BABE DIDRIKSON ZAHARIAS Biography - Famous Sports men and women


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Name: Babe Zaharias                                                                         
Born: 26 June 1911                                                                         
Died: 27 September 1956                                                                     
Mildred Ella ("Babe") Didrikson Zaharias (June 26, 1911 – September 27, 1956)             
was an American athlete considered to be perhaps the greatest all-around female             
athlete of all time. She achieved outstanding success in golf, basketball and               
track and field.                                                                           
Babe Zaharias was born Mildred Ella Didriksen in the oil town of Port Arthur,               
Texas. Her mother, Hannah, and her father, Ole, were immigrants from Norway.               
Three of her six siblings were born in Norway, and the other three were born in             
Port Arthur. Her surname was changed from Didriksen to Didrikson[1]. Didrikson             
grew up in Beaumont and acquired the nickname "Babe" (after Babe Ruth) after she           
hit five home runs in a single baseball game. She wrote that she was born in               
1914. Babe Zaharias.                                                       
Though best known for her athletic gifts, Zaharias had many talents and was a               
competitor in even the most domestic of occupations: sewing. She was an                     
excellent seamstress and made many of the clothes she wore, including her                   
golfing outfits. She won the sewing championship at the 1931 State Fair of Texas.           
She was a singer and harmonica player. She recorded several songs on the Mercury           
Records label. Her biggest seller was "I Felt a Little Teardrop" with "Detour"             
on the flip side. She married George Zaharias, a professional wrestler, on                 
December 23, 1938.                                                                         
Zaharias gained world fame in track and field and All-American status in                   
basketball. She played organized baseball and softball and was an expert diver,             
roller-skater and bowler. She won two gold medals and one silver medal for track           
and field in the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics.                                                 
Didrikson's first job was nominally as a secretary, for the Employers Casualty             
Insurance Co., of Dallas, Texas, in 1930. In fact, she was employed as a ruse               
for her to play basketball on one of the "industrial teams" in competitions                 
organized by the Amateur Athletic Union. Despite leading the team to an AAU                 
Basketball Championship in 1931, Didrikson first achieved wider attention as a             
track and field athlete. Representing her company in the 1932 AAU Championships,           
she entered eight events, winning five outright and tying first for a sixth. In             
the process, she set five world records in a single afternoon. Didrikson's                 
performance was enough to win the team championship, despite being the only                 
member of her team.                                                                         
As the AAU Championships were the de facto US Olympic Trials, Didrikson                     
qualified for the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. She was limited to                   
entering three events there, the javelin throw, the 80 m hurdles and the high               
jump. She nearly won all three events: she won gold medals in the javelin and               
hurdles and cleared the same height as compatriot Jean Shiley in the high jump (with       
whom she had tied in the AAU Championship). The jury, however, disapproved of               
her style (jumping over headfirst) and declared Shiley the Olympic champion.               
After the Games, Shiley and Didrikson split their medals.                                   
By 1935, she picked up the sport of golf, a latecomer to the sport by which she             
would become most famous. Shortly thereafter, despite the brevity of her                   
experience, she was denied amateur status, and so in January 1938 she competed             
in the Los Angeles Open, a men's PGA (Professional Golfers' Association)                   
tournament, a feat no other woman would even try until Annika Sörenstam, Suzy             
Whaley, and Michelle Wie almost six decades later. She shot 81-84 and missed the           
cut. In the tournament, she was teamed with George Zaharias, a well-known                   
professional wrestler and sports promoter generally billed as "The Crying Greek             
from Cripple Creek." They were married eleven months later on December 23, 1938             
in St. Louis, and later lived in Tampa, Florida on the grounds of a golf course             
they bought in 1951.                                                                       
Babe went on to become America's first female golf celebrity and the leading               
player of the 1940s and early 1950s. After winning back her amateur status in               
1942, she won the 1946-47 United States Women's Amateur Golf Championships, as             
well as the 1947 British Ladies Amateur Golf Championship—the first American to           
do so—and three Western Open victories. Formally turning professional in 1947,           
she dominated the WPGA and later the LPGA, of which she was a founding member,             
until illness shortened her career in the mid-1950s.                                       
Zaharias even won a tournament named after her, the Babe Zaharias Open of                   
Beaumont, Texas. She won the 1947 Titleholders Championship and the 1948 U.S.               
Women's Open for her fourth and fifth major championships. She won 17 straight             
amateur victories, a feat never equaled by anyone, including Tiger Woods. By               
1950, she had won every golf title available. Totaling both her amateur and                 
professional victories, Zaharias won a total of 82 golf tournaments.                       
Charles McGrath of the New York Times wrote of Zaharias, "Except perhaps for               
Arnold Palmer, no golfer has ever been more beloved by the gallery."                       
Zaharias had her greatest year in 1950 when she completed the Grand Slam of the             
three women's majors of the day, the U.S. Open, the Titleholders Championship,             
and the Western Open, in addition to leading the money list. That year, she                 
became the fastest LPGA golfer to ever reach 10 wins. She was the leading money-winner     
again in 1951 and in 1952 took another major with a Titleholders victory, but               
illness prevented her from playing a full schedule in 1952-53.                             
After being diagnosed with colon cancer in 1953 and undergoing surgery, she made           
a comeback in 1954 and took the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average, her only           
win of the trophy, and her 10th and final major with a U.S. Women's Open                   
championship, one month after the cancer surgery. With this win, she became the             
second-oldest woman to ever win a major LPGA championship tournament (behind Fay           
Crocker; Zaharias now stands third to Crocker and Sherri Steinhauer). She also             
served as president of the LPGA from 1952 to 1955.                                         
Her colon cancer reappeared in 1955 and limited her schedule to eight events,               
but she managed two wins, which stand as her final ones in competitive golf. The           
cancer took its toll, and Zaharias died on September 27, 1956 at John Sealy                 
Hospital in Galveston, Texas. At the time of her death, at age 45, she was still           
in the top rank of female golfers. She and her husband had established the Babe             
Zaharias Fund to support cancer clinics. She is buried at Forest Lawn                       
Cemetery in Beaumont.