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View Full Version : Bobby Riggs vs. Billie Jean King


Gillian
05-14-2007, 06:31 PM
I am reading a book about this match. Does anyone know if you can buy a videotape of this match? Has the Tennis Channel ever shown it or plan to??

paulfreda
05-16-2007, 04:36 AM
There are tapes of this match available .... but not sure where.
Torrents might find it. If I come up with one I will post or private
message you.

I saw the match. IMO Bobby threw the match to clean up oon bets his friends made for him. He was a dedicated gambler and I watched him play some 50 sets of tennis when I lived in San Diego in the early 70's. He would come to local tennis clubs and play the local pros for money [mine was one; South Bay Club] by giving them handicaps .. no double faults for them, start a set at 0-1, etc. Steve Mott and Brian Teacher, who later won the 1980 Australian Open, were two.
He would always end up counting money at the end of the day and the young 20-24 yr old lions would be scratching their heads.

Bobby could put the ball anywhere with any spin.

For sure he threw that match with BJK. He looked like a 70 yr old man, not a 55 yr old man who routinely beat young 22 yr old pros.

Gillian
05-16-2007, 11:47 AM
There are tapes of this match available .... but not sure where.
Torrents might find it. If I come up with one I will post or private
message you.

I saw the match. IMO Bobby threw the match to clean up oon bets his friends made for him. He was a dedicated gambler and I watched him play some 50 sets of tennis when I lived in San Diego in the early 70's. He would come to local tennis clubs and play the local pros for money [mine was one; South Bay Club] by giving them handicaps .. no double faults for them, start a set at 0-1, etc. Steve Mott and Brian Teacher, who later won the 1980 Australian Open, were two.
He would always end up counting money at the end of the day and the young 20-24 yr old lions would be scratching their heads.

Bobby could put the ball anywhere with any spin.

For sure he threw that match with BJK. He looked like a 70 yr old man, not a 55 yr old man who routinely beat young 22 yr old pros.

Thank you. Interesting info here...

Geezer Guy
05-16-2007, 12:30 PM
I don't think he "threw" the match, but I don't think he was playing his best tennis either. My understanding is that by the time the match rolled around, he was pretty worn out from all the promoting and hyping, and hadn't done much (if any) practicing.

If he was going to throw the match, I'd think he'd have made it look better - taken it to a 5th set or something - and maybe tried for a rematch. But he took a pretty good beat-down.

However, even playing his then-best-at-55, I'm not sure he'd have won. (Bobby in his prime would be a different story.)

Is it known for sure (or have reasonable proof) that he won a lot by losing?

forzainter
05-16-2007, 12:55 PM
what there to be proud of by beating a 55 year old man, especially when the woman was still in her playing career. No woman could beat a top 450 man in a battle of the sexes right now

paulfreda
05-16-2007, 03:35 PM
He may have been worn down by promotion activities, but you don't lose 30 years of skills in a few weeks. There were huge bets placed everywhere on this match. He had already cleaned Margeret Court's clock 6-1, 6-2. and I can attest to his beating young 22 yr old male pros routinely. His placement of the ball, his ability to spin it, his defense, his service placements and spin all made the young guys helpless. I saw it with my own eyes many times.
The Riggs I saw on that court in Houston was not the real Riggs.

Now you can speculate that he was worn down, but you have to remember that his life was all about gambling, day in and day out both on the tennis court and the golf course. No way he would give up making a killing on the biggest match of the year. He threw the match IMO.

Kirko
05-16-2007, 07:21 PM
I saw this match and in my opinion it looked suspect. I thought Riggs put a lot of balls right back at King and who could help not eventually put it away. Riggs was a congential gambler also.

joe sch
05-17-2007, 05:51 AM
He may have been worn down by promotion activities, but you don't lose 30 years of skills in a few weeks. There were huge bets placed everywhere on this match. He had already cleaned Margeret Court's clock 6-1, 6-2. and I can attest to his beating young 22 yr old male pros routinely. His placement of the ball, his ability to spin it, his defense, his service placements and spin all made the young guys helpless. I saw it with my own eyes many times.
The Riggs I saw on that court in Houston was not the real Riggs.

Now you can speculate that he was worn down, but you have to remember that his life was all about gambling, day in and day out both on the tennis court and the golf course. No way he would give up making a killing on the biggest match of the year. He threw the match IMO.

I agree, it hurts me to watch that match. Bobby just floated balls back to BJK all match so she could go for all the winners and volley balls whenever she wanted to come in. It was pretty obvious he was not trying to win that match. Very sad day of history for mens tennis. Fortunately the BOTS I was already history ;)

35ft6
05-17-2007, 06:02 AM
It's a pretty boring match. Aside from its historical value, it's pretty blegh as a tennis match.

Gillian
05-18-2007, 04:46 PM
I saw this match and in my opinion it looked suspect. I thought Riggs put a lot of balls right back at King and who could help not eventually put it away. Riggs was a congential gambler also.

In the book I'm reading, "A necessary spectacle", it says Bobby did NOT throw the match, bet on himself, and lost primarily for two reasons:

1) He didn't train or practice at all, but drank and frollicked with girls every night and soaked up the attention. His grown son, Larry, begged him to practice, and he just never would. Come match time, he was way out of shape.

2) Riggs had underestimated King. Billie Jean King was much tougher mentally than Margaret Court, and took the match VERY seriously, practicing and studying Riggs's game, and feeling she HAD to win for the women's movement. Whereas Margaret gave it very little thought beforehand, and got psyched out to boot by Bobby's antics. Under different circumstances, Court might have won.

Also, years later, Riggs reportedly took a lie detector test on F. Lee Bailey's TV show to prove he didn't throw the match. He passed the test.

Finally, the book suggests Bobby was not happy he lost the match, despite his apparent good cheer afterwards.

Anyway, you guys might enjoy this book!!

Joe Average
05-18-2007, 07:01 PM
In the book I'm reading, "A necessary spectacle", it says Bobby did NOT throw the match, bet on himself ..

Yep. “The Last Sure Thing,” by Tom LeCompte, says the same thing.

“In fact, the rumors had become so widespread that in 1983 Bobby went on the television show Lie Detector, hosted by celebrity lawyer F. Lee Bailey, in which he answered the question while attached to a polygraph machine, the test was administered not once but three times according to Dr. Edward Gelb, a renowned expert in the field who was a consultant on the program—once on-camera and twice in preparation for the show …

“Bobby went on to address the accusations of his old colleagues: ‘But some guys were mad. They felt I had disgraced them, that I had disgraced the cause of men, and especially older guys—the over-the-hill gang. Some even accused me of throwing the match. Throwing it! I had expected to make it an annual affair, by beating the women’s champion for the next five years or so, until I got so old one of them could beat me. Losing cost me money. Sure, I made $1.5 million on the match—after endorsements, personal appearances and TV rights—but I might’ve made more.’”

I guess some guys are still mad.

joe sch
05-18-2007, 07:10 PM
In the book I'm reading, "A necessary spectacle", it says Bobby did NOT throw the match, bet on himself, and lost primarily for two reasons:

1) He didn't train or practice at all, but drank and frollicked with girls every night and soaked up the attention. His grown son, Larry, begged him to practice, and he just never would. Come match time, he was way out of shape.

2) Riggs had underestimated King. Billie Jean King was much tougher mentally than Margaret Court, and took the match VERY seriously, practicing and studying Riggs's game, and feeling she HAD to win for the women's movement. Whereas Margaret gave it very little thought beforehand, and got psyched out to boot by Bobby's antics. Under different circumstances, Court might have won.

Also, years later, Riggs reportedly took a lie detector test on F. Lee Bailey's TV show to prove he didn't throw the match. He passed the test.

Finally, the book suggests Bobby was not happy he lost the match, despite his apparent good cheer afterwards.

Anyway, you guys might enjoy this book!!

All of the above is true. I guess this is sorta throwing the match. Bobby loved the ladies and even grabbbed a margaritta during the match and had a few drinks. He surely underestimated King and looked to never be in the match. I still cant believe that his was just floating balls back rather than going for any winners. Even out of shape, Bobby could paint the lines and hit all kinds of stuff that should have given BJK trouble.

suwanee4712
05-18-2007, 08:36 PM
All of the above is true. I guess this is sorta throwing the match. Bobby loved the ladies and even grabbbed a margaritta during the match and had a few drinks. He surely underestimated King and looked to never be in the match. I still cant believe that his was just floating balls back rather than going for any winners. Even out of shape, Bobby could paint the lines and hit all kinds of stuff that should have given BJK trouble.

Part of that might have to do with BJK not giving him any pace to work with. She drastically changed her game to play him. It was her goal to "give him junk" and move him around to tire him out. The surprise tactic worked as she basically outsteadied him - which is not BJK's game at all. She was much more forward than that.

It was an interesting sight to see her serve and stay back almost all of the time. Well, for a little while it was interesting. But honestly the tennis was so poor (in my opinion) that I just lost interest in watching. Had I been watching it live, and not knowing the result, I'm sure I would've watched it all the way through.

Serve 'em hard
05-18-2007, 08:50 PM
I've read that book too, the "Spectacle" one. Another reason for Bobby not to throw the match was that his people were trying to line up a match with Chris Evert next if he beat BJK, with a 1 million dollar purse, a HUGE sum in those days, not to mention now. (I think it was a 100K purse in the King match.) When he lost to Billie, that was the end of playing Evert for a million bucks as his next match...

Mick
05-18-2007, 09:23 PM
it would be cool if they set up a McEnroe vs Henin (or Serena Williams, or Sharapova) today. I think McEnroe would win easily but it would be nice to watch the battle of the sexes.

scotus
05-19-2007, 07:40 PM
There is an HBO special where Riggs explains the whole situation. One of the things that he mentions is that the court surface (carpet over wooden boards) completely threw off his game and that he should have practiced on that surface before the match.

Serve 'em hard
05-19-2007, 07:43 PM
There is an HBO special where Riggs explains the whole situation. One of the things that he mentions is that the court surface (carpet over wooden boards) completely threw off his game and that he should have practiced on that surface before the match.

I think it would have been helpful for him to practice on ANY surface before the match.:sad:

paulfreda
05-19-2007, 09:31 PM
Part of that might have to do with BJK not giving him any pace to work with.

She drastically changed her game to play him. It was her goal to "give him junk" and move him around to tire him out.

The surprise tactic worked as she basically outsteadied him


That is ridiculous.
Not giving Bobby pace means he will put it where you will die getting there.
Placement was one of Rigg's fortes IMO.

Now moving an old man around is a good strategy but only if he is feeding you the ball rather making you run. This is why it was so obvious somehting was wrong that day. Riggs had opponents off balance all the time.

And to say she would "outsteady" him is utter nonsense.
No one in the history of the game of tennis could keep the ball in play better than Bobby. The only way to beat him was to overpower him and that was ony possible when he left his prime.

I am sure Riggs denied throwing the match for the sake of history and his freindships.The truth would damage tennis and hurt many people. So he lied and said he tried his best. Not IMO.

Serve 'em hard
05-19-2007, 11:31 PM
I am sure Riggs denied throwing the match for the sake of history and his freindships.The truth would damage tennis and hurt many people. So he lied and said he tried his best. Not IMO.

Look, the evidence suggests he did not throw the match, and would have made more money overall if he had won, and would have gotten more ego satisfaction from winning as well. So there's not only no proof he threw the match, but no incentive for him to have done so.

This is just one more conspiracy theory unsupported by either evidence or logic in a world full of conspiracy theories.

paulfreda
05-20-2007, 02:37 AM
Look, the evidence suggests he did not throw the match, and would have made more money overall if he had won, and would have gotten more ego satisfaction from winning as well. So there's not only no proof he threw the match, but no incentive for him to have done so.

This is just one more conspiracy theory unsupported by either evidence or logic in a world full of conspiracy theories.

My opinion is not a conspiracy theory.
And it is an opinion based on the evidence I saw with my own eyes.
I lived in Pacific Beach, Ca in the early 70's, my girlfriend ushered the Margaret Court match with Riggs and I personally saw him play some 50 or more sets of tennis with young pros and beat them routinely.

Even if Lornie Kuhle [close friend of Rigss] came on TT and testified that Riggs lost fair and square, would you believe him ? He would be admitting that Riggs and Pete Rose are in the same category of betting fraud athletes if he said otherwise. How could he say the truth without a betrayal of his friend ?

Now maybe the lost future matches suggests a disincentive to throw the match, but Riggs had no way to know that King would refuse a rematch, which she did.

As for ego satisfaction ..... show me a gambler who will not sell his grandmother's secrets to win cash.

And Riggs could care less about ego ! ! He had more confidence than any Ivy League educated Fortune 100 CEO. The bet was on and he had a sure fire way to collect on the biggest bet of his life.

I doubt anyone will ever know for sure for the reason I stated above
[if Kuhle's testimony won't settle it, nothing will].

So lets just agree to disagree, shall we.

Serve 'em hard
05-20-2007, 09:47 AM
Sorry, but you watching him beat some college kids or whatever is not "evidence" that he threw the match with Billie Jean King.

He says he didn't, the book by a reputable reporter from the New York Times says he didn't, and logic suggests he didn't.

I guess the "Bobby threw the match thing" is not unlike other conspiracy theories, if hardly as important. For whatever reason, whenever something unusual or disturbing happens, people want to look for other explanations or sinister motives because the truth either bothers them or confused them. There must have been a second gunman on the grassy knoll, there must have been bombs planted in the World Trade Center, AIDS must have invented by the CIA...

In this case, what happened isn't even that unusual or shocking: The best woman's player in the world trained hard for the most important match of her life and beat a 55 year old man 25 years older than her who's idea of practicing for this match was drinking rum and cokes with playboy bunnies poolside in Beverly Hills and playing the first few games of the first set wearing a hot and sweaty "Sugar Daddy" jacket in order to pick up some extra endorsement money. She was young, fit, and focused, and he was an old guy who couldn't be bothered to step onto a tennis court before their match for anything other than a photo shoot in the months leading up to it.

suwanee4712
05-20-2007, 09:56 PM
That is ridiculous.
Not giving Bobby pace means he will put it where you will die getting there.
Placement was one of Rigg's fortes IMO.

Now moving an old man around is a good strategy but only if he is feeding you the ball rather making you run. This is why it was so obvious somehting was wrong that day. Riggs had opponents off balance all the time.

And to say she would "outsteady" him is utter nonsense.
No one in the history of the game of tennis could keep the ball in play better than Bobby. The only way to beat him was to overpower him and that was ony possible when he left his prime.

I am sure Riggs denied throwing the match for the sake of history and his freindships.The truth would damage tennis and hurt many people. So he lied and said he tried his best. Not IMO.


You can call it whatever you like. Unlike you, I'm not trying to reach into someone else's mind and say what they did or did not do. I'm not going to base anything on some meaningless practice sets he played in relative seclusion vs. what he himself said happened in front of 30K people and a near worldwide television audience. Heck, I always looked better in practice too. Didn't always translate into the same kind of success when the matches counted. But if that's what you think, so be it.

But here is what I KNOW. Bobby was very much surprised at the tactics BJK used in their match. He was prepared for BJK to come straight at him giving him a target and quick points. He got neither. As others have suggested, he obviously was not physically or mentally prepared for that. It's not that much different from how Arthur Ashe changed his game in facing Connors in the Wimbledon final.

paulfreda
05-21-2007, 12:49 AM
But here is what I KNOW. Bobby was very much surprised at the tactics BJK used in their match. He was prepared for BJK to come straight at him giving him a target and quick points.

Here is what you KNOW ?
Well epistemology is not on your list.
Did you ever see Bobby play in person ?


Sorry, but you watching him beat some college kids or whatever is not "evidence" that he threw the match with Billie Jean King.
He says he didn't, the book by a reputable reporter from the New York Times says he didn't, and logic suggests he didn't.


College kids ?
Did you read my post ?
They were young pros, 22-26 years old in their prime.
Can you explain how he can clean their clocks in spite of their superb condition and power and then lose to a woman who could not beat anyone in the top male 500 ? And lose in straights to boot ?

NYT ?? Haa.
You believe what a reporter whose job it is to sell magazines says rather than eye witnesses who said Bobby was way off his game ?
How can you explain how a dedicated gambler would not train for the biggest show of his life UNLESS he wanted to lose ?

Serve 'em hard
05-21-2007, 01:19 AM
They were young pros, 22-26 years old in their prime.
Can you explain how he can clean their clocks in spite of their superb condition and power and then lose to a woman who could not beat anyone in the top male 500 ? And lose in straights to boot ?


Did these young pros have the mental toughness and tennis smarts of multi-grand slam winner BJK? Did they treat their match with Bobby as the one of the biggest matches in their career? Did they carefully study his game and practice and train for their matches with him?




NYT ?? Haa.
You believe what a reporter whose job it is to sell magazines says rather than eye witnesses who said Bobby was way off his game ?


Yes, of course. You are providing third hand and unverified accounts of what people perceived about Bobby's game. Stack that against a book written by a New York Times reporter who researched the matter and talked to many of the key participants firsthand, and I'll go with the New York Times reporter's account over their account any day.

Plus, if the Times reporter's sole purpose was to sell copies of her book, wouldn't it have made more sense to claim that Bobby threw the match? That would be the kind of newsworthy revelation a reporter would love to be able to write about to hype her book.


How can you explain how a dedicated gambler would not train for the biggest show of his life UNLESS he wanted to lose ?

This makes no sense. First of all, let's clarify here: Are you saying Bobby didn't train because he wanted to lose for some reason, or that he didn't train because he PURPOSELY lost? I think you are alleging the latter is the case, that he threw the match. But let's examine this logically for a moment: If Bobby's goal was to bet against himself and then purposely lose the match because he's a a crafty gambler who wanted to make a killing, wouldn't it make more sense to appear to be training very hard for this match? The more in-shape and dedicated he seemed, the more he would be favored, and thus betting against himself would be an even better bet. To slack off and then bet that he was going to lose doesn't seem make much sense...

Like most conspiracy theories, the one you are putting forth here is less believable than the mundane truth, not more so, and rests of on several illogical premises that don't hold up under the cold glare of reason and common sense.

suwanee4712
05-21-2007, 06:11 AM
Here is what you KNOW ?
Well epistemology is not on your list.
Did you ever see Bobby play in person ?




College kids ?
Did you read my post ?
They were young pros, 22-26 years old in their prime.
Can you explain how he can clean their clocks in spite of their superb condition and power and then lose to a woman who could not beat anyone in the top male 500 ? And lose in straights to boot ?

NYT ?? Haa.
You believe what a reporter whose job it is to sell magazines says rather than eye witnesses who said Bobby was way off his game ?
How can you explain how a dedicated gambler would not train for the biggest show of his life UNLESS he wanted to lose ?

Bobby might have been the greatest player of all time. Just because he aged did not necessarily mean that he had lost his skill. But skill means absolutely nothing if you're not mentally or physically conditioned to beat a top female pro 20 years your younger. After all if skill were all that was necessary, Illie Nastase would have won a lot more than two grand slam titles.

Riggs had an ego the size of the Pacific Ocean, yet he owned up to the fact that he got outsmarted and outplayed. The man threw the Eastbourne title only to jack up the betting purse for when he would win the Wimbledon title. If Bobby threw the match with BJK on purpose, what was his payoff? Because surely someone that saw him like you did, and was close enough to him to see all those practice sets would have to know some sort of payoff would be required.

paulfreda
05-21-2007, 07:41 PM
The man threw the Eastbourne title only to jack up the betting purse for when he would win the Wimbledon title. If Bobby threw the match with BJK on purpose, what was his payoff?

You make my point, Thank you.
If Riggs would throw Eastborne to get a bigger bet/payoff at Wimbledon, surely he would do the same with the BJK match.

What was his payoff ??
Uhhhhhhhhhh .......... the winnings on the bets placed for him by his friends that he would lose. It is the one sure fire thing he could control.

suwanee4712
05-21-2007, 09:26 PM
You make my point, Thank you.
If Riggs would throw Eastborne to get a bigger bet/payoff at Wimbledon, surely he would do the same with the BJK match.

What was his payoff ??
Uhhhhhhhhhh .......... the winnings on the bets placed for him by his friends that he would lose. It is the one sure fire thing he could control.

Wow Paul, you know so much. What are you doing wasting your time here with us? Surely an eyewitness who knows all of th is should be out writing a book about it or something. After all, you must have some proof that every tennis writer under the sun that's ever written about this match doesn't have.

Frankly, I wouldn't bet my house on it either way. But it seems like to me that somebody would've been all over that story if Riggs had thrown that match. Even the worst of liars have a way of telling on themselves. I'm sticking with the universally accepted story on this one.

Serve 'em hard
05-21-2007, 10:44 PM
You make my point, Thank you.
If Riggs would throw Eastborne to get a bigger bet/payoff at Wimbledon, surely he would do the same with the BJK match.

What was his payoff ??
Uhhhhhhhhhh .......... the winnings on the bets placed for him by his friends that he would lose. It is the one sure fire thing he could control.

Using your logic, why would he have bet on himself at Wimbledon? He should have bet on the other guy, and thrown that match as well, since losing would be the only sure fire thing he could control, right? Why would an experienced gambler bet on himself to win Wimbledon when there were no guarantees that he would win? Seems pretty risky to me...

In assuming that Bobby threw the match against BJK, you are making some big mistakes in my opinion, including: 1) Assuming that the way Bobby could make the most money out of this event was by betting against himself and purposely losing. But there's ample evidence to suggest he would have made even more money overall had he won the match. 2) Assuming that the thing Bobby cared most about above all else was winning a bet on this match -- he didn't care about winning the prize money, he didn't care about winning for ego reasons, he didn't care about winning to prove that men on the senior tour were better than any women, he didn't care about winning for all the other reasons people like to win instead of lose? All he cared about was the short term financial reward from betting against himself and throwing the match?

And what of his passing the lie detector test? What of his confidantes and friends telling this Times reporter that he didn't throw the match? He's dead now, so why not tell the truth if he really threw the match? It's not like it would be admitting he was a murderer, or that he had some sort of angelic reputation and they are all trying to protect his "good name" by hiding the truth. If he threw the match, there's not much reason for these people to continue to lie about it thirty years later.

Basically, you have either evidence nor logic on your side in this argument. That's not a very good side to be on...

CEvertFan
05-21-2007, 11:05 PM
I personally haven't seen more than clips of the match and I have also read about it many times, so all I can say about this debate is that I have to accept at face value that King actually beat him that day and that Riggs didn't throw the match. There is no evidence that suggests he did throw the match that I ever read or heard.

Gillian
05-23-2007, 05:02 PM
it would be cool if they set up a McEnroe vs Henin (or Serena Williams, or Sharapova) today. I think McEnroe would win easily but it would be nice to watch the battle of the sexes.

I'd like to see that too. I think they tried to, but the Williams sisters refused. McEnroe is much younger and fitter than Bobby Riggs though. Maybe Vilas instead?

vascoboy
12-29-2007, 04:29 PM
aside from the balls he hit to her so she could put them away, did you also notice all of the volleys he miss hit...BR was known for his net play...& BR did not get himself in situations were he would lose often, this guy is a born hustler.
I think there are many reasons why BR threw the match (betting, etc.) but one idea that is not explored, is that by losing, it would help propel women's tennis (and it did...along with BJ King relentless efforts)

deluxe
12-30-2007, 07:27 AM
This thread is pointless without video!

paulfreda
12-31-2007, 09:58 PM
but one idea that is not explored, is that by losing, it would help propel women's tennis (and it did...along with BJ King relentless efforts)

Excellent point.
He was a tennis promoter at heart and he knew that losing would be a much bigger story than a man beating a woman ever would be.

As I said before, I watched him play some 50-100 sets or more against young stud pros [ at The South Bay Club, later renamed Oakwood Apts, on Ingraham St in San Diego in 1971-72] 19 to 28 yrs of age and beat them easily. He would even put a chair on his side of the net to obsruct his movement and still beat them. These were well conditioned athletes much stronger than BJK.
His route of Margaret Court was also evidence that something was wrong with his showing in Houston. He was not the BR I watched win handily every time he played.

Maybe he just had a hangover. That is possible. But he could never lose in straights to BJK on a day he was healthy.

fridrix
01-13-2008, 10:14 PM
This thread is pointless without video!

This thread is pointless, period. A women's pro in the prime of her career beats an old guy? This is newsworthy?