Though she inspired one of the most wretched songs in all of history, the most wretched so-called “Philadelphia” song, and easily the most spectacularly wretched song in the vast Elton John catalog, the story of Billie Jean King in the early 1970s is the stuff of legend. And now you can own a piece of it, should you be so inclined.
Someone is selling what is supposedly a competition-worn Billie Jean King uniform on EBay. The price? $88,900.
No, it is not the uniform that she wore in 1973's storied "Battle of the Sexes" — one year after Sports Illustrated named her "Sportswoman of the Year." The seller says that King wore this uniform in 1974, when she was part of the Philadelphia Freedoms tennis team.
From the seller's description:
This is the uniform the Billie Jean King wore when she led the Philadelphia Freedoms of World Team Tennis in 1974. World Team Tennis was started on the back of Billie Jean King after her world famous tennis match with Booby Riggs in 1973 that was broadcast worldwide and opened up tennis to major league status. Billie Jean King is the iconic name in tennis and raised awareness of professional tennis to a more established sport. The Billie Jean King Tennis Center is the home of the US Open.
The uniform, including panty, was created by Teddy Tinling in his London studio. His label is in each piece and was is noted Made in England. Mr. Tinling was the world famous designer of women's tennis wear.
This uniform is the only uniform of a female sports athlete that is recognizable almost up to it's fortieth anniversary of May 7, 1974.
Elton John wrote his hit "Philadelphia Freedom" based on his friendship with Billie Jean King.
Please note that this item, both pieces, has been worn in competition and is not in perfect condition.
Here are King's 1974 tennis panties:
King's publicist, Tip Nunn, was surprised to hear that the uniform turned up on EBay after all these years. He says that the designer, Teddy Tinling, made an outfit for Elton John the same year.
Tinling also designed the Battle of the Sexes uniform, as extensively documented by Smithsonian magazine (the Battle of the Sexes uniform is part of the Smithsonian's collection but is not currently on view), as well as uniforms for tennis greats Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Evonne Goolagong and Virginia Wade.
The next highest-priced Billie Jean King item on EBay? An autographed copy of Sports Illustrated for $350.
The Wayne, Pennsylvania-based uniform seller, "hgol1371," did not respond to a request submitted via EBay for more information. See the complete listing on EBay.
Read “Racquet Revolutionary,” Sandy Hingston’s 2011 Philadelphia magazine profile of King.
Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter.