22 Influential Women You Probably Didn't Learn About in School

Victoria Woodhull, Althea Gibson, Hypatia
Victoria Woodhull, Althea Gibson, Hypatia / Victoria Woodhull, Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images // Althea Gibson, AFP/AFP via Getty Images // Hypatia, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain
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15. Jackie Mitchell

Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jackie Mitchell
Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, and Jackie Mitchell. / Transcendental Graphics/GettyImages

On April 2, 1931, the New York Yankees made a pit stop in Tennessee after spring training and played an exhibition game against a minor league squad named the Chattanooga Lookouts. The first-inning relief pitcher was Jackie Mitchell—a 17-year-old girl who proceeded to strike out both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. To this day, some people argue that it must have been faked, but others give Mitchell her due. “Think about a pitcher coming in they’ve never seen before,” Leslie Heaphy, author of Encyclopedia of Women and Baseball, told The New York Times. “She’s a lefty with a very deceptive pitch from all accounts.”

In 1933, Mitchell joined the House of David, a touring baseball team whose games were more about theatrics than competition, à la basketball’s Harlem Globetrotters. After four years, she returned to Chattanooga and took a job in her dad’s optometry practice. Mitchell’s admirable commitment to her craft during a time when women in baseball weren’t taken seriously helped paved the way for future women players. And she, at least, always maintained that her two famous strikeouts were the real McCoy. “Why, hell yes, they were trying, damn right,” Mitchell is quoted as saying. “Hell, better hitters than them couldn’t hit me … Why should they’ve been any different?”