She should have her name above the Title
To track the 40-year life of Title IX, the federal legislation signed into law June 23, 1972, that called for gender equity in educational opportunities, the experiences of Ann Meyers Drysdale are worth consulting. Ann Meyers was one of 11 children, a standout girls’ basketball player at La Habra Sonora High who thought she was destined for a junior college because of her family’s financial situation until UCLA extended her its first four-year scholarship offer to a female athlete. Meyers, a 1976 Olympian, was so good she was ultimately offered a tryout with the NBA’s Indiana Pacers. She didn’t make the roster, but the impression and spirit she left are reflected in the WNBA, the U.S. women’s soccer program, college softball and race car driver Danica Patrick. “We play with just as much passion as the guys,” said Meyers Drysdale, the wife of the late Dodgers pitcher Don Drysdale. Last month she released her memoir, “You Let a Girl Beat You?”
Is the impact of Title IX greater than you ever thought, or what you thought it’d be all along?
“Before Title IX, it was against the law in some places for girls to play sports. There were places we couldn’t even be spectators. Men would let women play in basketball games with them, but we could only dribble twice and then we’d have to pass. They thought we’d faint from too much exertion. Girls today don’t know some of that existed, but I was thinking about that the other day when I saw a story on the sister of the New York Jets offensive lineman [Nick Mangold] lifting weights and playing football. I know she’s been ridiculed for that. But she just wants to play. My sister Kelly needed permission to play Little League. And a few months ago, a high school in Phoenix wouldn’t play a baseball team because they refused to play against a girl. To answer the question, what’s so important is when something is not right, you have to stand up for it. Mind or body, it has to be even for both genders. And that’s what Title IX did. Now, you have women’s basketball making money for universities, fathers supporting their daughters’ athletic pursuits all the way through their lives. The attitudes have changed so beautifully.”
What athletic performance, your own included, would you point to as ultimate validation of Title IX?
“For me, it has to be my own. . . . We didn’t have enough money for me to ever attend UCLA, but because of Title IX, I got an education at UCLA. I think my Pacers tryout is part of the history of Title IX, as well. I know Lynette Woodard, an All-American at Kansas, told me it gave her the courage to try out for the Harlem Globetrotters, and I’d hope it gave others the courage to pursue their dreams.”
Why write your memoir now? Is it intended to remind of Title IX, strictly be a biography, or leave a message you’d like to resonate?
“I’ve had people ask me to do a book for years. When I tried out for the Pacers, I was adamant not to do one then and let what I was doing be viewed as a publicity stunt. I tried out for the Pacers because I had an opportunity. I’m private by nature, but I’ve given many interviews through my life about Title IX, UCLA, the Pacers, winning [ABC’s] ‘Superstars.’ At some point, you want to put it all down. And I can remember in the third grade reading a book about Babe Didrikson Zaharias that gave me a dream to become an Olympian, and gave me hope. We all have adversity and we can all overcome it. Coach Slick Leonard did not want me on the Pacers, but I stayed with it, and if I hadn’t, I believe I wouldn’t have got into a broadcasting career, wouldn’t have married Don and wouldn’t have had three beautiful children. Things happened even when people were saying I shouldn’t do it, that I wasn’t good enough. You just don’t want to ever look back and ask, ‘What if?’ ”
How did you and Don Drysdale end up marrying?
“He pursued me when I won the ‘Superstars’ . . . he broadcast it for ABC with Bob Uecker, who was from Milwaukee like my family, so Uecker and my mom talked. I know there was an age difference. Maybe Donnie liked my intensity, the way I competed and my gentleness around my mother. I think his interest in me was stronger because I didn’t really know who he was. I wasn’t too enamored. He was such a powerful presence in our lives, a rock. He lifted our family up, and the way he treated people -- humble and proud -- he was a very good man.”
Will there ever be an even playing field among genders? What inequities bother you?
“That women make 77 cents to the dollar of what a man makes. And now that the money’s good in women’s college coaching jobs, less than 45% of those positions are filled by women. Will it ever be equal? I don’t know, but Title IX makes you fight for things. And Title IX shows it’s important to stress sports in a young girl’s life, for their health and their mind. A lot of girls fall out of sports by age 14, so a stronger support system is still needed. According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, 80% of women in Fortune 500 companies played sports. It teaches you so much -- confidence, failure, success, courage, how to get along. That’s the business world. That’s life. It’s important for us to be continuing those lessons as long as we can.”