Monday, March 16, 2009

Today in Gay History

March 16, 1952

Babe Didrikson-Zaharias-Pro Golfer

wins LPGA Titleholders Golf Championship

Babe was born Mildred Ella Didrikson
June 26, 1911, in Port Arthur, Texas.

She was a phenomenal female athlete, accomplished in basketball, track, golf, baseball, tennis, swimming, diving, boxing, volleyball, handball, bowling, billiards, skating and cycling.

She was given the nickname "Babe" during sandlot baseball games with the neighborhood boys, who thought she batted like Babe Ruth.
She won gold medals for the javelin and hurdles and was awarded the silver medal in the high jump during the 1932 Olympics,

In 1948, Babe won the U.S. Women's Open, the World Championship and the All-American Open in golf. It wasn't just another golf title she won this day in 1952, but its a slow day in "Gay" history. Babe won this tournament title while battling colon cancer.

She married George Zaharias, a well known professional wrestler and sports promoter, on December 23, 1938.
They had no children, and some believe theirs was a marriage of convenience.

Zaharias had her greatest golfing year in 1950 when she completed the Grand Slam, three women's majors of the day--the U.S. Open, the Titleholders Championship, and the Western Open--in addition to leading the money list. That year, she became the fastest LPGA golfer to ever reach 10 wins. She was the leading money-winner again in 1951 and in 1952 took another major with a Titleholders victory, but illness prevented her from playing a full schedule in 1952-53.

After undergoing cancer surgery, she made a comeback in 1954. She took theVare Trophy for lowest scoring average, her only win of that trophy, and her 10th and final major with a U.S. Women's Open championship, one month after the cancer surgery. She served as the president of the LPGA from 1952 to 1955 despite her ongoing cancer battle. She died September 27, 1956.

Zaharias broke the accepted models of femininity in her time, even the accepted models of female athleticism. Although just 5'5" tall, she was physically strong and socially straightforward about her strength. Although a sports hero to many, she was also derided for her "manliness." She died ten years before the the social landscape of the United States made women athletes, such as Billie Jean King, more acceptable.

Despite her marriage to George Zaharias, there is keen historic interest in her from the modern lesbian community.

Questions about Didrikson's sexuality were rampant during the 1932 Olympics; the press wondering if she was neither male nor female but some "third" category, and in the locker room at the Olympics some of the other female athletes accosted her to check for themselves.

Later in her golfing career, in response to a female spectator asking where Didrikson's whiskers were, the Babe famously replied: "I'm sittin' on 'em, sister, same as you."

Unhappy with her marriage and wanting a separation, Didrikson began to travel openly with nineteen year old golfer Betty Dodd to golf tournaments in 1950. Unwilling to grant her wish for a divorce, Zaharias and his wife apparently came to an agreement, and Dodd moved in with the couple, living there until Didrikson's death in 1956. Betty Dodd acted as Babe's caretaker, during her lengthy battle with cancer, and that seemed to mollify the public as to why Dodd was constantly with Didrikson.


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