As near as Truly The GOATs can surmise, the first mention of Babe Didrikson Zaharias as an All-Time Great athlete came after her utter domination at the 1932 AAU Trac & Field Championships, then essentially the Olympic qualifiers for Team USA but before she’d win three medals at the Los Angeles Games that summer.
“She’s the greatest all-around athlete in history,” proclaimed Col. M.J. Combs to media in July ’32. As he who fostered Babe’s basketball and track & field careers, Colonel Combs was indeed “probably a bit prejudiced” as Austin Statesman Sports Editor Homer Olsen admitted in his “Sports Situation” column, but Babe ultimately proved Combs correct in the short-term, putting in a Thorpe-like show in winning the maximum three events to which women were allowed to participate in those days.
Runs the relevant bit of column:
In connection with the girl from Dallas, interesque stories still were being written today while she and her femme teammates were on their way to California and the fast-approaching Olympics. The stories, which are gracing many of the country’s leading sport pages, tell of this Dallas maid as being a girl who had never worn the spiked shoe of track and field until two years ago.
Only 19 now, she was “found” in Houston by one Col. M.J. McCombs in 1930 while she was playing on a basketball team. Col. McCombs, being a former track star of the University of Missouri, watched the Babe closely and was so impressed by her work that he spoke with her earnestly. After hearing from McCombs that she had great possibilities both in basketball and track, Miss Didrikson went to Dallas where she obtained a position with the firm which also employed McCombs, the Employers’ Casualty company.
Under the colors of the Cyclones, she helped no little bit in bringing two national basketball titles to Texas, and at the same time won places for herself on the mythical All-American basketball teams.
Now she’s won the track and field title of the AAU for the Cyclones, and indications are that she will win other laurels for herself and the USA in the games at Los Angeles.
McCombs, in speaking of the Dallas girl, says “She’s the greatest all-round athlete in history. I don’t know of a man to compare with her. Jim Thorpe was great but he couldn’t do so many things as well as Babe can.” All of which may be very well, and the Babe might succeed, even easily, in grabbing first honors In the 80-meter hurdles, the javelin throw and the high jump in the great games, but McCombs probably Is a bit prejudiced. Not that I’d blame him though.
As for the Babe herself, she’s quite confident that the Olympics will be just another walk-off for her. “It’s how you feel on the day you’re in action,” says Miss Didrikson. “Records don’t mean anything; if you’re right, you’re right.” And she figures she’ll be right when she moves onto the field in the company of the world’s greatest. Of which she is one, surely.