The best athlete of the 20th century may have been Babe Didrickson Zaharias, who appears in a vibrant biography that crushes any remaining myths about women in sports.
Freedman (Martha Graham, 1998, etc.) makes clear that almost from Babe’s birth in 1911, in an era in which women were barely accepted in sports, she displayed phenomenal athletic ability and determination to become a champion in every sport she played. She was so consumed by sports that she played baseball with boys who were glad to have her, and went on to win two gold medals and one silver medal at the 1932 Olympics, a performance that brought her an enduring national celebrity. Her colorful personality lights up the narrative at every turn and in every story, e.g., after fighting for the right to play golf against socialites who didn’t want her, she became, arguably, the best golfer who ever lived. Even with her natural ability Babe still trained at an almost inhuman level. Her insistence on victory was matched by a love of life that sparkles through the book; her story, as told by Freedman and supported by a profusion of black-and-white photographs, leaves readers wondering what she could have done in a less restrictive era and who will follow in the path she blazed. (notes, bibliography, index) (Biography. 10+)