The rise of the sprightly, mighty Kacy Catanzaro got us thinking about another amazing Texas-based athlete: Mildred "Babe" Didrikson.
Small Women, Big-Time Athletes (As In, Texas Big)
We’re claiming Kacy Catanzaro as a Texan.
No, she wasn’t born here, or even raised here (that happened in New Jersey). She went to college in Maryland, which, like New Jersey, also is not Texas.
But she’s here now, and that’s what counts. Kacy lives in San Antonio, and works for a young and exciting obstacles event company called Alpha Warrior. Her dominating performance at the American Ninja Warrior competition took place in Dallas. And to top it off, her achievements are Texas-sized.
So, like we said: we claim Kacy for Texas.
If you’re not familiar with Kacy’s performance, by the way, watch this video:
Kacy’s mastery of this American Ninja Warrior course is unprecedented. No woman has completed it, and most men likewise struggle and fail. These aren’t amateur athletes, either. Kacy’s peers in the competition include Olympic gold medalists, professional football players, and track stars.
Hence, Kacy’s ability to negotiate the entire course without error has millions of people looking forward to her next performance at the September 15 finals in Las Vegas. And in the meantime, they’re marveling over her exceptional, once-in-a-lifetime athleticism.
Kacy’s sudden spot in the spotlight got us thinking about another once-in-a-lifetime female athlete, also from Texas: Mildred “Babe” Didrikson.
It’s safe to assume that most people in Kacy’s generation have never even heard of Babe Didrikson. For the uninitiated, here’s a shorthand summary: She’s one of the greatest athletes of all time, male or female.
Born in Port Arthur, Texas in 1911, Babe Didrikson is said to have earned her nickname “Babe” by the neighborhood boys, who were so impressed by her baseball skills that a comparison to Mr. Babe Ruth seemed pretty reasonable.
Baseball is just one of the sports at which Babe excelled. Over the course of her career, Babe Didrikson competed in (and dominated) events in track, basketball, bowling, cycling, billiards, tennis, boxing, diving, volleyball, skating, swimming, and golf.
Golf is the sport for which Babe is known for most. She won more than 80 tournaments over the course of her amateur and professional career.
Altogether, Babe’s resume of accolades is almost too hard to believe: Olympic gold medals; All American honors; induction into multiple halls of fame; declaration by the Associated Press as Woman Athlete of the Year a record six times; and named by Sports Illustrated as Female Athlete of the 20th Century, to name just a few.
In 1956, Babe died of cancer at the young of age of 45. She was even a champion in her illness, advocating on behalf of cancer awareness, and proving her doctors wrong: after she was diagnosed with cancer, they said she’d never play golf again; Babe won the U.S. Women’s Open 15 months after a colostomy (by 12 strokes!).
Perhaps our favorite anecdote about Babe is about an inscription at the Babe Didrikson Museum in Port Arthur, Texas. It repeats the old line about how it’s not how you win or lose, but rather how you play the game. Problem is, Babe probably would disagree with this tribute, having once declared, “I don’t see the point in playing the game if you don’t win. Do you?”
An excellent comprehensive read on Babe Didrikson is Don Van Natta Jr.'s Wonder Girl: The Magnificent Sporting Life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias. And in Port Arthur, Texas, you can visit her gravesite and the Museum celebrating her life and legacy.
These original illustrations of Kacy and Babe were created exclusively for No. 4 St. James by another talented Texas woman, Stephanie Jimenez. Many thanks to her for these charming depictions of these amazing athletes.