Ted Simons: Our next guest is a basketball legend. Ann Meyers Drysdale is the only woman to ever sign a free agent contract with an NBA team. She was a member of the first US women’s basketball team to go to the Olympics, and she was one of the first women to be inducted into the national NBA Hall of Fame. She's a sports broadcaster and now an author. Her book, "You Let Some Girl Beat You?," is the story of her remarkable life on and off the court. Joining me now, to talk about the book is Ann Meyers Drysdale who we know in Arizona as the vice president for the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury.Thank you for joining us.
Ann Meyers Drysdale: Thank you Ted I’m excited to be here.
Ted Simons: That’s good to hear because I have a lot of questions for you, the first is: Why that book, why now?
Ann Meyers Drysdale: A lot of people have asked me over the course of years to write a book. I never thought my story was very interesting. Joni Ravenna,the co-author of the book, pulled a lot of stuff out of me that I never would have talked about. I think, you know, being here in Phoenix and my tryout with the Pacers and UCLA, my family, Don, there are so many things that have happened in my lifetime. And certainly this being the 40th anniversary of Title IX, the timing just seemed right.
Ted Simons: I want to get to Title IX in a second, but before there was you and 11 kids in your family?
Ann Meyers Drysdale: That's right.
Ted Simons: Were you competitive from the get -- did you have to be competitive?
Ann Meyers Drysdale: I would say so. My dad and mom grew up in Milwaukee, and my dad played basketball at Marquette. So we grew up in sports, and having that kind of competitiveness, all of us being outside, it was great. Whether it was kicking the ball around or playing hide and seek, basketball, football, all kind of different games, it was very competitive.
Ted Simons: When you were young was there a point where you said, I'm pretty good at this, I can go pretty far with this. Was there a game or a point where you knew this was clicking?
Ann Meyers Drysdale: All of us played ball, my dad played basketball. I had an older sister Patty who played. And ya know, I was fortunate enough to come along when I did with Title IX. So many women opened the doors for me. Ya know, I just happened to come along when maybe the media, say, was paying a little more attention, but now you've seen what's happened with the young women of today. The women before me, and my sister Patty, they were always playing sports. I play basketball, but I love track and baseball and football. I was between two boys, my brothers David and Jeff. The three of us always were competing against each other.
Ted Simons: Let's talk about Title IX. What is Title IX, and talk about the impact on women’s sports in general, your career in particular.
Ann Meyers Drysdale: It was a law signed in 1972 that that gives women equal rights-- it was an education bil— the equal right, as far as funds, to what males get. We know that today, 40 years later a lot of schools are still not in compliance with Title IX. A lot of men are upset because a lot of men’s sports have been cut on the college level because of Title IX, they feel. But if they look before Title IX there's really on one sport, maybe two sports, that bring in the money, and that's football and men's basketball. A few women's schools bring in money with basketball, whether it be Tennessee or Connecticut. In saying that, if there's a certain amount of scholarships in one sport, the women get that same amount of scholarships. If there are 85 scholarships in football lets say, then you have to equalize the scholarships for women in something else. That's where it comes from. It was supposed to be equal, it was an education bill. It's become the calling card for women in sports.
Ted Simons: You can look up Title IX and read a book on that because of the way it's tried to be implemented and folks who have fought the implementation.
Ann Meyers Drysdale: We still fight, that it needs to still be here. If you look at the Olympics, the United States had a bigger delegation of women for the first time, the United States going over to London. We won more medals than the men did.
Ted Simons: Interesting.
Ann Meyers Drysdale: And most of the women will tell you, whether it be swimming, gymnastics, volleyball, soccer, field hockey, a lot of women have come up and said, I wouldn't be here today without Title IX.
Ted Simons: You were the first woman to receive a division one scholarship at --
Ann Meyers Drysdale: At UCLA.
Ted Simons: You were the first to sign a contract with an NBA team. A lot of firsts there. Back in the 1960s, 1970s, did you think -- did you know you were a pioneer? Was there more pressure because you were a pioneer?
Ann Meyers Drysdale: No, I was just doing something I loved to do, and that's what I was exposed to. If you were raised up in music, and Chrissie Evert and tennis with her family, I just happened to be basketball. And when I was growing up there were not a lot of organized sports for young girls. It was track and swimming. Tennis and golf were a rich man's sport. With 11 children, you didn't have a lot of money to put your kids in the kind of country club sports. Basketball was easy, you go down to the playground, or taped up a square on the wall and played basketball on the front wall. It was easy to go play by yourself too. For me, I thought I was going to the Olympics. Babe Didrikson was a role model for me because I read a book on her. That was another reason why I kind of wanted to write a book. That book made an impact on me in the fourth grade, to want to be an Olympian and represent my country. It came true for me, not in track and field, but in basketball.
Ted Simons: I asked about being a trailblazer and a pioneer, because when you signed that contract with the Indiana Pacers, first woman signing a deal with an NBA team, the reaction you write about, the reaction was hostile to the max. And that surprised you.
Ann Meyers Drysdale: My brother David was a senior at UCLA when I was a freshman. He was on coach John Wooten's last championship team in ‘75. The media took off on it, we were a brother and sister team, so it was very positive. Not only in Los Angeles, but throughout the country. David went on to play in the NBA, and of course Wooten retired, he was very influential in my life. He went on to UCLA, and we won the silver in the Olympics in 1976. Then Billy Moore was my coach, we won the championship my senior year. I'm the No. 1 draft pick in the WBL, the first professional women's basketball league. But you had to be an amateur to continue to play in the Olympics, and I wanted to go to the 1980 Olympics. During that time when I was playing for the United States, the new owner of the Indiana pacers approached me about coming into the NBA. As a young kid growing up, that's what I saw, maybe one a week TV shows of the NBA, which was tape delay, whether it be the Celtics, the Knicks, the Lakers, and you'd go out to the playground and practice those things. Now I was being asked to play in the NBA. It was an opportunity of a lifetime.
Ted Simons: But the reaction was tough, wasn't it?
Ann Meyers Drysdale: It was. What really helped me, I didn't pay attention to it. I didn't read the papers or look at the TV. I didn't really talk to the media a lot until I got to the try-out at the gym. It's like today, Facebook and twitter and social media is so -- if you were to pay attention to that, you would go into a little hole about how many people do not like you and say you're not good enough.
Ted Simons: The comments section on public websites are an interesting place to be. Talk about Don Drysdale. How did you guys meet? And talk about your relationship. You're a competitor, this guy was a competitor times 10. He would brush people back just for looking at him the wrong way. Were Scrabble games rough around the house?
Ann Meyers Drysdale: He was certainly the love of my life, no question about that, and losing him was difficult when he passed away. I really didn't know who he was when I met him. I’d grown up in Southern California and we had heard of Kofax and Drysdale, but my brothers were Giants fans. That wasn't good. I had been invited to the women's superstars for a TV competition for women and men. He and Bob Uecker were the announcers. My mom was from Milwaukee, Bob Uecker was from Milwaukee. Don and I hit it off. Don continued to peruse me and I’m so happy he did. Were we competitive? Yes, he got me into playing golf, and so we would go on the range and we would say, okay, for this we will see who can get the closest chip on this, and so forth. And doggone it, he always beat me. He loved competition. He certainly didn't let me beat him a lot of times.
Ted Simons: Well, such a similar trait between the two, I'm sure it was a remarkable relationship. Now, I just gotta ask, in losing Don, the good things in your life, the rough things in your life. Sports, lessons learned from sports, they really do last a lifetime, don't they?
Ann Meyers Drysdale: Absolutely. I’ve really been blessed, with my family, our three children, sports have taught us so much. It's so important for young girls and boys to compete today in sports, because of the life lessons. Self-confidence, leadership, how to win and how to lose. I don't think a lot of kids know how to fail today. I've always compared it to, like, in basketball. You have one size basket and one size ball. I failed a lot and lost a lot and got teased a lot. We've got different balls and everything is for success. You are always giving kids a medal, just for being in the race. That's all well and good. When you grow up in the business world and family world, you're not always going to have that success.
Ted Simons: I know one of the things you say often, the road to the board room is through the locker room. That's basically what you're talking about here, isn't it?
Ann Meyers Drysdale: Most people that are successful, it's been proven today women are in the corporate world, too, 80% of them have been athletes.
Ted Simons: Do you think the Title IX, the current crop of female athletes, women athletes, understand the importance of something like that? Understand what happened prior to Title IX?
Ann Meyers Drysdale: It's different. That's why it's so important. You don't want to beat a dead horse. But they have to find out a different way, there are still battles to be made. I think they will find out when things aren't going the way they think they should, because they are a woman and not getting paid the same as a man is. In the corporate world women still get paid 78 cents on the dollar that men do, and minority women 10 cents less than that. The women will understand what the fights are for them.
Ted Simons: Congratulations on the book, and continued success in your career with the Suns and the Mercury. Lets get that Mercury team turned around.
Ann Meyers Drysdale: A lot of injuries and and so forth, but we're excited about the Suns season. If we can get it turned around for the Mercury's season, there's always next year.
Ted Simons: Thank you for joining us.