This is the extraordinary story of a nearly forgotten American superstar athlete.
Texas girl Babe Didrikson never tried a sport too tough and never met a hurdle too high. Despite attempts to keep women from competing, Babe achieved All-American status in basketball and won gold medals in track and field at the 1932 Olympics.
Then Babe attempted to conquer golf.
One of the founders of the LPGA, Babe won more consecutive tournaments than any golfer in history. At the height of her fame, she was diagnosed with cancer. Babe would then take her most daring step of all: go public and try to win again with the hope of inspiring the world.
A rollicking saga, stretching across the first half of the 20th century, WONDER GIRL is as fresh, heartfelt, and graceful as Babe herself.
Van Natta (First off the Tee) writes in this engaging biography that Babe Didrikson pointed to a javelin the first time she visited a track and field practice and asked, "What's that?" Only a few months later, the young basketball star from a blue-collar family of Norwegian immigrants in Beaumont, Tex., set a world record for the javelin throw. Two years later in the 1932 Olympics, she won a gold medal in the javelin and the hurdles and a silver in the high jump. A bet between sportswriters in the press box about her ability to golf recruited her to the game the very next day, launching her on a path to becoming the dominant player of her era. She had an amazing capacity to play any sport astonishingly well with a feisty and audacious confidence. Also fascinating was her marriage to professional wrestler and promoter George Zaharias and her struggle with cancer. After major surgery, she won two LPGA tournaments, including the U.S. Open, before the disease took her life at the age of 45 in 1956. While there is little analysis of Didrikson Zaharias's cultural role as a woman in the sporting world, Van Natta marvelously narrates the forgotten life of the "greatest all-around athlete of all time," a story that every American sport fan should relish.