Paving the Way for Women's Athletics

Nov. 8, 2012

By Larry Stewart

Most UCLA fans know the highlights of Ann Meyers Drysdale's bio:

  • First female scholarship athlete at UCLA
  • College Player of the Year in 1978, when she, along with Denise Curry and Anita Ortega, led the Bruins to a national championship, which they won at Pauley Pavilion.
  • First four-time All-American in college basketball, male or female.
  • First woman inducted into the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame
  • Inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993
  • In 1986 married the late, great Dodger pitcher Don Drysda1e
  • On Feb. 3, 1990, joined Curry, Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for an on-court ceremony during halftime of a game against DePaul, at which all four had their numbers retired.

    We could go on and on.

    But first I want to pass along a story I love telling. It shows what kind of person Ann Meyers Drysdale is.

    It was 1995, and I was one of 144 golfers getting ready to tee off at a charity golf tournament at Lakeside Golf Club in Toluca Lake. The tournament, put on by the Prime Ticket cable network, benefitted Special Olympics.

    Before the rest of us went to our respective holes to tee off, two Special Olympians were going to hit tee shots. The first one did okay, but the second was obviously very nervous. His hands were shaking so badly he couldn't get his ball to stay on the tee.

    There were some 200 of us, counting bystanders, watching this. Only one person in the crowd instantly thought of a way to rectify the situation.

    Emerging from the crowd, Annie, as she is affectionately known, said, "I think you have a bad tee; try mine."

    She teed up the ball for the young man, he hit it, and the crowd cheered.

    The word "nice" is overused, but there isn't a better word to describe Annie. In my 43 years as a sportswriter in Los Angeles, Ann Meyers Drysdale is one of the nicest athletes I have ever known. Actually, she is one of the nicest people I have ever known.

    In the "nice" department, I compare her to John Wooden, whom she affectionately called "Papa."

    Annie was born March 26, 1955 to Bob and Patricia Meyers, the sixth of 11 children. Her father had been a starting point guard and team captain at Marquette.

    At Sonora High in La Habra, Annie lettered in seven sports and earned 13 MVP awards. Her basketball teams had a record of 80-5. In 1974, she became the first high school student to play for the U.S. national team.

    When she was a sophomore in high school, her brother David was on the freshman team at UCLA. That was the last year the NCAA had the rule that didn't allow freshmen to play on the varsity.

    "David's games on the freshman team were my introduction to Pauley Pavilion," Annie said. "We could sit anywhere we wanted."

    That was also the year Title IX legislation was enacted.

    "I didn't know anything about Title IX," she said. "I wasn't planning on attending UCLA. My family couldn't afford UCLA. I figured I would go to Cal State Fullerton, where Billie Moore was the coach, or maybe UC Riverside."

    Annie could have commuted to those schools from her family's home in La Habra. Her older sister Patty was on Moore's Fullerton team that won a national championship in 1970.

    But Title IX enabled Annie to get a scholarship (the first ever for a female at UCLA) and go to a school where she later made history.

    In the 1976 Olympics at Montreal, where women competed in basketball for the first time, Annie was a starter on the silver-medal winning U.S. team coached by Billie Moore, who became Annie's coach at UCLA prior to her senior year.

    The 1977-78 Bruin team won UCLA's only women's national title. The Bruins beat BYU, 102-57, and Stephen F. Austin, 86-60, in the West Regionals at Long Beach. Against Stephen F. Austin, Annie accomplished the impossible - the first quadruple double in college basketball history, male or female: 20 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 steals.

    In the Final Four (played at Pauley Pavilion) that same year, UCLA beat Montclair State, 85-77, and then Maryland, 90-74, to win the title. NBC televised the title game, marking the first time a women's college game was on national television.

    Annie was the No. 1 draft pick of the professional Women's Basketball League but opted instead to sign with the NBA's Indiana Pacers. She didn't make the team, but to this day is the only woman to sign an NBA contract.

    Basketball was not the only sport she played at UCLA; she was also a high jumper and competed in the pentathlon on the women's track and field team - which won a national championship her freshman year - and she also played two years of volleyball.

    A broadcasting pioneer, Ann Meyers Drysdale is now also making her mark as basketball executive.

    Early in her long career as a sports broadcaster, she has made great strides for women in the business. And she is still at the top of her game. This year, she once again worked as an NBC analyst on women's basketball at the Olympics, and she will serve as an analyst for 20 Suns broadcasts this season.

    She is also the mother of the three children she had with Drysdale, who, other than being a Hall of Fame pitcher, was also an outstanding quarterback at Van Nuys High. So, naturally, their children, D.J., 25, Darren, 23, and Drew, 19, are athletes.

    D.J. played baseball and basketball at Huntington Beach High. "He had tremendous baseball instincts," says his mother. But injuries hampered his athletic career. D.J. will graduate from Arizona State with a degree in communications this year.

    Darren played soccer, football and was a long jumper and high jumper on the track team at Huntington, and before that was a star in youth baseball. He played one year of soccer at Orange Coast College and is now on the football team.

    Drew, a sophomore at UCLA, was a high jumper on the track team. She competed in soccer and track in high school. She is also an accomplished singer and has sung the national anthem at Dodger Stadium.

    "All three are good athletes, but they are better people," says their proud mother. Their dad would be proud of them. I know I am."

    The UCLA women didn't play that often in Pauley Pavilion during her era, but Annie has plenty of memories of the building, including the 1978 Final Four and title-game victory over Maryland.

    And here's another: "I recall during David's freshman year, before every game, they played `American Pie'.

    "Whenever I hear, `Bye, bye Miss American Pie, drove my Chevy to the levy . . .' I think of Pauley."

    UCLA Health Sponsor - Event Information
    Friday, Mar 04
    vs. Arizona
    Seattle, WA
    W, 72 - 51
    Saturday, Mar 05
    vs. California
    Seattle, WA
    W, 73 - 67 (OT)
    Sunday, Mar 06
    vs. Oregon State
    Seattle, WA
    L, 57 - 69
    Saturday, Mar 19
    vs. Hawai'i
    Los Angeles, CA
    W, 66 - 50
    Monday, Mar 21
    vs. South Florida
    Los Angeles, CA
    W, 72 - 67
    Saturday, Mar 26
    vs. Texas
    Bridgeport, CT
    L, 64 - 72