Family and Friends Help Shape Extraordinary Career

By Marissa Johnson | June 19, 2012

In Part I of this Ann Meyers Drysdale feature, examined Meyers’ list of accomplishments that reads like a bucket list for most people. Specifically, as a rising female athlete competing in the early years after Title IX reform of 1972, Meyers overcame naysayers and critics with the help of a large family and some fortunate friends, namely UCLA’s legendary coach John Wooden. Part I can be viewed here.

Winning college championships in basketball and volleyball, leading the United States women’s basketball team into its first Olympics participation in 1976, playing in America’s first pro league for women and even receiving a free agent tryout with the Indiana Pacers, many people ask Meyers what she might tell young girls today about pursuing their dreams.

For Meyers and her late husband, Cy Young Award winner Don Drysdale, there is no need to look any further than at the example left for their two sons and daughter: D.J. (Don Jr.), Darren and Drew. For Meyers, she considers them her greatest accomplishments – the lone achievement for which she is most proud.

With hall of fame parents, D.J., Darren and Drew may have grown up with astronomical expectations. But Meyers and her late husband (a heart attack claimed his life in 1993) always taught them to be who they are, not who their parents are.

“I hope that if anything of me is reflected in my children, it is the work ethic that my parents taught me so long ago and the passion to follow your dreams,” Meyers said.

All three children played sports growing up in Southern California. Her daughter, Drew, is currently at UCLA participating in the high jump, but Meyers said her true passion is singing. In April, Drew sang God Bless America on opening day to celebrate the 50th year of Dodgers Stadium. She later sang the National Anthem and her brothers threw ceremonial first pitches on April 28 to celebrate the memory of their father.

If following their passion is a lesson taught by mom, they follow a strong teacher. Meyers, who took broadcasting courses in college despite a degree in sociology, pursued a career as a sports broadcaster when her playing days had finished.

After her 1979 tryout with the Pacers, Meyers stayed involved within the organization. The time spent, she said, changed her life and her career because she learned the inner workings of a team and got experience in marketing and broadcasting. Meyers actually provided broadcast analysis during a few games on radio, breaking ground as the first female to announce NBA games.

Little did she know where it would take her.

Soon after her stint in Indiana, she took part in ABC Sports’ Superstars competition, a popular segment which then aired regularly on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Drysdale, the former-baseball-star-turned-broadcaster was announcing the show and, as Ann puts it, they “met, fell in love, got married and had three beautiful children.”

Drysdale, nicknamed “Big-D” by fans was a ground breaker in his own right. His famous salary holdout in 1966 resulted in what would eventually become collective bargaining. He pitched 14 seasons with the Dodgers, was a nine-time All-Star and a three-time World Series champion before beginning his own career in broadcasting. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984.

In 1986, he married Meyers.

Ann meanwhile, had put together a broadcast resume of her own, beginning with the handful of Pacers games which led to her first “real job” as color analyst for the University of Hawaii’s men’s basketball team in 1980.

After a year in Hawaii she landed a position with SportsChannel in Chicago as its lead analyst for Northern Illinois and Northwestern volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball and softball. She then went back to her college alma mater to broadcast UCLA games from 1982-84.

It was in the summer of 1984 that she broke into a national broadcasting role, first serving as the women’s basketball analyst for the Olympic Games in Los Angeles. She has been the women’s basketball analyst for every Olympics since, and will be in London this summer.

Meyers continued her groundbreaking ways in 1997 when she became the first woman to broadcast an NBA game on network television, calling the Utah Jazz at Seattle Supersonics for NBC. She worked the game with Dick Enberg, who, coincidentally, had been Don Drysdale’s broadcast partner with the California Angels and Los Angeles Rams prior to his death.

Throughout her 30-year broadcasting career, Meyers has been on every major television network including: ESPN, NBC, ABC, Fox Sports and CBS. This summer’s Olympic assignment will be her eighth Olympic Games, in addition to NBA and WNBA games, Division I NCAA men’s and women’s basketball and NCAA championships in volleyball and softball. She also has dipped into tennis, baseball, wrestling and football.

In 2006 she received the United States Sports Academy’s Ronald Reagan Media Award, joining the ranks of broadcasting greats Howard Cosell, Bob Costas, Keith Jackson and Frank Deford.

Today, she is the vice president for the Phoenix Mercury and Phoenix Suns. Joining the Mercury franchise as president and general manager in 2007, Meyers was instrumental in the Mercury’s two WNBA championships. The first was in 2007 and the second coming in 2009 when it defeated the Indiana Fever in the WNBA Finals. She remains active with both franchises while offering consultation and doing community work.

“I didn’t know that I would be in this position today,” she said, “but I’ve always believed the good Lord had a plan for me and I’m just so blessed.”

Like the inspiration she received reading about “Babe” Didrikson back in the fourth grade she said, “I would love to tell people not only my story but about hope and fighting through adversity because we all have it. It is important to give back and to go out and talk to kids and see that light in their eyes and know that they have a dream.”

Ann Meyers had a dream that once seemed impossible, yet today she is an inspiration and, to many, even an idol. Honoring her as the Fever will do on June 21 conjures thoughts of the women that came before her. People like her sister Patty and even Fever head coach Lin Dunn, who fought to play basketball in college during the years before Title IX. How many great female athletes, doctors, educators, politicians, executives or even broadcasters may have been born before 1972 and did not have the chances that girls and women do now?

Ann Meyers boasts a resume and network of influence perhaps surreal by most standards. You have to wonder whether any of this would have been possible without Birch Bayh and Title IX.