40th anniversary of "Battle of the Sexes"

May, 13, 2013
5/13/13
3:27
PM ET

Focus on Sport/Getty Images
The first “Battle of the Sexes” set up opportunities for other significant women-versus-men competitions, such as Billie Jean King’s defeat of Bobby Riggs in 1973.

On May 13, 1973 (Mother’s Day), 55-year-old Bobby Riggs beat Margaret Court 6-2, 6-1 in a contest branded “Battle of the Sexes.” The importance of the match could not be overstated as the women’s liberation movement was in its infancy.

It helped legitimize women in athletics and set a model that others have followed.

You may have heard about Billie Jean King beating Riggs in “Battle of the Sexes.” That was actually the second version, played Sept. 20, 1973, as King won 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. And there have been subsequent “Battle of the Sexes” including one featuring Martina Navratilova and Jimmy Connors in 1992.

Below is a progression of women competing against men since the 1970s.

Notable women competing head-to-head against men

1977 - MOTORSPORTS: In 1977, Janet Guthrie became the first woman to compete in the Indianapolis 500. She was also the first woman to compete in the Daytona 500.

1979 – NBA: In 1979, the Indiana Pacers signed Ann Meyers to one-year contract. Meyers is the first woman signed by an NBA team. She was cut seven days after signing.

1984 – LITTLE LEAGUE: Victoria Roche of Brussels, Belgium, became the first girl to play in the Little League World Series.

1993 – HORSE RACING: Julie Krone became the first female jockey to win a Triple Crown race, winning the Belmont Stakes aboard Colonial Affair.

1993 – HOCKEY: Manon Rheaume became the first female to play in the NHL. The Canadian-born goaltender played two preseason games for the Lightning.

1997 – BASEBALL: Ila Borders became the first woman to play in a professional baseball game. She pitched for the St. Paul Saints.

2001 – FOOTBALL: Jacksonville State's Ashley Martin became the first woman to play and score in a Division I football game. She made three extra points.

2003 - GOLF: Annika Sorenstam became the first woman to play in a PGA tour event since Babe Didrikson 58 years earlier.

2003 – LACROSSE: New Jersey Storm goalie Ginny Capicchioni became the first woman to compete in the National Lacrosse League, playing nearly 12 minutes.

2006 - WRESTLING: Michaela Hutchison won Alaska's 103-pound wresting final to become the first girl in the nation to win a state title against boys.

2009 - FISHING: Kim Bain became the first woman to compete in the Bassmaster Classic in the event's 38-year history. She finished in 47th place.

Female athletes head-to-head against men this year

Danica Patrick: In February 2013, Danica Patrick won the pole at the Daytona 500, the first woman to ever clinch a Cup Series pole. She’s the first woman ever to lead a lap at Daytona. She finished eighth.

Lauren Silberman: Just a week later, Lauren Silberman became the first woman in history to try out for the NFL when the kicker participated in the Jets' regional combine, but she attempted just two kicks before stopping due to injury.

Rosie Napravnik: Rosie Napravnik finished fifth aboard Mylute in May’s Kentucky Derby, the highest finish by a female jockey. She held the previous record when she finished ninth in 2011.

Venus and Serena Williams: Serena and Venus Williams said they could beat any men's player ranked 200 or lower. At the Australian Open, they individually played a set each against the 203rd-ranked player, Karsten Braasch. Serena fell 6-1, Venus 6-2.

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