Sure, most Southern Californian’s remember the blond, blue-eyed pitcher who formed his own mini-union with southpaw -superstar, Sandy Koufax, during the Dodger’s glory days; but how many people remember his wife, Ann Meyers? And yet it was she, not Don Drysdale, who racked up more honors, firsts, accolades and awards than any other athlete on the planet.
Thanks to Title IX (which turns 40 this June) Ann became the first woman to get a full athletic scholarship to a Division I school (UCLA). But by then she’d already scratched more ‘firsts’ off her list than most athletes do in a lifetime. She’d been the first girl to play on the all-boys after-school sports program in fifth grade, the first girl to play on the boys high school basketball team and the first High School student to play on the US National Team.
By the time the 5’9 guard from La Habra helped the first ever U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team nab a Silver in ’76, she was already well on her way to becoming the first 4-time All American, man or woman. But on March 10th, 1993, after she’d become the only woman to sign a no-cut contract with an NBA team and the only woman ever asked to compete in ABC’s Men’s Superstars, while she laid in a hospital bed with nothing to look at but cactus staring up at her through the maternity ward window, and nothing to listen to but the dithering of nurses outside her room – nurses overjoyed that Don Drysdale would soon be there – Ann thought to herself, some things never change.
“I’d always said it’s a man’s world,” says Meyers, “At least at that moment another female was coming in to help balance things out.”
Drew Ann Drysdale was born that day at Palm Spring’s Desert Hospital while her two older brothers, 5-year-old D.J. and 3-year-old Darren, waited at home with Grandma and the Nanny. Don, who’d decided to do a little grocery shopping, made it back to the hospital in time to cut the chord.
“When Don saw Drew’s thick tuft of black hair, he said ‘Whose kid is this? The boys weren’t dark.’ Donnie was always good for a joke,” Ann recalls fondly. “Even when one of us had just pushed a new life into the world while waiting for the other one to get back. Of course, none of us knew then, that in a few months he’d be gone.”
Don Drysdale died of a massive heart attack at age 56 while on the road broadcasting for the Dodgers. Ann picked up the reins, becoming mom and dad, all the while continuing to break new ground.
At Dodgers Stadium last week, Drew Drysdale, now 19 and at UCLA, sang ‘God Bless America’ while her proud mom looked on. “She’s got a lot of wonderful things in store for her,” says Meyers who hopes that Drew will do the one thing that Meyers had always wanted to do from the time she’d picked up a book about Babe Didrikson Zaharias: compete at the Olympics as a high jumper. “They all have wonderful things in store for them.”
But what of Meyers? What about the renegade who continues to rack up firsts (she is still the only female VP on the operations side of the NBA) what is in store for her? Well, she’ll be broadcasting the Olympics for NBC in July and until then she’ll be holding book signings like the one she’s doing on May 5th at UCLA with co-alum, Kareem Abdul Jabbar. But What about her legacy? What about the fact that most people still don’t recognize the name Ann Meyers Drysdale?
“Well, I’ve been asked for years to write a book and “You Let Some Girl Beat You, The Ann Meyers Drysdale Story” will finally be out in June. But the truth is, I’ve never been in it for the fame. When people ask me about having been the first female to do this or the first woman to do that,” she says frankly. “I tell them what matters isn’t that I was the first. What matters is that I not be the last.”
For more info on the book go to www.annmeyersdrysdale.com
Guest Post by Joni Ravenna