Steven Blush's new book Bustin' Balls (Feral Press, 2020) tells the strange but true story of World Team Tennis (1974-1978) that attempted to transform the prim and proper individual sport of tennis into a rowdy blue-collar league. Billie Jean King and her partners merged feminism and civil rights with queer lifestyle, pop culture, and a progressive political agenda to create a dazzling platform for the finest tennis players of the day to become overnight stars. Filled with rare photographs and images of WTT ephemera, this book recounts King's vision of a competitive tennis league with mixed-sex teams and looser rules that encouraged fast and aggressive play propelled tennis into a television fixture and the players into household names.
Bustin' Balls presents in-depth stories and history of the WTT and tennis in the 1970s, including Evonne Goolagong who fought racism throughout her life as the first indigenous woman to win at Wimbledon and a member of the Pittsburgh Triangles. Chris Evert of the Los Angeles Strings became America’s sweetheart. Billie Jean King played for the Philadelphia Freedoms at the height of Bicentennial fervor and was feted by Elton John in the song, “Philadelphia Freedom.” While tabloids followed the nightlife exploits and made pin-ups of Ilie Nastase, Jimmy Connors, and Vitas Gerulitis.
Rebekah Buchanan is an Associate Professor of English and Director of English Education at Western Illinois University. Her research focuses on feminism, activism, and literacy practices in youth culture, specifically through zines and music.