Tag Archives: sports

Celebrity Babe of the Month: December

Congratulations, you survived the end of the world!

BUT. Survival skills are still essential for…er, survival. If you ever find yourself in a situation requiring you to obtain your own food from the wild, there’s a man you need to know about.

Babe Winkelman

Al...? Al Borland? No, that's Babe Winkelman, king of the outdoors.

Al…? Al Borland? No, that’s Babe Winkelman, king of the outdoors.

Real Name: None ‘a ya business (Seriously, the man deserves his privacy.)

(not Babe Winkelman)

(not Babe Winkelman)

Babe-ification Story:

When The-child-who-would-be-known-as-Babe was a year and a half, his father bestowed upon him his first baseball and bat. He dragged them around with him everywhere he went and played with them constantly, so his dad started calling him Babe (after the Great Bambino, of course).

For a guy who’s 6’3” and 250 pounds, a nickname like Babe works out just fine. But growing up, Babe had to issue a few forceful reminders that he was not, in fact, named after Baby Huey

Celebrification Story:

Babe Branches Out

Although he started out constructing buildings, Babe’s heart was always in the outdoors. Growing up on a farm, he was in constant contact with nature and taught himself to fish. Six years after starting the Winkelman Building Corporation with his father, he sold his shares in the company and pursued a career in two seemingly disparate media: television, and the wild.

winkelman fish

Hey! Good Fishing!

Babe Winkelman Productions formed in the early 1970s, and by 1980 he had started hosting “Good Fishing” – tagline: “Until then…hey! Good fishing!”  The show was picked up for syndication in ‘85 and is still America’s most-washed fishing show. He also brought hunting back to television in the late ‘80s with “Outdoor Secrets” – tagline: “Master the patterns of nature.”

That deer’s like, “Oh. Em. Gee. Seriously? Just after being shot? Do. Not. Tag me. In that photo.”

The Patterns of Nature

Babe credits his outdoor prowess (and, consequently, his television success) to his early discovery that wildlife operates in predictable cause-and-effect patterns. His mastery of the patterns of human nature may be a bit more dubious; he’s currently on marriage #3 (although with five daughters, it seems like by now he ought to be pretty good at predicting the cause-and-effect patterns of women).

More Babe Stuff:

  • Babe’s television shows are a family affair. Some of his daughters have hunted with him, his wife Kris does a cooking segment, and his brother wrote and performed the original theme song for “Outdoor Secrets.”
  • The Winkelmans live on 260+ acres of woodland in Minnesota, where Babe has established a bird sanctuary and is working on a native tallgrass prairie.
  • Watch Babe wrestle a massive sturgeon on an episode of “Good Fishing.”
Master of camouflage.Kidding. This is actually Babe with one of the thousands of trees he has planted.

Master of camouflage!
Kidding. This is actually Babe with one of the thousands of trees he has planted.

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Celebrity Babe of the Month: October

Babe Didrikson Zaharias

Real Name: Mildred Ella Didriksen

Babe-ification story:

As the 6th of 7 children, she was called “Baby” as an infant. By the time #7 came along, the neighborhood boys had already adjusted Mildred’s nickname to Babe (after Babe Ruth) because she hit so many home runs in their sandlot baseball games.

Celebrification story:

The Early Years

During high school, Babe was recruited by Employers Casualty Insurance Company’s sports manager Colonel Melvin J. McCombs to play basketball for the company’s women’s team, the Golden Cyclones. After a smashing season, the Golden Cyclones also competed in swimming, baseball, and tennis. Then McCombs had Babe compete in the AAU National Championship track meet…as a one-woman team.

The One-Woman Team

She won. At 21 years old, she competed in eight of the meet’s ten events and singlehandedly outscored the 2nd place team (which had over 20 members) 30 to 22. She placed first in five events and tied for first in another. In the process, she broke four world records (three of which belonged to her already) and qualified for the 1932 Olympics.

The 1932 Olympics

Babe competed in three events and medaled in all of them. In the javelin throw and the 80-meter hurdles, she took gold and broke (her own) world records. In the high jump, she and an opponent cleared the same height in a jump off but Babe was awarded the silver medal due to controversy about the legality of her form. (The Fosbury flop was still more than three decades in the future.) Coming off her unprecedented victories in track and field, she seemed unstoppable…until it was time to go pro.

Going Pro

Babe floundered after making the decision to earn money as an athlete. She dabbled in show business, spending a week as the star of a vaudeville act and participating in exhibition games in billiards, basketball, and baseball. But by the end of 1934, she had been taking lessons and keeping a strenuous training schedule, and she was ready to compete in the next sport…

The Next Sport

…golf. She entered and won her first tournament in Fort Worth, Texas. Babe went on to win 82 golf tournaments in her career, including 17 amateur women’s tournaments in a row (which hasn’t been done since). By 1950 she had won every golf title available to women at the time. She is now remembered primarily for her career on the green.

More Babe Stuff

  • Babe met professional wrestler George Zaharias when they were partnered for a golf tournament and married him in 1938. Although their marriage was not always happy, they remained loyal to one another.
  • When a friend introduced her to teenage golfer Betty Dodd, the two became fast friends (often arousing George’s jealousy) for the rest of Babe’s life. Dodd even lived with the Zahariases for a while.
  • She was instrumental in founding the Ladies PGA.
  • Babe’s confidence was as wide as her native Texas, and her verbal swagger matched it. She was known to shout to competitors before a match, “Okay, Babe’s here! Now who’s gonna finish second?”
  • She received the Associated Press’s Woman Athlete of the Year award six times, a record still unmatched today.
  • She was proficient on the harmonica, which she played on stage in her one week of vaudeville and later with Betty Dodd, who sang and played guitar.
  • In 1953 she underwent surgery for colon cancer. She went on to win the U.S. Women’s Open shortly thereafter. Her cancer had spread to her lymph nodes, but that information was kept from her until it became evident. She was in and out of the hospital during her last year of life and finally succumbed in 1956 at age 45.

Babe’s legacy includes more than athletic accomplishments: she spent much of her career bucking the notion that women did not belong in sports. Up until a year before she competed in the Olympics, the inclusion of women’s sports in the Games was still a subject of heated debate. Later, when Babe was touring with a men’s baseball team, newspaper columnist Joe Williams wrote of her, “It would be much better if she and her ilk stayed home, got themselves prettied up and waited for the phone to ring.” But sportswriter and fan Grantland Rice lauded Babe as “the most flawless section of muscle harmony, of complete mental and physical coordination the world of sport has ever known.” By her unflagging pursuit of her own ambitious athletic goals, Babe helped to open up the world of professional sports for future women athletes.

Note: I highly recommend Russell Freedman’s Babe Didrikson Zaharias: The Making of a Champion, which was my principal source for this post. I found the chapter about Babe as a one-woman track team especially entertaining.

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