Friday, August 22, 2014

Mo'ne Davis and Jackie Mitchell

Mo’ne Davis is the little girl and ace pitcher for the Philadelphia's Taney Dragons who got a lot of press in the Little League World Series. Davis was one of two girls playing in the series and she pitched a 4-0 shutout against South Nashville on August 14, 2014.  Davis is also an excellent basketball player who hopes to someday play at U Conn.  She attends the highly regarded  Springside Chestnut Hill Academy in Philadelphia—a private K-12 school where parents pay a college-size tuition. 

Of course, as every parent of an athlete knows, each year brings new challenges as the competition gets better and the athlete must work harder and harder to succeed.  The 13-year old Davis has some work to do before she plays for U Conn or signs with the Yankees or the Phillies or anyone else.   But one thing we know and that is if she is good enough to play in the MLB, she will be welcomed.  Today, there will be no locked gates for a major league talent based on race or gender. 

It wasn’t so long ago that she would have been barred from the majors by race and gender. Jackie Robinson’s story has gotten more and more attention these days with the movie “42.”  Ken Burns has a documentary feature planned on Robinson’s life as well.  Interestingly enough, many scenes for “42” were shot at Engel Stadium in Chattanooga, Tennessee—former home of the Chattanooga Lookouts.

Joe Engel, the owner of the Chattanooga Lookouts signed on Jackie Mitchell, a 17-year old female pitcher in 1931.  Mitchell had learned the game from her dad and Dazzy Vance, a young pitcher who was headed for the Hall of Fame.  On April 2, 1931, Mitchell struck out both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in an exhibition game between the Lookouts and the Yankees and she was an instant celebrity.  Whether Ruth and Gehrig gave their all that day we’ll never know for sure—it’s one of those odd never to be solved mystery in a sport in which there are many.

10 Commandments of Baseball
Some sources suggest that baseball commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis didn’t like the idea of women playing professional baseball and Mitchell found herself out of professional baseball.  She joined up with a famous quirky exhibition baseball team called the House of David that featured long haired bearded players that had an affiliation with the House of David church.  While the House of David was actually a good ball club, the games were often met with kind of side show interest by the fans, which is something that did not appeal to Mitchell.  Jackie Mitchell loved the game and she wanted to play it at the highest level.  Mitchell retired from baseball at age 23. 

Book on Jackie Mitchell
 Noted children’s book author, Jean Patrick, has a book called The Girl Who Struck outBase Ruth about Mitchell and episode for young readers in the early grades. Jean Patrick visits schools and talks about Jackie Mitchell and her other books as well.