Two weeks later
the Babe went to the Olympics in Los Angeles. Allowed to participate in only
three events, against the best women of every nation she won two of them,
setting world's records in each, the javelin throw and the 80-meter hurdles.
She was languaged out of the third, the high jump. After she tied with Jean
Shiley for first place, at a world-record height, Babe cleared the bar in the
jump-off but was ruled to have dived over. Thus she lost the record and the
event. The roll that she used, incidentally, is legal today.
But prior to
these events this wonderful little girl, the sixth child born to a poor
Norwegian cabinetmaker and his wife who emigrated to Port Arthur, Texas, later
moving to Beaumont, had already been a star basketball player named three times
on the women's All-America team, a high scorer who in one game is recorded to
have tanked the ball for an individual total of 106 points. And she was
likewise a home run hitting star in soft ball, a crackerjack at pool and
billiards and good enough at swimming and high diving to appear in
however, was only the beginning of a career that was to take her to an alltime
record as a golf champion, including the distinction of becoming the first
American girl to break the jinx and win the British Women's Amateur
Much has been
made of Mrs. Zaharias' natural aptitude and talent for sports, as well as her
competitive spirit and indomitable will to win, with both of which she was
endowed in full measure. But not nearly enough has been said or written about
the patience and strength of character expressed in her willingness to practice
for endless hours, and her recognition even as a child that with all her
natural ability she could reach the top and stay there only by means of
incessant drill and hard work.
whup yo' "
The hours of
practice the Babe devoted in her life to various games ought to be made
compulsory reading for every fresh kid who can swim, skate, run, ski a little
or is handy at sports and thinks that all he or she needs to do is get out
there and the opposition will swoon away. When the Babe leveled on a sister
athlete and husked, "Ah'm gonna whup yo' " it wasn't brag (though an
element of games-womanship and psychological attack was involved). She had put
in the necessary hours of slavery to perfect her form and to be able to deliver
the goods; and she just knew she could.
At 16, preparing
for her first track and field meet, she would work two hours in the afternoon
with her teammates and then go out alone after supper and practice from two to
three hours more until darkness enveloped her, working on her step-timing for
the jumps, her balance in the weight events and her starts in the sprints.
She learned golf
the same way. The first full game she ever played followed the 1932 Olympics
when she paired with Grantland Rice against Olin Dutra and the writer at
Brentwood. She had a fine natural swing and could paste the ball as far as a
man, but that isn't golf and the Babe knew it. When she decided to go in for
the game seriously, she took lessons, drilled and practiced for hours on end
until her hands were a mass of blisters. She taped and bandaged them and kept
on, stopping only when the bandages became soaked with blood.
In the spring of
1935 while she was working for her old friends, the Employers Casualty Company
in Dallas, this was her schedule:
Up at 5 in the
morning and practice from 5:30 to 8:30. Report at the office at 9. During the
lunch hour, putt on the carpet in the boss's office and chip balls into his
leather chair. After work, back to the golf course hitting balls until dark.
Thus it went, until the pain in her hands made another shot impossible. At
night she would go to bed with the rule book.