American basketball player
Basketball trailblazer Ann Meyers takes her hall-of-fame distinction to new limits, with eight enshrinements—including the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, California Youth Organization High School Hall of Fame, Orange County Hall of Fame, California High School Hall of Fame, National High School Hall of Fame, University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) Hall of Fame, Women's Sports Hall of Fame, and Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. A three-time recipient of the most valuable player (MVP) award in high school, she lettered in seven sports. As a college player Meyers made the Kodak All-American team for each of the four years of her career. She is both a Broderick Cup athlete and an Olympic medallist, and she left twelve all-time women's basketball records at UCLA.
As the first pick in the inaugural draft of the Women's Basketball League (WBL), Meyers made a career of first-time athletic accomplishments: most notably as the first high school student to earn a spot on the U.S. national basketball team, first woman to receive a full basketball scholarship to UCLA, the first woman to sign as a free agent with the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the first woman to be nominated for induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame. An unforgettable role model of modern women's sports history, Meyers set the standard for women's athletics in the final quarter of the twentieth century.
Athletic as an Adolescent
Born Ann Elizabeth Meyers on March 26, 1955, in San Diego, she was the middle child in an athletic brood of eleven siblings. Their father, Robert Eugene (Bob) Meyers, played for the Milwaukee Shooting Stars with the American Basketball Association, following a varsity career at Marquette University. Meyers's mother, Patricia Anne (Burke) was a homemaker.
In fifth and sixth grade Meyers played basketball on an all-boys team after her parents argued for the inherent right of their daughter to play with the boys in the absence of an all-girls team. By freshman year at Sonora High School in La Habra, California, she was an impressive player and earned the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award from her school. She repeated the season MVP honor at a new school, Connelly High in Anaheim, as a sophomore and was named an All-Star. In addition to her competition in the El Dorado and Loara High School tournaments that year, she participated in the St. Anthony's high school tournament and earned the tournament MVP honor. In the eleventh grade she won season MVP honors for a third time, having returned to her former Sonora High that year. In addition to lettering in basketball, Meyers graduated from Sonora in 1974 with letters in field hockey, softball, tennis, track and field, volleyball—even badminton—for a total participation in seven sports. She was named an All-American for each of her four years of high school and played with the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) from 1970-74. As a senior in 1974 she was named the School Athlete of the Year and became the first high school student ever named to the U.S. national team.
Broke Gender Barriers
After touring the former Soviet Union with the national team, Meyers entered college at UCLA on an athletic scholarship the fall of 1974. In the context of the times the scholarship award by UCLA was unprecedented because Meyers received a full scholarship specifically to play women's basketball. Women's intercollegiate sports in the 1970s were administered by the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW), an organization that later went into competition with the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) for control of women's sports programs. It was not until the implementation of Title IX, a women's sports initiative, that colleges were compelled to fund sports programs for women on an equal basis with those for men. Formed in 1972, the AIAW was defunct by 1983, in part because Title IX forced a re-assessment of the profitability of women's sports. The year 1982 was the crossover year when the AIAW merged into the NCAA. The final AIAW tourney and the first NCAA women's tournament were held that year.
|1955||Born March 26 in San Diego, California|
|1974||First high school player ever to join the U.S. national team;becomes first woman to receive a basketball scholarship to UCLA|
|1978||Leads University of California at Los Angeles to the national championship; is drafted by Houston as the first-ever WBL draftee|
|1979||Graduates with B.A. in sociology; signs as a free agent with the Indiana Pacers but fails to make the cut; signs for $145,000 for three seasons with the New Jersey Gems|
|1980-82||Takes first place in the ABC superstars competition; meets future husband, Don Drysdale; enrolls at broadcasting school and embarks on a new career|
|1986||Marries Drysdale in November|
|1994||First woman to play in Celebrity Golf Association Championship|
For Meyers, caught in the limbo of the AIAW just prior to the dawn of Title IX in 1979, the opportunity to play basketball on full scholarship for the UCLA Bruins stands as a significant commentary on her ability. She took up the challenge, achieving much more than anyone might have anticipated. With an average of 17.4 points per game, she led the school in scoring during her freshman season. She led also in field goal percentage, rebounding average, free throw percentage, assists, steals, and blocked shots, and was the first player—male or female—to be named a Kodak all-American for each of her four years of play. That honor was punctuated by a spot on the silver-medal U.S. Olympic team in 1976, which marked the inaugural appearance of women's Olympic basketball. A three-time All-American in college, from 1976-78, Meyers helped lead the Lady Bruins to the AIAW championship during her final season of competition in 1978. She graduated third in all-time scoring with 1,685 points, and led the school in career assists with 544 (5.6 average per game) and steals with 403 (4.2 average per game). Also among her 12 college records, she left UCLA as the only player to post a quadruple double, which she accomplished against Stephen F. Austin State University in 1978—with 20 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists, and 10 steels.
With four seasons of college competition behind her, Meyers was the number one draft pick in the inaugural draft of the Women's Basketball League (WBL) in 1978. She refused an offer to play with the Houston Angels, however, in order to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team in 1980—In those days the Olympic regulations required athletes to maintain amateur status as a prerequisite for participation. While continuing with adult AAU competition, Meyers spent some time in 1979 completing the academic requirements for a bachelor's degree in sociology. She was named AAU All-American from 1977-79 and AAU MVP for the 1977-78 season.
1979 was a landmark year for women's amateur sports, with the passage of Title IX. Although Meyers was no longer a student athlete, the historic implications of the year were equally significant for her. Believing that she would not make the Olympic team, Meyers accepted an offer to sign as a free agent with the Indiana Pacers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Some observers criticized the move very harshly, and it was seen as a publicity stunt in conjunction with the implementation of Title IX. However controversial, Meyers's free agency with the NBA was a dramatic milestone toward the advancement of social equality for women.
Although she had proven her talent as a powerhouse on the college hoop circuit, the 5-foot-9-inch, 135-pound athlete failed to make the NBA cut. Pacers coach Bob Leonard suggested that she was at least 6 inches and 40 pounds shy of the physical frame necessary to compete in the men's game, indicating that a man of her stature was at an equally severe disadvantage in the competition. According to the terms of her contract, Meyers was guaranteed work with the Pacers at an annual salary of $50,000, for broadcasting and public relations services. She accepted the alternative conditions, however briefly, but still wanted to play professional ball. She turned instead to the WBL, which was entering its second season of play.
Sports Career Played to Conclusion
In the women's league it was the New Jersey Gems that offered Meyers $145,000 to play for three years. She signed with the team on November 14, 1979. That season she was named to the All-Pro team and played for the East in the second-ever league All-Star game, held in Chicago on January 30, 1980. The West prevailed in the game, although the final score of 115-112 hinged on a controversial call over a play by Meyers.
Awards and Accomplishments
|Meyers left twelve college records when she graduated from University of California at Los Angeles, including third all-time career scorer, with 1,685 points. She led the school in career assists with 544 (5.6 average per game) and in steals with 403 (4.2 average per game). She was the only player at the school to post a quadruple double.|
|1971-73||Named high school MVP three years in succession|
|1974||Leads college team in scoring, rebounds, and assists; only freshman named to Kodak College All-American team|
|1975||Gold medal at the Pan American Games|
|1975-78||Becomes first player named to All-American Team for four years in succession|
|1976||Silver medal at the summer Olympics; gold medal at the Jones Cup|
|1976-78||Named college All-American|
|1977||Silver medal in the World University Games|
|1977-78||Named most valuable player by the Amateur Athletic Union|
|1977-79||Amateur Athletic Union All-American|
|1978||Won Broderick Cup; has college jersey, Number 15, retired at the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame|
|1979||Gold medal at the World Championship games; silver medal at the Pan American games; named most valuable player of the Women's Basketball League|
|1980-82||Takes the first place ($50,000 prize) in the American Broadcasting Company's Superstars competition|
|1993||Is enshrined as a player at the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame on May 10|
|1999||Is enshrined with the inaugural class at the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame|
Related Biography: Baseball Player Don Drysdale
Right-handed Hall-of-Fame pitcher Donald Scott Drysdale was born in Van Nuys, California, on July 23, 1936.
A Cy Young Award winner in 1962, Drysdale played for the Dodgers in Brooklyn and later in Los Angeles. Together with Sandy Koufax in the 1960s Drysdale earned a reputation for his aggressive pitching style and sidearm fastballs. In 1968 he pitched a record fifty-eight scoreless innings. He retired having pitched six seasons with 200 or more strikeouts, which was a National League record at that time. As a right-handed batter Drysdale likewise left his mark as the only .300 hitter with the Dodgers in 1965.
After meeting on the set of ABC's sports Superstars, Drysdale and Meyers married in November 1986. Drysdale was fifty-one years old to the day when their eldest son, Don Jr., was born. They would have two more children together: Darren, and Drew, before his untimely death on July 3, 1993, at age 56. He died in Montréal, Quebec, Canada, of a heart attack.
Playing guard, and wearing jersey number 14 for the Gems, she culminated her first WBL season with an average of 22.2 points per game, to finish fifth in the league. She finished first in steals, with 4.9 per game, and third in assists with an average 5.9 per game. Additionally she was sixth in rebounds with 10.3 per game. In April 1980 she shared season MVP honors with Molly "Machine Gun" Bolin of the Iowa Comets.
As luck would have it the league was in dire straits, and teams began to fold even prior to the interim between the third and final season. Two of the 1979-80 expansion teams—the Philadelphia Fox and the Washington Metros—failed to complete their inaugural season. The Angels, the team that won the inaugural WBL championship in 1979, collapsed before the start of the 1980 season. Along with it went the 1979-80 champions, the New York Stars. Likewise the Iowa Comets and the Milwaukee Does suspended operations at that point.
When on January 20, 1980, President Jimmy Carter announced a U.S. boycott of that year's summer Olympics, the move devastated the WBL, which looked to the Olympic basketball competition to generate more interest in the women's sport. The boycott was confirmed by the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) on April 21, 1980. Although the decision by the USOC brought some of the finest U.S. amateur players, such as Nancy Lieberman-Cline , into the league, it was too little and too late.
Many of the WBL players received only partial salary payments as the season concluded in the spring of 1980. Meyers lost thousands of dollars of her pay and countered by failing to return to the team training camp in New Jersey in October 1980. She sat out the 1980-81 season. Other WBL stars—including co-MVP Bolin—had signed with the newly formed Ladies Professional Basketball Association for the 1980-81 season, causing further distress to the WBL. By 1981 both leagues had folded altogether, leaving Meyers unabated in her need for athletic competition.
A Career in Broadcasting
In 1979 Meyers entered the competition for the American Broadcasting Company's (ABC) Superstars title, an annually televised, all-around competition between prominent athletes. After a fourth-place finish in her first appearance, Meyers went into intensive training and followed up with first place finishes for three years in succession, from 1980-82. The event, which paid $50,000 for first place, brought Meyers a much greater reward in meeting her future husband, Don Drysdale, at the event. Drysdale, a hall-of-fame baseball pitcher, was working in retirement as a broadcaster. With Drysdale's encouragement, Meyers enrolled in broadcasting school and embarked on a new career as a sportscaster.
As a sportscaster and color analyst for two decades, Meyers reported on some of the most prominent and popular sporting events on record, having worked for many major networks and for several college athletic departments in addition to her arrangement with the Pacers of Indiana in 1979-80. In 1981-82 she announced games for the University of Hawaii, and in 1982-84 she announced the Bruins games at UCLA. After working the 1984 Olympics with ABC in Los Angeles, she was seen on Sportsvision in 1985-87, on CBS-TV in 1991, and on WTBS in 1986 and again in 1990. Her other network affiliations encompass WNBA-NBC, Fox Network, ESPN, and ESPN2. She provided color coverage of Women's NCAA Basketball tournaments in the 1990s, and covered the basketball regional games and final four for ESPN.
Across a two-decade span, she reported on a range of sports, including volleyball, soccer, track, baseball, and softball. At the turn of the century she was heard on both the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) and the Fox Network. She presented games for the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) often with the late Chick Hearn.
When Meyers and Drysdale were married in November of 1986. Drysdale had just prior, in 1984, been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. In 1993, with the induction of Meyers into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the couple became the first two-way Hall-of-Fame marriage in the history of sports. Additionally Meyers earned the distinction of being the first woman inductee to the hall.
In 1994 Meyers amended her long list sports firsts yet again, becoming the first woman ever to compete in the Celebrity Golf Association Championship. By virtue of her extensive career of firsts she earned a reputation in the sports world as a key role model for women athletes of the late twentieth century and into the twenty-first.
Address: c/o Lampros and Roberts, 16615 Lark Ave Ste 101, Los Gatos, CA, 95032-7645.
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Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA) (August 20, 1999): C3.
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"Ann Meyers Biography," www.hoophall.com/halloffamers/Meyers.htm (January 24, 2003).
"Don Drysdale," National Baseball Hall of Fame www.baseballhalloffame.org/hofers_and_honorees/hofer_bios/drysdale_don.htm (January 25, 2003).
Sketch by G. Cooksey