Newtown’s 70-Year-Old Bat Girl Relates Whirlwind Experience With New York Yankees
More than a half century, an original Yankee Stadium renovation (and eventual replacement), nine World Series titles, and who knows how many shattered bats later, Newtown resident Gwen Goldman finally realized her dream of being a New York Yankees bat girl. Goldman had a whirlwind of a week, with extensive media coverage following the 70-year-old Newtown resident’s feel-good story of being in the Yankees’ dugout.
Goldman was right there with the players for the June 28 game against the Los Angeles Angels, 60 years after sending a letter to the Yankees requesting an opportunity to be a bat girl. She finally got to serve in that role as the Yankees kicked off their HOPE Week initiative; HOPE, in this case, stands for Helping Others Persevere and Excel.
As a 10-year-old Westport resident back in 1961 — the same year Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record, and coincidently the year the Angels were founded — Goldman explained in a letter to the Yankees that she could do the same job as a bat boy. But then-Yankees general manager Roy Hamey responded with his own letter on team stationary diplomatically declining.
“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,” Hamey wrote in the letter, dated June 23, 1961.
Goldman’s daughter, Abby McLoughlin, recently reached out to the team and sent them a copy of the Yankees’ 1961 letter. And Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was decidedly more receptive, responding 60 years to the date after his predecessor’s letter, inviting Goldman to fulfill her childhood hopes of being in the Yankees dugout.
“She and the Yankees made it happen,” Goldman said on July 2, still reveling in the experience of a lifetime.
“Here at the Yankees we have championed to break down gender barriers in our industry,” Cashman wrote. “It is an ongoing commitment rooted in the belief that a woman belongs everywhere a man does, including the dugout. And despite the fact 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.
“Some dreams take longer than they should to be realized but a goal attained should not dim with the passage of time,” Cashman continued in his letter, before inviting the lifelong Yankees fan to the game.
A Lifelong Fan
While Goldman never thought her dream could possibly come true, her daughter wound up and delivered her best pitch to Cashman, unbeknownst to her mom.
“You have that letter there, and that reminder, and that dream. But I never expected it would haver come true at this point,” Goldman reflected.
The Yankees set up a locker for Goldman, complete with a pinstripe uniform she wore onto the field. She was interviewed by Suzyn Waldman, the Yankees’ radio announcer, during the pregame show on WFAN on June 28. Goldman got to meet Cashman and Yankees players.
Wearing those Yankee pinstripes, Goldman went to home plate for the lineup card exchange.
Goldman also brought baseballs out to the home plate umpire and put balls in his mask during parts of the game. She got pointers from Yankee players prior to the game and also learned the ropes from a couple of bat boys.
Goldman added that the bat boys showed her where to go to be out of the way of players and how many balls to bring to the ump. She also collected bat weights after players removed them at the on deck circle. Of course, Goldman also handled the bats, putting each player’s lumber in its designated slot in the rack after at-bats.
“My hands were even sticky from the resin the players use on the bats,” Goldman said.
Yes, this was really happening.
No question, Goldman could have done these tasks when she was 10. A big fan of Mickey Mantle, who pushed Maris in pursuit of the home run title before being sidelined late in that storied ’61 season, Goldman wanted to meet those Yankees.
Who knows how it would have gone, but six decades later, her Yankee Stadium dugout experience was quite a hit.
“It felt comfortable, besides so exciting and so surreal. I’m hanging out with the guys, the actual Yankee athletes in the dugout,” Goldman said.
And what made it all the more special for this 10-year-old at heart was that she could hear family members in the stands near first base cheering her on.
Global Media Attention
The media attention might have been significant in 1961 with a girl in the dugout, but one thing is for sure: The following this story has gotten is in a league of its own. Social media is all over it. The internet can't get enough. In the aftermath, Goldman was interviewed by numerous media sources, some local, some from far away — she was even asked to be featured on a television program in Australia by recording a clip and sending it over (make that Down Under).
“It’s been fun,” Goldman said of the attention she has received as her story circulates.
“The outpouring of support and joy that fans, strangers, friends, family are showing just makes me smile and feel so good, and brought tears of joy to me,” Goldman added.
The 70-year-old bat girl — maybe we should refer to her as “Batwoman” — said it is great to be the face of such a positive message, which in this instance touches not only on holding out hope for dreams to come true, but also on gender equality.
“On each of five consecutive days during the celebration of HOPE Week, the Yankees shine a spotlight on a different individual, family or organization worthy of recognition and support. Each day is designed so honorees can share their inspirational stories with Yankees players, fans and the media, while being surprised with the day of their dreams,” according to the mission of HOPE Week, as detailed on the Yankees’ website.
This certainly was a surprise and an experience for Goldman to remember. The Yankees lost the game 5-3, but the night certainly was a win for this Yankee fan.
Goldman said of her long-awaited stint as Yankees bat girl: “So many big moments.”
“I never imagined that 60 years later I’d get to be a Yankee bat girl. But that letter hung on my wall for 60 years with that dream and that hope, and my daughter, and the Yankees brought it to life,” Goldman said.
Sports Editor Andy Hutchison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.