Baltimore Banners vs. Philadelphia Freedoms
May 17, 1974
Baltimore Civic Center
World Team Tennis Programs
Rare program from the very early days of World Team Tennis. The league was only about two weeks old when the Philadelphia Freedoms traveled to Maryland to play the Baltimore Banners at the Civic Center. The match featured two of the league’s premier attractions: league founder and Freedoms player-coach Billie Jean King (pictured on the cover of the evening’s program) and Jimmy Connors of the Banners, who was one of the biggest male stars to sign with the co-ed league.
The league was so young at this point that it was still using a problematic match format. The original concept of World Team Tennis was for each contest to consist of two sets of men’s singles, two sets of women’s singles, and two sets of mixed doubles. Each game won was worth a single point. So, hypothetically, if one team would all six sets by a score of 6 games to 4, they would win the match 36-24. The trouble with this format was that early season games were dragging on for more than four hours in some cases. World Team Tennis scrambled to fix the format early in the 1974 inaugural season, abruptly dropping the six-set format in favor of five-set contests that involved a single set each of men & women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles, and mixed doubles. The league still uses the five-set format today in 2014.
King’s early season appearance was the feature attraction on the Banners’ 22-game home schedule for 1974. The league itself was in the news and still something of a novelty, Connors was newly arrived in Baltimore, and King was only eight months removed from her 1973 “Battle of the Sexes” takedown of Bobby Riggs that made her the biggest female sporting attraction in North America.
The Freedoms were the best team in World Team Tennis coming in with a 6-0 record. And the match was something of an ass whipping. Jimmy Connors’ singles match against Philadelphia’s Brian Fairlie was the only set that the Banners managed to win en route to a 34-20 defeat.
World Team Tennis struggled financially from the outset and lost six of its sixteen franchises after the 1974 season, including the Banners and the Freedoms who both went out of business after just one season of play.