Meyers, Ann (1955—)
Meyers, Ann (1955—)
American basketball player . Name variations: Ann Meyers Drysdale. Born in San Diego, California, on March 25, 1955; graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles; married Don Drysdale (Los Angeles Dodgers' pitcher and broadcaster), in 1986 (died 1993); children: Don Jr.; Darren; and Drew Ann.
A pioneer in women's basketball, Ann Meyers accomplished a number of important athletic "firsts." She was the first high school player to make the U.S. national women's basketball team, and the first woman to receive a full athletic scholarship from a major university; she was also the first four-time All-American at UCLA, and the first woman to sign a contract with a men's NBA team. "You don't win every game," she told the Orange County Register. "There are a lot of defeats in sports. It teaches you to maybe be a little stronger in life after sports." Indeed, the more recent events of Meyers' life have tested her in ways she never encountered on the basketball court.
One of 11 children, Meyers was born and raised in California. Her father Bob Meyers played guard for Marquette University and the Milwaukee Shooting Stars, and her brother Dave played basketball for UCLA and the Milwaukee Bucks. Ann learned the game early, but her interest in athletics came at a price. "I was a tomboy. I didn't fit in with the girls," she recalls. "I always had short hair. Long hair didn't go in sports for me. The boys didn't really accept me. Yet the guys liked me because I was a ballplayer. I was caught in the middle."
Because her parents argued her case, Meyers was allowed to play on boys' teams during elementary school, but from junior high on she was relegated to the women's teams. In high school, she excelled in every sport she pursued, winning letters in field hockey, badminton, tennis, softball, volleyball, track and field, and basketball—her best sport. While still in high school, she was named to the U.S. national team; she also participated in the 1976 Olympic games in Montreal, Canada, where the American women's basketball team won a silver medal. Meyers was the first woman to receive a full athletic scholarship from UCLA and won All-American honors all four years she was there, taking the team to a national championship in 1978. That year, she was the recipient of the prestigious Broderick Cup and was named Collegiate Woman Athlete of the year by the National Association for Girls and Women in Sports.
After college, Meyers hoped for a basketball career in the NBA, but it seemed unlikely that she could break that barrier. In an unprecedented move, however, the Indiana Pacers signed her to a contract in 1979, although after a three-day tryout, she was cut from the team. In 1980, after a stint with the Pacers' broadcasting crew, she spent a season with the now defunct New Jersey Gems of the Women's Professional Basketball League, where she was named Most Valuable Player. She left in a contract dispute after one season and pursued further broadcasting opportunities, often doing color commentary for women's basketball and also performing game analysis at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
In 1986, Meyers married Hall of Fame Dodger pitcher Don Drysdale, whom she had met while participating in a televised women's "Superstars" competition in 1979. She continued to work in broadcasting while also beginning a family, which eventually grew to include three children, two boys and a girl. In May 1993, with her husband and children looking on, Meyers was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, a high point in her life. Just two months later, Drysdale died suddenly of a heart attack while broadcasting a game.
It was a challenge for Meyers to continue her career (she now works for ESPN and NBC). "Don would have been the first one to kick me in the backside to keep going," she told the New York Daily News, also crediting Drysdale with teaching her independence. "I'm forced to make decisions now that maybe Don would've made or we would've made together. Now, I've got to make those decisions. They're difficult sometimes, but it makes you stronger because you have no one to rely on." Meyers' abiding passion for sports also provides inspiration, even though she is no longer on the basketball court. She believes her continued interest will serve her well as she ages. "You have to have something in your life," she has said. "You have to have that edge. You have to have a challenge to get up each morning and want to keep going."
Fagan, Greg. "She Had Next," in TV Guide. August 1, 1998.
Johnson, Anne Janette. Great Women in Sports. Detroit, MI: Visible Ink, 1998.
Woolum, Janet. Outstanding Women Athletes. Phoenix, AZ: Oryx Press, 1992.