeat addition to the Safeco Field concessions menu: toasted grasshoppers covered in chili-lime salt.

The crunchy snack, which sells for $4 and comes packed in a small container, has only been available for less than a season but has already sold 300,000-plus orders to date. That's about 1000 pounds of grasshoppers. 

Frequenters of Seattle's popular Mexican restaurant Poquitos will know that this delicacy—which first started as a novelty item on its menu—has actually been available to the public for six years. But it wasn't until local chef Ethan Stowell was hired to give the Safeco Field menu a hip retooling that the salty bugs found new, fervent popularity at the ballpark. (Also on the Safeco menu: fried oysters drizzled in hot sauce.)

Great Big Story met up with Manny Arce, the executive chef of Poquitos and visionary behind this culinary home run, to discuss the popularity of these crunchy critters. You can watch the video interview below:

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