While the horse racing world is all abuzz over Rachel Alexandra, the amazing three-year-old filly who recently beat Kentucky Derby winner Mine that Bird (along with a field full of other colts) in the Preakness Stakes, we're reminded of some other female athletes of the two-legged variety who also beat the boys at their own game.
1. Billie Jean King, Tennis
In 1973, Billie Jean King was 29 years old and the reigning queen of women's tennis. In an era when female athletes were paid significantly less than their male counterparts, King still managed to earn $100,000 in 1971. Bobby Riggs had won Wimbledon back in 1939, but by the 1970s his star was fading. He kept his name in the press by proclaiming himself a male chauvinist pig and declaring that women athletes could never be as good as men. After defeating Margaret Court in May, he proclaimed "I want King!"
The much-hyped Battle of the Sexes was held at the Houston Astrodome on September 20, 1973. The idea of a woman beating a man in any sport was so unbelievable at the time that Las Vegas oddsmakers heavily favored the 55-year-old Riggs. A worldwide television audience watched via satellite as King neatly thrashed Riggs 6-4, 6-3 and 6-3. Billie Jean King not only took home the prize money and several endorsement deals, she also opened up a new playing field for professional sportswomen.
2. Margaret Murdock, Shooting
3. Jackie Mitchell, Baseball
When Mitchell was 17 she was offered a contract with the Chattanooga Lookouts, today the AA affiliate of the L.A. Dodgers. On April 1, 1931, the New York Yankees were in town to play an exhibition game against the Lookouts. The game was postponed a day due to rain, and there was a crowd of 4,000 on hand when Mitchell finally took the mound. Babe Ruth stepped up to the plate and southpaw Jackie threw her special pitch. Ruth took the first pitch for a ball, but the next three were strikes. Lou Gehrig, baseball's Iron Man, was up next and similarly struck out. The crowd was on its feet, but some skeptical reporters wrote that the whole thing had been staged, since the game was originally scheduled for April Fool's Day. Nevertheless, Commissioner Kennesaw Landis was sufficiently threatened by the tiny female dynamo that he had her contract voided, stating that baseball was "too strenuous" for women.