The Magnificent Sporting Life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias
By Don Van Natta
(Little, Brown and Company, Hardcover, 9780316056991, 416pp.)
Publication Date: June 2011
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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.
Don Van Natta is an investigative correspondent for the New York Times. He has been a member of three Pulitzer Prize-winning teams, and is the author of First off the Tee: Presidential Hackers, Duffers and Cheaters from Taft to Bush and Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton.
"Van Natta constructs a satisfying if bittersweet narrative...It's to [his] credit, and her own, that we find ourselves caring not just for the great athlete, but for the person she was as well."
-Boston Sunday Globe
"Finally, the definitive account of the extraordinary adventures of the one and only Babe Didrikson Zaharias, expertly and lovingly rendered by Don Van Natta. From the track to the tee to the stage, the greatest of all female athletes--arguably the greatest of all athletes, period--stirs vividly to life. Comprehensively reported and elegantly told, funny and tragic, Wonder Girl is an indispensable testament to the epic gifts of an American original."
-ESPN reporter and author of Cinderella Man and Triumph
"A spirited biography about the courage and chutzpah of a tough, fun-loving Texan, who, as Van Natta says, "once upon a time could do everything but fly"...Van Natta doesn't just recount the Babe's incredible life, career and vicious person attacks on her tomboy looks and behavior...He gives the 5-foot-6 ¿ but larger-than-life sports legend the lively treatment she deserves...He makes her dribble, shoot, run, jump, bat, pitch, drive and putt off its 256 pages."
-Dallas Morning News
"Full-bodied and honest....Wonder Girl offers the definitive account of Babe's life, ignoring the legend for the real story-one that needs no embellishment."
-Minneapolis Star Tribune
"I didn't know a whole lot of things about Babe until I picked up Wonder Girl, a new biography by Don Van Natta Jr., about one of the most remarkable (and remarkably unappreciated) women who ever walked (and ran) the Earth ...what I didn't know would fill a book. Luckily, it fills Van Natta's book. Van Natta tells her tale compellingly, warts and all, holding back nothing. The contradictions of Babe Didrikson Zaharias, loved and hated, immortalized and forgotten, are detailed by Van Natta in equal measure."
-Los Angeles Times
"Don Van Natta has turned one of the most famous athletes in history into a fresh revelation. Van Natta is everywhere she is-from the track to Vaudeville stage, from The Ed Sullivan Show to the 18th hole and peels away the brash veneer on the irrepressible Babe Didrikson Zaharias to reveal the personal arc of an invincible woman who ends up inspiring a nation. By deftly mining all sides of Babe, Van Natta provides remarkable dimension to an American heroine."
-Sports Illustrated senior writer and author of A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez
"Babe Didrikson Zaharias-named by Sports Illustrated as one of the top ten athletes of the twentieth century -has long been shrouded in myth. Now, at long last, Don Van Natta Jr. brilliantly tells the real story behind the hubristic Olympic gold medalist who became the greatest female golfer in history. Wonder Girl is a deeply compelling and warm-hearted biography about an evergreen American sports legend. A marvelous scholarly accomplishment and a page-turner to boot."
-author of The Quiet World: Saving Alaska's Wilderness Kingdom 1879-1960
"Van Natta's meticulously researched book opens up this era the way Laura Hillenbrand's wonderful Seabiscuit: An American Legend opened up the world of horseracing in the same period..."
-The Wall Street Journal
"Babe Didrikson Zaharias gets the biography she deserves....[Van Natta] brings Babe back to life in all her rough-edged, indomitable glory....It's a remarkable story, and Van Natta tells it with grace and humor. He doesn't beatify Babe....but keeps his eye on the ball."
-St. Petersburg Times
"Wonder Girl is a wonderful read about a woman who charged through life shattering stereotypes on the playing fields and off. As a boy I followed her amazing career in the sports pages as she changed the face of golf and the Olympics but now, thanks to Don Van Natta, I have the complete story of this authentically American trail blazer who was so much more than just a gifted athlete."
"On reading this charmingly evocative narrative of a woman named Babe, I couldn't help but be reminded of Muhammad Ali. Didrikson shared the same pizzazz, raw physical talent, and indomitable spirit of the great Ali, plus the penchant for breaking barriers. Finally there is a biography worthy of her remarkable story."
-New York Times bestselling author of The Perfect Mile
"The Babe has largely been hailed as America's preeminent female athlete, but as Don Van Natta Jr. makes clear in his wonderfully detailed and beautifully written account of her life, this was one gutsy, poetic, and ultimately endearing dame who rose from the heartland to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with any American sports legend. I haven't enjoyed a sports biography this much in years."
-bestselling author of Final Rounds, A Son of the Game, and Ben Hogan: An American Life
"Don Van Natta's gripping portrait of Babe Didrikson Zaharias sheds valuable light on the history of women in sports and in the public eye, and brings back to vivid life a woman whose drive and raw talent made her among the most accomplished athletes of all time, but about whom we have remembered far too little."
-author of Big Girls Don't Cry