Babe Didrikson Zaharias

ports Hero, Record-Breaker

Babe Swings From Sand Trap At 1946 US Women's Amateur
Babe Didrikson Swings From Sand Trap At 1946 US Women's Amateur. Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Dates: June 26, 1911 - September 27, 1956

Known for: Her all-around athletic ability. Babe Didrikson was probably the best female athlete of her time She was named Female Athlete of the Year six times by the Associated Press.

Sports: Golf, track and field, basketball, baseball, softball, diving, roller skating, and bowling

Country Represented: USA

Olympics:

  • X Olympiad, Los Angeles, California, USA, 1932, Athletics/USA

    Also known as: Babe Didrikson, Mildred "Babe" Didrikson

    Babe Didrikson Biography

    Born as Mildred Didrikson in south Texas, she had much freedom as a child. She learned to run leaping hedges, and she was nicknamed Babe for her many home runs in baseball games.

    Didrikson dropped out of high school, where she had played on every sports team, and began playing semiprofessional basketball sponsored by an insurance company. They went to the national finals in 1930, 1931, and 1932, winning the national in 1931.  She was named All-American in 1932, the first of three times.

    She participated in a track and field meet sponsored by the company where she worked in a clerical job. She won six of the eight events she entered, and setting world records in four events.

    In the 1932 Olympics, Didrikson won a gold medal in 80 meter hurdles, a gold in the javelin, and a silver in the high jump. She would have won the gold in the high jump, but her style of diving, with head going over the bar first, was ruled illegal.

    She was briefly suspended from semiprofessional sports when she permitted her name and picture to be used in advertising automobiles. She supported herself appearing in vaudeville and touring with several sports teams.

    In 1934, she began playing competitive golf. She was disqualified from many women's events because she was a professional.

    She responded by helping found the Ladies Professional Golfers Association.

    In 1938, Didrikson married a wrestler, George Zaharias, who she met at a golf tournament.

    In 1953, Didrikson was diagnosed with colon cancer, and after surgery, was told not to play golf.  She won five golf tournaments the next year.  She died in 1956. 

    The press often covered her generously, and awarded her honors, but many other athletes resented her self-promotion.

    More About Babe Didrikson Zaharias

    Organizations: In 1949 Babe Didrikson Zaharias became one of the founding members of the Ladies' Professional Golf Association.

    Records:

    • Gold, Javelin toss, X Olympiad, Los Angeles, California, USA, 1932.
    • Gold, 80 metre hurdles, X Olympiad, Los Angeles, California, USA, 1932.
    • Silver, High jump, X Olympiad, Los Angeles, California, USA, 1932.
    • 10 Ladies' Professional Golf Association (LPGA) major championships. Tied for third most wins through 2006.

    Babe Didrikson Zaharias Honors:

    • "Female Athlete of the Year", the Associated Press, 1932, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1950, 1954.
    • U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, 1983 (charter member)

    Education:  Beaumont High School, Beaumont. Texas, USA, 1929

    Background, Family:

    • Mother: Hannah Olson Didriksen
    • Father: Ole Didriksen, sailor and carpenter
    • Siblings: six: Dora, Nancy and Ole were born in Norway. Lillie and Louis (twins) and Arthur (Bubba), as well as Mildred (Babe), were born in Port Arthur, Texas.

    Marriage:

    • husband: George Zaharias, (married December 23, 1938, professional wrestler)
    • no children