January 23, 2019
Mildred Ella "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias brought international attention to Beaumont when she not only competed in the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles, but she brought home two gold medals and one silver.
Born June 26, 1911, in Port Arthur, her family moved to Beaumont in 1915. While she dropped the "c" out of her surname, she acquired a nickname, "Babe," a name given to her by the boys she played sandlot baseball with. They thought she batted like Babe Ruth. In 1932, she competed in eight out of 10 track field events at the Amateur Athletic Union. She won first place in the shot put, javelin and baseball throws, eight-meter hurdles and long jump. She tied for first in the high jump and placed fourth in discus. That performance qualified her for the Olympics, where she broke world records in the javelin toss, high jump, softball throw and 80-meter hurdles.
She pitched at spring training for the St. Louis Cardinals, held golf ball driving exhibitions with Gene Sarazen, played donkey-softball with an all-male touring softball team and challenged the winning horse of the Kentucky Derby to a foot race. In 1938, she married George Zaharias, a wealthy wrestler. Golf became her focus and she went on to win 13 consecutive tournaments.
Once she turned pro in 1947, she helped found the Ladies Professional Golf Association in 1950. During her professional career, she won 31 tournaments and was a member of the LPGA Hall of Fame. In 1953, she was diagnosed with colon cancer. She died in 1956 at the age of 45 in Galveston. She is buried in Beaumont.
This information is courtesy of the Beaumont Enterprise.