Basketball Hall of Famer Ann Meyers Drysdale, a Vice President for both the Phoenix Mercury and the Phoenix Suns, talks about her book, “You Let Some Girl Beat You?”.
Ted Simons: Our next guest is a basketball legend, Ann Meyers Drysdale. She was a member of the first U.S. women's basketball team to go to the Olympics, and she was one of the first women inducted into the national basketball hall of fame. She is 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 both the Phoenix Suns and the Phoenix Mercury. It's good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.
Ann Meyers Drysdale: Thank you, Ted, I'm excited to be here.
Ted Simons: That's good to hear because I've got 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 the years to write a book. I never thought my story was very interesting. The co-author of the book pulled a lot of stuff out of me that I never would have talked about. I think with being here in Phoenix and my tryout with the Pacers and UCLA, the Olympics, my family, Don, there are so many things that have happened in my life. 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 Title IX, there was you as 11 kids in your family? My good- Were you competitive from the beginning? You'd have to be competitve
Ann Meyers Drysdale: I would say so. My dad and mom grew up in Milwaukee and my dad played basketball at Marquette in the 40s. So we grew up on sports. Not only grew up on it but as you said, from a large family, having that kind of competitiveness, it was great all of us being outside. Whether it was kicking a ball around or playing hide and seek and basketball and football, just all kinds of different games. It was very competitive.
Ted Simons: When you were young, is there a point where you said, I'm pretty good at this, I could go pretty far with this? Was there a game or a point where you just knew this was clicking?
Ann Meyers Drysdale: My dad played basketball so all of us played ball. And I have an older sister Patty that played and I was fortunate enough to come along when I did with title IX. So many women opened up the doors for me. So many women made it so much easier for me. I just happened to come along when maybe the media was paying attention a little bit more. Now I see what's happening with the young women of today. The women before me and my sister Patty, they were always playing sports. So yes, I played basketball but I loved track and football and baseball and I did all the things my brothers did. I was between two boys, my brothers David and Jeff. The three of us were 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 and your career in particular.
Ann Meyers Drysdale: There was a law signed in 1972,that gives women the equal right -- it was an education bill, the equal rights as far as funds as to what males get. We know today 40 years later a lot of schools are still not in compliance with Title IX. I know a lot of men are upset because men's sports have been cut on the college level because of Title IX, they feel. But if they look before Title IX there was really only one sport, maybe two sports that is the finances- 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 on one sport, the women get that same amount of scholarships. I don't know how scholarships in football, if there are 85, then you have to equalize the scholarships for women in something else. That's where it comes from. It's supposed to be equal. It was an education bill. It's become the calling card for women in sports.
Ted Simons: You could just look up Title IX and read a book on that, because of the way it's been -- 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, we're just coming from London, the United States had a bigger delegation of women for the first time, the United States going over to London, and 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, basketball, a lot of women come -- have come up and said, I wouldn't be here today without Title IX.
Ted Simons: And you were the first to win a Division I athletic scholarship?
Ann Meyers Drysdale: At UCLA.
Ted Simons: And you were also the first to sign a contract with an NBA team, a lot of firsts there. With all this going on in the 1960s, 1970s, those years, 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. That's what I was exposed to. If you were raised up in music or Chrissie Evert in tennis and her family and so forth, my family just happened to be basketball. But when I was growing up too there were not a lot of organized sports for young girls, track and swimming. Tennis and golf were a rich man's sport. If you didn't have the kind of money to put your kids into those country club kinds of sports, so basketball was easy, just go down to the playground or even we taped up a square on the wall and play in the front hall. It's easy to grab a ball and play by yourself. For me, you know, I thought that I was going to the Olympics. Babe Dedrickson was a role model for me because I read a book on her. And that was another reason I wanted to write a book because that book made an impact on me in 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 the pressure of being a trailblazer and pioneer. When you were the first woman signing a deal with an NBA team, the Indiana Pacers, the reaction was hostile to the max. And that surprised you.
Ann Meyers Drysdale: It did. I went to UCLA, my brother David was a senior when I was a freshman. He was on Coach John Wooten's last 1975 team. The media took off on us as a human interest story, a brother and sister act, we were both all-Americans. So it was very positive, not only in Los Angeles but throughout the country. Then David went on to play in the NBA, and then Coach Wooten retired and he was very influential in my life. I went on to UCLA and played in the Olympics in 1976 and won the silver. And then my senior year Billy Moore came to coach us, who was my Olympic coach and we won the championship in my senior year. I'm the number one draft pick in the WBL, which was the first woman's pro-league but you had to be an amateur to continue to play in the Olympics. I wanted to go to the 1982 Olympics. During that time while I was playing for the United States, Sam Nassi, 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 show on the NBA, whether it was the Celtics or the Knicks or the Lakers, you'd go out to the playground and practice those things, and now I was being asked to play in the NBA. It was an opportunity of a lifetime.
Ted Simons: Yeah, but the reaction was tough, wasn't it?
Ann Meyers Drysdale: It was. But what really helped me is I didn't pay attention to it. I didn't read the papers or look at the TV. I didn't talk to the media a whole lot until I got to the tryout 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: Everyone's aware of that, the comments sections on public websites are an interesting place to be. Talk about Don Drysdale. How did you meet? And talk about your relationship. Because 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. Losing him in 1993 was very difficult when he passed away. When I met him I didn't know who he was because I hadn't followed baseball that much. We grew up in Southern California. We'd heard of Colefax and Drysdale. All my brothers were Giants fans so I was kind of a Giants fan, that wasn't good. I had been invited to the Superstars, the women's superstars made for the competition for women and men. He and Bob Eucher were the announcers. My mom is from Milwaukee, Bob Eucher is from Milwaukee. Don and I hit it off and he continued to pursue me and I'm so happy he did. Being competitive, yes. He got me into playing golf. We would go on the range and we would say, for this, we will see who can get the closest chip on this, and so forth. Doggone it, he would always beat me. He loved competition and certainly didn't let me beat him a lot of times.
Ted Simons: Such a similar trait between the two, I'm sure it was a remarkable relationship. Just in general, and in losing Don, and 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 been blessed in so many ways, Ted. With my family and the three children we have, sports has taught us so much. It's so important for young girls and young boys today to compete in sports, because of the life lessons. Self-confidence and leadership and teamwork and how to win and how to lose. I don't think a lot of kids know how to fail today. I always compare it to basketball. When I was growing up, you had one size basket and one size ball. I failed a lot, I lost a lot, I got teased a lot. Now we make it so easy. We have all these different sized balls and we lower the basket and everything is success, success. You're giving the kids a medal just for being in the race. That's all well and good but at times when you grow up and go into the business world or the family world, you're not always going to have that success.
Ted Simons: One of the chapters of the books, I know something you say often is, the road to the boardroom is through the locker room. That's basically what you're talking about here?
Ann Meyers Drysdale: I think most people that are successful, it's been proven today that women who are in the corporate world, too, 80% of them have been athletes.
Ted Simons: Do you think Title IX -- getting back to that real quickly here. Do you think the current crop of women athletes understand the importance of something like that? Understand what happened prior to Title IX?
Ann Meyers Drysdale: It's different. 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 in the same environment a man is, whether they are not getting paid the same, and actually in the corporate world, women still get paid 78 cents to the dollar that men do, and minority women are paid 10 cents less than that. Things equal? No. A lot of women, so much is given to them, which is great, because of women before them with Title IX. They will understand the fights are for them.
Ted Simons: And they'll understand your fight as well with this book. Congratulations on the book and continued success in your career with the Suns and the Mercury. Let's get that team turned around.
Ann Meyers Drysdale: A lot of injuries, but we're excited about the Suns' season. If we can get it turned around for the Mercury season, there's always next year.
Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us.
Ann Meyers Drysdale:Basketball Hall of Famer, Vice President, Phoenix Mercury and Phoenix Suns;