Sixty years later, Yanks fulfill bat girl's dream

June 29th, 2021

NEW YORK -- Gwen Goldman wiped a tear from her left eye as she set foot on the warning track behind home plate at Yankee Stadium on Monday afternoon, her heart thumping as she eyed the multicolored flags whipping atop the upper-deck frieze. Six decades after volunteering her services to her favorite team, the bat girl had finally arrived.

Goldman’s dugout debut highlighted the beginning of HOPE Week (Helping Others Persevere and Excel), an award-winning community initiative that will feature events each day through Friday. Each day, the Yanks will reach out to an individual, a family or an organization worthy of recognition and support, providing honorees with a day celebrating their accomplishments.

As a 10-year-old in 1961, Goldman penned a letter to the Yankees, expressing her dream of becoming a bat girl. In that letter the Connecticut native explained -- correctly -- that she could handle the job responsibilities as well as a boy. Then-Yankees general manager Roy Hamey responded by mail, though her request was declined.

“I said, ‘I love the Yankees. I want to do what these boys are doing, and I can do it,’” Goldman recalled on Monday. “My dad said, ‘You can’t be a batboy, but you could be a bat girl. He knew I could do it. Sure, I was disappointed. I wanted it, but I was so thrilled that the Yankees wrote back to me.”

Goldman saved the letter, which was dated June 23, 1961 – smack dab in the middle of the summer of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris’ pursuit of Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record.

Hamey wrote: “While we agree with you that girls are certainly as capable as boys and no doubt would be an attractive addition on the playing field, I am sure you can understand that in a game dominated by men a young lady such as yourself would feel out of place in a dugout.”

Not so, as Goldman proved on Monday. She kept the letter over the years, accompanying her through marriage, parenthood, grandparent-hood and a career as a school social worker in Westport, Conn. Her daughter Abby recently e-mailed a copy of Hamey’s letter to the team. Another letter from a Yankees GM soon arrived, also on official letterhead.

“Although your long-ago correspondence took place 60 years ago (six years before I was born),” Brian Cashman wrote, “I feel compelled to resurrect your original request and do what I can to bring your childhood dream to life.

“Here at the Yankees, we have championed to break down gender barriers in our industry. It is an ongoing commitment rooted in the belief that a woman belongs everywhere a man does, including the dugout. And despite the fact that six decades have passed since you first aspired to hold down the position as a New York Yankees Bat Girl, it is not too late to reward and recognize the ambition you showed in writing that letter to us as a 10-year-old girl.”

On Monday, Goldman gleefully examined a locker in the Yankees' clubhouse holding her pinstriped uniform, then was welcomed to the dugout by manager Aaron Boone and ace right-hander Gerrit Cole, who schooled Goldman on her upcoming duties.

“I’m looking forward to her being on the bench for a couple of innings tonight,” Boone said. “I think you’re probably going to see her take balls out at some point to home plate. Gerrit will have her in good hands and make sure she’s safe and where she needs to be. Hopefully it’s the experience of a lifetime for her; a long time coming.”

Boone informed Goldman that she’d be throwing Monday’s ceremonial first pitch, after which YES Network broadcaster David Cone stopped by to offer pitching tips.

“It’s surreal,” Goldman said. “This is the thrill of many lifetimes, not just one. To say this is a dream come true would be an understatement. I need to go to a thesaurus to find something besides 'thrilling' and 'overwhelming.' I can’t find words to explain the joy of walking out into this stadium.”