SI Vault
August 15, 1955
The significance of 1941, Too many mollycoddles?, Hurricane Tommy, The uninvited cat, Courageous Babe Didrikson, Skin diving and good common sense
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August 15, 1955

Events & Discoveries

The significance of 1941, Too many mollycoddles?, Hurricane Tommy, The uninvited cat, Courageous Babe Didrikson, Skin diving and good common sense

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On Manhattan's Seventh Avenue, the Columbia people are as happy as a contented Giant fan. Selling at a thousand copies a day, the record is second only to a collection of Viennese waltzes on the firm's LP bestseller list.


Evanston, Ill. July 16, 1932 (AP): Miss Mildred (Babe) Didrikson of Dallas, won single-handedly the National AAU track and field championship for her club, and reserved for herself three places on the Olympic squad. Incidental to her big day's work, in which she raced from one event to another, changing shoes between times, were five first places, a tie for another and a fourth place. One world record went to her credit, and she shared another.

Los ANGELES, July 31, 1932 ( New York Times): Miss Mildred (Babe) Didrikson sent the universal record for the javelin throw into the discard when she launched the long spear for a winning toss of 143 feet 4 inches, the great throng in the stadium making the welkin ring with the most vociferous demonstration of the day...

Los ANGELES, August 4, 1932: The only fruits accruing to the United States after the harvest of yesterday was the eyelash victory of the versatile Miss Mildred (Babe) the 80-meter hurdle...The Texas girl is all fight from the tip of her toes to the top of her straight black hair.

Twenty-odd years ago, newspaper stories on Babe Didrikson's latest records were almost commonplace—if the feats that inspired them were not. To the Boston Transcript, Babe Didrikson NOW RANKS FIRST IN WOMEN'S TRACK; to the New York Times, she was simply "the greatest all-around star in the history of women's athletics." At the time these encomiums were heaped upon her, Babe was a thin, nervous, twangy-voiced 18-year-old girl who had grown up in Beaumont in the midst of six brothers and sisters. She looked a little like Bonnie Parker, a celebrated gun moll of the period, but she was actually a respectable typist (100 words a minute) employed by a Dallas insurance company. She led the company basketball team to the national championships and was three times an All-American herself. All this, of course, was before the equally astounding golf career—82 tournaments won in 18 years, including 17 straight. And before the equally astounding comeback last year after her operation for cancer, when she won three major tournaments, including the Women's National Open, although as she said, "I haven't quite as much stamina as I used to." Nonetheless, she found plenty of energy to support good causes, to help in cancer-research drives. One of her latest messages appears on page 72 of this issue of SI.

But a story from Texas last week made poignant any recollection of Babe Didrikson's great days, her victories and her courage. In Galveston, her husband, George Zaharias, disclosed that the cancer ailment has come back. She will receive X-ray and radiation treatment. "Whatever comes after that—we just don't know."


With Americans taking to the underwater in ever-increasing numbers, a series of fatal and near-fatal accidents has occurred in coastal and inland waters, demonstrating that skin diving has its hazards as well as its joys.

As in driving an automobile, handling mask, flippers and self-contained breathing device calls for a qualified, skilled human as well as good mechanical equipment, and practically all accidents have been caused by failure of the man rather than the apparatus. Some divers—incredibly—have been poor swimmers to begin with, evidently donning diving gear in the belief that it would transform them, magically, into human fish—which, of course, it won't. In addition to learning to swim well, here are some rules to follow if you plan to try this extremely rewarding sport:

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