"I'm not in love with power," says King. "I want to make things happen."
Yet if one aspect of power defines the condition better than any other it is the power to make things happen on a large scale. A few women have it, sort of. Georgia Rosenbloom Frontiere, owner of the L.A. Rams, and Joan Kroc, owner of the San Diego Padres, can pick up a phone and alter the destinies of a certain number of people, but Frontiere and Kroc both inherited their power, along with their teams, from their late husbands; neither woman has a voice that counts in the owners' circle of her sport. Frontiere, for instance, was an enthusiastic backer of the idea of staging another summer NFL exhibition game in London. However, when Pete Rozelle passed over the Rams and chose the Cowboys and the Bears to make the trip, Frontiere was powerless to do anything but fume.
The case of Marge Schott of the Cincinnati Reds is a little different. Schott, 57, inherited her husband's businesses when he died 18 years ago, but she bought controlling interest in the Reds on her own in late '84. The Cincinnati press and some of her partners have made her life difficult at times, but the fans like her for her down-home ways and her free spending for players. Whether Schott will eventually have a voice in National League affairs remains to be seen. "The owners have been real nice to me," says Schott. "They gave me roses at the first meeting. When I have something to say, I'll say it."
Of all the women whose power in sport is based on ownership, the most authoritative is Marje Everett, the largest stockholder and CEO of Hollywood Park racetrack in Los Angeles. Since Everett took her place on the track's board of directors in 1972, Hollywood Park has been in the vanguard of every major change that has come to thoroughbred racing, from Exacta betting to the Breeders' Cup.
Everett, 65, was born into the racetrack business in Chicago, where her adoptive father, Ben Lindheimer, owned both the Washington Park and Arlington Park tracks. Everett went to work at Arlington Park at 18, and when Lindheimer died in 1960, she inherited about a quarter of his $8 million fortune. With that and borrowed money she bought out her brother's and sister's interests in the tracks; in '69 she sold both to Gulf & Western for $32 million in cash and stock, including stock in Hollywood Park. Everett signed a 10-year contract with G & W to be non-owning CEO of a company that ran the two Chicago tracks, but she was fired a year later.
After a brief retirement in Arizona, Everett was ready to go back to work. She claimed a seat on the all-male board of Hollywood Park by virtue of her majority holdings, but the board said she would have to have a California racing license first. Not surprisingly the California Racing Board initially refused her the license. The old-boy network of California racing wanted nothing to do with Marje Everett.
After filing a lawsuit that included a charge of sexual discrimination against Mervyn LeRoy, president of the Hollywood Park Turf Club, Everett took her seat in 1972 and appointed herself CEO. Five years later a group of directors tried to take the job away, but again she went to court and again she won.
"I don't like to be called tough," says Everett. "The word has a bad connotation. Women aren't supposed to be tough. At the same time, men are considered better disciplines, which makes it even more difficult to fill that function without being branded tough."
Now that Everett is firmly in the saddle at Hollywood Park she can afford to reflect on the changes she has seen. "Women still have to work harder to prove themselves capable," she says. "Just wanting something and working toward it like a man isn't enough. They have to do it better. What has changed, I think, is the acceptance that a woman can do the work, once she can prove it."
Proving it can be a career all by itself. De Varona was 17 in 1965 when she called ABC's Chuck Howard to ask for a job in television. She was an Olympic swimmer with two gold medals from the '64 Games but without a college scholarship because there were no athletic scholarships for women back then. (Approximately 100,000 such scholarships exist today.) Her good friend Don Schollander, a gold medalist in four events at the '64 Olympics, went to Yale on a swimming scholarship. De Varona went to New Haven, courtesy of ABC, as a guest expert.