1945: The Enola Gay took off for Hiroshima. Don Budge and I, the world’s two best players, played a few miles away. A little action. Entertaining the troops. Army (Budge) vs. Navy (Riggs), that’s the way it is boys. Bets? Bets? I was just a pesky hustler, but I finally figured him out. He got scared, too, when he saw it coming.
1946: That giant clock was hanging 35 feet above the court when I played Budge the next year. I practiced my lob in the arena—damnit! I should have trained more for that Battle of the Sexes with Billie Jean. I lobbed Budge 70 times all within a foot of the clock–only hit it 3 times!–the crowd oooohing and aaaahing I’m betting fans in the stands Clark Gable and Groucho and Erol Flynn . . . Man, those are tough overheads to hit, and Budge’s sore shoulder, and he’s out of shape, not like those early years of the War when God could kill everyone.
1947: By the end of ‘47 I was finished. Took up golf. Could bet 17 times on a single hole. I was not an addict. I had a good time. I won and won and won. That smartass reporter asked if I knew Pascal’s wager, so I looked it up.
Put your money on God. Put your money on Billie Jean King.
The link for the Bobby Riggs portrait by © Mort Drucker can be found here: National Portrait Gallery
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