(August 29, 1913 – January 7, 1987)
Jackie Mitchell was born on August 29, 1913, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. At the age of 17, Mitchell began playing for a women’s team in Chattanooga named the Engelettes. She went on to attend a baseball training camp in Atlanta, Georgia. Her appearance at this training camp caught the attention of Joe Engel, who was the team owner of the Chattanooga Lookouts, a AA team which played in the Southern Association.
Engel was known as the “Barnum of Baseball,” and frequently used publicity stunts to attract larger audiences to the stadium while attendance dropped around baseball due to the financial hardships of the Great Depression.
According to an article on the Womens’ History Museum website, “On March 25, 1931, Engel signed Mitchell to the Lookouts and promoted his team as the only professional baseball team with a female pitcher. One week later, Mitchell was called to the mound in her first professional game.”
A month later, the Chattanooga Lookouts played the New York Yankees in an exhibition game, and after the starting pitcher Clyde Barfoot gave up a double and a single, Barfoot was replaced by Mitchell. She ended up facing and striking out both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Babe Ruth was quoted in a Chattanooga newspaper as having said: “I don’t know what’s going to happen if they begin to let women in baseball. Of course, they will never make good. Why? Because they are too delicate. It would kill them to play ball every day.”
Jackie Mitchell died in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, on January 7, 1987, and was buried in Forest Hills Cemetery in Chattanooga.