Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Page 2 [Print without images]

Sunday, June 23, 2002
Updated: June 27, 2:58 PM ET
Greatest U.S. women's sports moments

Page 2 staff

Richard Nixon
Unlikely hero Richard Nixon tops our list.
In honor of the anniversary of Title IX, Page 2 lists the 10 greatest moments in U.S. women's sports history.

Take a look at our list, then read how Page 2 readers ranked the best moment in U.S. women's sports. Then be sure to vote in the poll to crown No. 1 U.S. women's sports moment.

1. President Nixon signs Title IX into law (July 23, 1972)
It's this simple: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any education program or activities receiving Federal financial assistance."

2. Billie Jean King wins the Battle of the Sexes (Sept. 20, 1973)
Billie Jean King
Billie Jean King defended all women in her historic "Battle of the Sexes" match against Bobby Riggs.
The carnival atmosphere surrounding the Astrodome event obscures, to a certain extent, two elements that make this a great moment for women's sports: 1. Millions of people are talking about, and riveted to, a sports event with a woman as a central figure; and 2. Billie Jean King doesn't only defeat Bobby Riggs -- a former Wimbledon champ who is a 5-2 favorite -- she dusts him 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 to capture the $100,000 winner-take-all purse. Fifty million watch the event, broadcast worldwide.

3. The United States defeats China to win 1999 World Cup
In front of 90,185 fans (including President Clinton) at the Rose Bowl -- the biggest crowd ever to watch a women's sports event in person, and a national TV audience, Brandi Chastain slips a penalty kick past China's goalkeeper, Gao Hong, to give the U.S. women a win after 90 minutes of regulation and two sudden-death overtimes.

Mia Hamm, Briana Scurry, Michelle Akers, Tiffeny Milbrett, et al savor the unprecedented attention they receive during the six-game march to the title. "It's like somebody let the secret out of the box, and all the sudden everybody's following us around, screaming for autographs, sticking cameras in our faces," says Akers.

Brandi Chastain
Brandi Chastain strikes her famous pose after her 1999 World Cup heroics.
4. Wilma Rudolph blazes to three golds in 1960 Olympics
Rudolph, who had been hobbled by polio as a child, simply dominates women's track at the 1960 Rome Games and shows the world ... well, mostly what she looks like from behind. In the 100 meters, she sets a world record in the semifinals, and wins gold. She sets an Olympic record and takes another gold in the 200 meters. Then Rudolph tops off her remarkable performance by anchoring a 400-meter relay team to a come-from-behind victory over Germany in the finals to take gold (the relay team also sets a world record in the semifinals).

Rudolph uses her victories and her popularity (she's mobbed by fans in Europe) to strike a blow for civil rights, refusing to attend a segregated welcome home event planned by Tennessee Gov. Buford Ellington. She does, though, attend ceremonies in her honor in her hometown of Clarksville. They are the first integrated events in the town's history.

5. Maria Pepe plays Little League baseball (1972)
In 1950, Kathryn Johnston, disguised as a boy, played Little League in Corning, N.Y., and was allowed to keep playing even after she told her coach that she was a girl. In 1951, Little League officially banned girls from participating. But Maria Pepe changes all that, when the 12-year-old Hoboken girl suits up and pitches three games for the Young Democrats. Protests send the matter to Williamsport, which rules that Young Democrats can't play unless they kick Pepe off the team.

That ends Pepe's Little League career, but the National Organization for Women (NOW) sues Little League Baseball on her behalf, and in 1974 the New Jersey Superior Court rules that girls must to be allowed to play. It doesn't take long for them to make a difference -- in 1974, Bunny Taylor becomes the first girl to pitch a no-hitter. About 50,000 girls now officially play Little League baseball each season.

Julie Krone
Julie Krone retired with 3,546 victories.
6. Shirley Muldowney, Janet Guthrie and Julie Krone ride into history (1976-93)
On June 13, 1976, Muldowney, a National Hot Rod Association veteran, becomes, at the Spring Nationals, the first woman to win a national NHRA event. Muldowney is voted Top Fuel Driver of the Year for 1976.

On May 29, 1977, Guthrie becomes the first woman to drive in the Indy 500, and the same year is also the first woman to compete in the Daytona 500 (she is named top rookie at Daytona).

On June 5, 1993, Krone becomes the only woman ever to win a Triple Crown event, riding Colonial Affair to victory in the Belmont Stakes. Krone retires from riding in the late 1990s with 3,546 victories.

7. Amelia Earhart flies solo nonstop across the Atlantic (May 20-21, 1932)
Earhart, who in 1928 became the first woman to cross the Atlantic nonstop (as a passenger), flies her red Lockheed Vega 5B solo from Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, to Londonderry, Ireland, in 13½ hours, a record, and becomes a national heroine in the process.

Earhart goes on to set a slew of other aviation records, including the first solo flight by a woman across the U.S. (Los Angeles to Newark, also in 1932). Some 22,000 miles into her 1937 around-the-world flight attempt, which began in Miami, Earhart stops in New Guinea for fuel. She is declared lost at sea on July 18, 1937, and is never seen again.

8. Katherine Switzer runs in disguise in Boston Marathon (April 19, 1967)
Switzer becomes the first woman to officially compete in the country's greatest road race, but she has to crash the all-male party through subterfuge -- she enters as "K.V. Switzer." When marathon organizer Jock Semple spots her at the four-mile mark, he tries to rip her numbers off, but Switzer's boyfriend throws a bodyblock that sends Semple flying (the moment is captured in a famous series of photographs). Switzer takes off, and manages to finish the race in 4:20.

(The year before, Roberta Gibb had made headlines as the first woman to run Boston, but she did so unofficially, hiding in the bushes before the start and running without a number. She finished in 3:21.)

In 1972, women are finally allowed to run the race without subterfuge. Nina Kuscsik wins the first official women's title.

Babe Didrikson
Babe Didrikson won two gold medals at the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles.
9. Babe Didrikson sets four world records at AAU championships (July 16, 1932)
Didrikson, the entire Employers Casualty Company representative, wins the AAU track and field team championship single-handedly, winning six events in three hours and setting world records in the javelin, 80-meter hurdles, high jump and baseball throw.

Didrikson goes on to win two gold medals at the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles and then turns to golf, which she dominates as both an amateur and a pro. She co-founds the LPGA, captures 10 major championships, and wows spectators with her 250-yard drives. When asked how she does it, she says, "You've got to loosen your girdle and let it rip."

10. Huskies hoopsters go undefeated, capture 2002 NCAA title (March 31, 2002)
The University of Connecticut women defeat Oklahoma 82-70 in an NCAA tourney final seen by a record crowd of 29,619 in the Alamodome and 3.5 million fans on cable. The Huskies finish their 39-0 season with an average victory margin of an astounding 35.4 points. Seniors Sue Bird and Swin Cash and sophomore Diana Taurasi are named to the All-America team. Guards Bird and Taurasi are, says Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, the best backcourt she's ever seen. Many believe the 2002 Huskies, coached by Geno Auriemma, is the best college team ever.

Also receiving votes:
  • Nancy Kerrigan vs. Tonya Harding in 1994 Lillehammer Olympics
  • Sprinter Florence Griffith Joyner shatters world records in 1988 Olympics
  • Gymnast Mary Lou Retton wins gold in 1984 games
  • U.S. hockey team wins inaugural ice hockey gold medal at 1998 Nagano Olympics
  • WNBA formed in 1997
  • Tennessee Vols basketball team goes 39-0 in 1998
  • Cheryl Haworth wins weightlifting bronze (Sept. 22, 2000)