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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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Great Big Story, Youtube
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video
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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History
The First High Five Recorded in the History of Sports
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Denis Poroy/Getty Images

We don’t quite know who invented the high five—but we can pinpoint the moment it became inextricably linked with sports, which the short documentary The High Five explores below.

On October 2, 1977, Los Angeles Dodgers leftfielder Dusty Baker scored his 30th home run, making the team the first in history to have four players—Baker, Ron Cey, Steve Garvey, and Reggie Smith—with at least 30 homers under each of their belts. Fellow outfielder Glenn Burke was so overwhelmed with joy and pride, he raised his arm and slapped his flat palm against the victorious athlete’s own palm. The moment transformed Baker and Burke into legends.

Sadly, the latter player faced hard times ahead: Burke was gay, and it’s believed that his sexuality prompted team officials to trade him to the Oakland A's the following year. In Oakland, Burke clashed with team manager Billy Martin, then retired early from baseball. Today, Burke is remembered for his charisma and talent—and for transforming a simple gesture into a universal symbol. “To think his energy and personality was the origin of that, that’s a pretty good legacy,” sportswriter Lyle Spencer says in the film.

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