Carole's primary athletic love was tennis, and she was a tough competitor on the court, rivaling Ginger Rogers and Katharine Hepburn as the top female player in the film star community.
Carole loved tennis so much that she had courts built in the backyard of at least two of the houses she owned.
In 1934, Carole sent a letter to a tennis player she had never met, although they had the same instructor. The letter's recipient, Alice Marble, was a promising player who had been struck down with tuberculosis and placed in a sanatorium to recuperate. The letter noted that Lombard was once in a terrible automobile accident, and that "dcctors told me I was through, but then I began to think I had nothing to lose by fighting, so I began to fight. Well, I proved the doctors wrong. I made my career come true, just as you can -- if you'll fight. If I can do it, so can you." They became good friends, with Lombard sponsoring her career, and Marble indeed made her career come true -- winning the U.S. Open four times and Wimbledon once, among other titles. During World War II, she worked undercover for U.S. Army intelligence. Check out Marble's autobiography, "Courting Danger."
Clark Gable wasn't much of a tennis player himself -- this was probably as close as he got to a tennis court with Carole -- but he did get her interested in hunting and shooting. One of her instructors in the latter area was a young Robert Stack, who later had a supporting role in her final film, "To Be Or Not To Be."
Lombard loved baseball, regularly attending games of the Pacific Coast League's Los Angeles Angels and Hollywood Stars; had she lived, one can imagine seeing Carole among the star-studded crowd at the Los Angeles Coliseum when the Dodgers moved west in 1958. (During her life, Carole had been in the Coliseum for Southern Cal football games and other events.) Here's a picture of Lombard making her pitch when the New York Giants trained in Los Angeles; the year was either 1932 or '33. It's appropriate she'd watch the Giants, since their ace pitcher, Carl Hubbell, was known for his "screwball" -- a term that became applied to the genre of comedy Carole excelled in.
Finally, here's a pic of Carole at a polo match featuring some of Hollywood's elite. That's Will Rogers to her immediate right.