Tennis star Billie Jean King coming to Santa Rosa's Schulz Museum

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.


Tennis star Billie Jean King still remembers driving up to meet Charles Schulz at One Snoopy Place in Santa Rosa.

"I'd never met him, but we just hit it off," she says. "From the moment we met, we had the best time."

The year was 1974 and Women's Sports Foundation director Eva Auchincloss had talked King into asking Schulz to be a board trustee, even though her initial response was "Oh my God, I don't know."

"When I asked him, he didn't even hesitate," remembers King. "He said, &‘Sure, sign me up.' It was a huge boost for us psychologically."

At the time, she was on top of the tennis world, winning the U.S. Open that year. Five years later, Peppermint Patty would tell Charlie Brown in the "Peanuts" comic strip, "I have a vision, Chuck .<TH>.<TH>. I can see the day coming when women will have the same opportunities in sports as men!"

Now, nearly four decades later, King returns to Santa Rosa this weekend to commemorate the new "Leveling the Playing Field" exhibit at the Schulz Museum. The show celebrates women in sports and the 40th anniversary of Title IX, the landmark federal law passed in 1972 that provided equal opportunity for women in education and high school and collegiate sports.

Always an equal-opportunity strip, "Peanuts" mixed it up with female characters Peppermint Patty and Lucy playing football and baseball and ice-skating right in step with Charlie Brown, Linus and Schroeder. There was no need for a "Battle of the Sexes" grudge match, like the famous face-off between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in 1973. If anything, the women in "Peanuts" had the upper hand, yanking the football away at the last second every time.

"I think we bonded because we were both curious about the world and we bonded over our love of sports and understanding what they can do for you," says King. "It wasn't about being champions, but a champion in life. He understood the deeper things."

Schulz, who once placed King in his Top 3 list of "heroes," would occasionally drop her name in his strip, like when Peppermint Patty refered to Marcie's "Billie Jean King glasses."

"I could always tell when he wanted me to call him. He would put my name in the strip," says King. "Like Snoopy would be lying there and in the caption above him it would say, &amp;&lsquo;Thinking about Billie Jean King.' So I'd call him and he'd say, &amp;&lsquo;So glad you called. I was thinking about you.'<TH>"

As for his tennis game, she says, "He wasn't bad at all. I played against him and with him. He wanted to have both experiences."

They played doubles together at the Snoopy Cup tennis tournament in 1984.

"He asked about grips and about playing and movement," she said. "He's very smart, but subtle and curious at the same time. He's Charlie Brown."

These days, King doesn't play as much tennis as she'd like, especially after having "double-knee replacement surgery" last year.

"At 68, I'm not going to set the world on fire," she said. "My goal now is, I'm gonna hit one shot that feels a little bit close to what I used to hit when I was younger. And that's it for the day."

Bay Area freelancer John Beck writes about entertainment for The Press Democrat. You can reach him at 280-8014, and follow on Twitter @becksay.

Please read our commenting policy
  • No profanity, abuse, racism, hate speech or personal attacks on others.
  • No spam or off-topic posts. Keep the conversation to the theme of the article.
  • No disinformation about current events. Claims of "Fake News" will be delayed for moderation
  • No name calling. "Orange Menace", "Libtards", etc. are not respectful.
Send a letter to the editor

Our Network

Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Emerald Report
Spirited Magazine