When Billie Beat Bobby, Everything Changed

By BASN Wire Services
Updated: September 19, 2008

NEW YORK — On September 20, 1973, at the Houston Astrodome Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs — representing men and women and the attitudes of the day — played out the historic “Battle of the Sexes” in front of the largest worldwide TV audience ever for a live tennis match, an estimated 50 million viewers.

The event was nationally televised in prime time on the ABC network. The match brought women’s sports and women’s rights to the forefront of the country’s awareness; Billie Jean King’s win helped contribute to a society in which girls and women of all ages experience and enjoy sports and physical activity.

In her new book, Pressure is a Privilege: Lessons I’ve Learned from Life and the Battle of the Sexes, King recounts all she learned from that historic match and recalls her founding of the Women’s Sports Foundation in 1974 as, “The best thing to come out of this match.”

Today, the Women’s Sports Foundation is a national charitable educational organization dedicated to advancing the lives of girls and women through physical activity.

It is the recognized foremost authority on women and sports and is the only national organization promoting all sports and physical activities for women of all ages and skill levels.

September 20, 1973: Did you know?

— The “Battle of the Sexes” was played on September 20, 1973, at the Houston Astrodome between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in front of 30,472. To date, it is the largest crowd to have watched a live tennis match.

— Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.

— George Foreman, 1968 Olympic gold medalist and two-time heavyweight champion, volunteered as her one bodyguards.

— The “Battle of the Sexes” match inspired the ABC docudrama “When Billie Beat Bobby,” starring Oscar winner Holly Hunter and Ron Silver.

Other Memorable Moments in Women’s Sports

1999 – The U.S. women’s soccer team defeated China to win the Federation Internationald de Football Association (FIFA) Women’s World Cup. The final was the most-attended women’s sports event in history with an official attendance of 90,185.

1996 – The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) was founded.

2006 – Coach Pat Summitt earned her 900th career win as the Lady Volunteers beat Vanderbilt 80-68. Summitt has won more games than any other collegiate basketball coach.

2006 – For the first time in U.S. history, a major sports arena bares the name of a woman. In August 2006 the United States Tennis Association (USTA) renamed the National Tennis Center, calling it the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

1988 – The Civil Rights Restoration Act was passed, applying antidiscrimination laws to entire institutions and putting the “teeth” back in Title IX, a federal law granting girls and women in high schools and colleges the right to equal opportunity in sports.

2007 – The Wimbledon Championships, the oldest tennis tournament in the world and widely considered as the most prestigious, announced equal purses for men and women.

1996 – Soccer and softball made their Olympic debuts. The U.S. women dominated the team competitions by winning the gold medals in basketball, gymnastics, soccer, softball and synchronized swimming.

1992 – Track and field superstar Jackie Joyner-Kersee set the still-standing heptathlon world record of 7,291 points at the Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea.

1976 – Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci scored the first perfect 10 in Olympic gymnastics competition.

1978 – The Amateur Sports Act was passed, prohibiting gender discrimination in open amateur sport in the United States.

1977 – Janet Guthrie became the first woman to compete in the Indianapolis 500.

1981 – Anita DeFrantz became the first female member admitted to the International Olympic Committee.

1984 – Joan Benoit Samuelson won gold in the inaugural women’s Olympic marathon.

2006 – Martina Navratilova captured her 41st Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open in September 2006, winning the mixed doubles championship.

1993 – Julie Krone became the first woman jockey to win a Triple Crown race when she won the Belmont Stakes.

1984 – Mary Lou Retton captured America’s heart as the first U.S. woman gymnast to win an Olympic gold medal.

1997 -The NBA hired its first two female referees, Dee Kantner and Violet Palmer.

1998 – Women’s ice hockey became a medal sport in the Olympic Winter Games; the U.S. team won the gold medal.

1991 – The United States won the first FIFA Women’s World Cup soccer championship.

2000 – Venus Williams became the second African-American woman to win the Wimbledon Championships.

2003 – Annika Sorenstam competed at the Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, becoming the first woman since Babe Didrikson Zaharias (1945) to play in a PGA Tour event.

1995 – America3, the first all-women’s yacht racing team, competed in the America’s Cup Race.

1978 – A judicial decision allowed female sportswriters equal access to male athletes’ locker rooms in the United States.

1992 – Speedskater Bonnie Blair was the first American woman to win three gold medals in the Olympic Winter Games.

1979 – Diana Nyad broke the world record for long-distance swimming when she swam 102.5 miles from the island of Bimini to Florida.

1985 – Libby Riddles became the first woman to win the 1,100-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska.

1976 – Women’s basketball debuted as a medal sport in the Olympic Games; the U.S. team won a silver medal.

2008 – Danica Patrick became the first woman to win an Indy Car race at the Nikon Indy 300, an open-wheel motor race event that takes place each year on the gold coast of Australia.

1986 – Lynette Woodard became the first woman to play on a men’s professional basketball team; she scored seven points in her debut with the Harlem Globetrotters.

1994 – The Colorado Silver Bullets played their first game, becoming the first women’s professional baseball team to play in men’s minor league baseball.

2000 – Sandra Baldwin was elected the first female president of the U.S. Olympic Committee in its 106-year history.

1992 – Lyn St. James became the second woman to compete in the Indianapolis 500. She won Rookie of the Year.

1993 – Lynn Hill became the first climber, man or woman, to free climb “The Nose,” a famous route on El Capitan in Yosemite Valley.

2008 – At the age of 41, Dara Torres makes her fifth Olympic team, becoming the oldest American Olympic swimmer.

1989 – Victoria Bruckner became the first girl to play in the Little League World Series. She played first base, went to bat in the cleanup position and pitched in the final game.

NOTE: For more information, log on to www.WomensSportsFoundation.org.