Gwen Goldman has adored the Yankees for her entire life.
Her favorite player was the Hall of Fame outfielder Mickey Mantle. Her father used to take her to games as a girl, days she remembers now as a special time for the two of them to bond. When she was away at camp each summer, he would include clippings from The New York Times in his letters so she could stay up-to-date on her team.
So when she was 10, Goldman wrote the Yankees a letter asking to serve as their bat girl, the person responsible for helping to retrieve bats and fulfill other tasks during a game. But in the letter she received back, dated June 12, 1961, the Yankees’ general manager at the time, Roy Hamey, told her no.
Girls, he said, did not belong in the dugout.
“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.
Sixty years later, the team righted that refusal. On Monday, Goldman was invited to the Bronx to serve as the bat girl for her beloved Yankees. Before a game against the Los Angeles Angels, she wiped a tear from her eye as she walked onto the field at Yankee Stadium for the first time.
“It’s been an amazing opportunity,” Goldman said in a video call with reporters during the game. “A day of a lifetime I can’t put into words. I don’t know where to start on which was the best, which or what did I enjoy the most. Just the whole piece from walking in the front door of the stadium to coming up to a locker with my name on it, Gwen Goldman, and suiting up, and walking out onto the field.
“It took my breath away, and it’s obviously taking my words away.”
Wearing a full Yankees uniform, Goldman threw out a ceremonial first pitch. She accompanied the team’s third-base coach, Phil Nevin, when he took the lineup card out to the umpires before the game. She chatted and gave fist pumps to the players, all of whom, she said, had been so kind, and had even thanked her for her story and for supporting them. Pitcher Gerrit Cole showed her around.
At one point during her interview, Goldman held up her hands and explained, still in disbelief, that her hands were sticky from the bats that she helped put away.
Even though she had been rejected 60 years ago, she said she never held it against the team. But she kept Hamey’s response on a bulletin board at her home in Connecticut for decades.
“It wasn’t what I wanted to see, but they wrote me a letter and I’ve always loved them,” she said, adding later, “But I never in my wildest dreams ever thought that 60 years later, Brian Cashman would make this become a reality.”
As part of an annual charity week, the Yankees invited Goldman after hearing her story from her daughter, who had emailed a photo of the 60-year-old rejection letter. In a new letter to Goldman, Cashman, the Yankees’ general manager since 1998, wrote that “a woman belongs everywhere a man does, including the dugout” and that it was “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,” he added, “but a goal attained should not dim with the passage of time.”
On a video call telling Goldman about her invitation, Cashman was joined by, among others, Cole, members of Goldman’s family and Jean Afterman, the Yankees’ longtime assistant general manager.
Afterman, one of the highest-ranking female executives in baseball, pointed out to Goldman that she was in her 20th season with the team and that the Yankees were the only team in baseball to hire two women in such prominent roles. Afterman’s predecessor, Kim Ng, became the first woman to serve as a major league general manager when she was hired by the Miami Marlins in November.
“You chose the right team to root for,” Afterman said.