Being a ball boy isn't just for boys: Meet the original San Francisco Giants' Balldudette
At 67, Corinne Mullane made baseball history when she started her career chasing foul balls in 1993
If you've ever watched a Major League Baseball game you've probably seen them — the people sitting on stools along the first and third baselines, who retrieve foul balls during the game.
They're commonly referred to as ball boys and ball girls, but the San Francisco Giants call their ball retrievers Balldudes and Balldudettes. And in 1993, Corinne Mullane made history for being the very first Balldudette. She was 67 at the time.
It's a historical mark now recognized by the Baseball Hall of Fame.
In 1993, the Giants started a program recruiting senior citizens to be their ball boys. In part, it was a way to engage with their older fans. Mullane was recently retired as a juvenile hall teacher when she read about the program in Sports Illustrated.
"She wrote [the Giants] a letter and said 'Hey, you know, you guys you need women to be doing this,'" explained Mullane's daughter, Molly Mullane-Cavagnaro, to Day 6.
The team got in touch with Mullane and soon after she wrote the letter she was the team's first ball girl. She also became a bit of a local celebrity, recognized on the street and in grocery stores.
"I was taking my cousin to the game with me and we were taking the train. And all of a sudden this policeman came up to me, and it kind of scared me kind of," recalled Mullane, now 93. "He looked at me he says, 'I've seen you before … you're the new gal on the field.'"
At first, the team's announcers struggled with what to call Mullane, but eventually the team started officially referring to all of their ball boys and girls as Balldudes and Balldudettes.
Mullane was proud of her new job and was happy to be on the field with the Giants — for more reasons that one.
"I never can see anything because I'm only five feet tall. And this was the only seat I ever had that I didn't have to tell the people in front of me to sit down," said Mullane.
All in the family
When Mullane became a Balldudette she didn't have to try out and the role was restricted to seniors.
Today, the program is now open to anyone over the age of 21, but it's a competitive job that now involves a tryout camp and a $500 US fee. This year's camp takes place on June 3.
It's probably the most fun job I ever had.- Corinne Mullane, first-ever Balldudette for the San Francisco Giants
Mullane's daughter followed in her mother's footsteps and is now in her 19th season as a Balldudette.
"I love being on the field. I love the game of baseball. And it's a super, super exhilarating feeling to walk onto that field, to be on that grass and that dirt with these major league baseball players," said Mullane-Cavagnaro.
"A lot of people have asked me just to put dirt in my pocket to bring back, just to let them know that this is real dirt from a real baseball field. And then I think about me being able to be on that field participating in this game. It's pretty amazing."
Ball dude went on a journey for this ball 😂 <a href="https://t.co/AuLkOZsqUh">pic.twitter.com/AuLkOZsqUh</a>—@NBCSGiants
The Baseball Hall of Fame
While on a trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame with her husband, Mullane-Cavagnaro was inspired by the Women in Baseball exhibit. She sent the Hall a baseball card she and her siblings had made for their mother, and eventually explained her mother's story.
Mullane's card and original letter to the Giants asking to be a ball girl are now in the library of the Baseball Hall of Fame. And Mullane and Mullane-Cavagnaro are recognized as the first mother-daughter Balldudette duo.
"It was very exciting to be in Cooperstown and even see the place, and all the things that they have there. In fact, I'd like to go back again," said Mullane.
Mullane retired from being a Balldudette back in 2010 after chasing balls for 17 years.
"It's probably the most fun job I ever had," said Mullane. "And I had to stop doing it because I had a problem with my hip and they wouldn't let me go out there with a cane, not that I asked them to. So anyways, [it would be] kind of funny seeing a girl hopping on a cane trying to catch a ball."
Mullane-Cavagnaro is now 64 and has been a Balldudette for nearly two decades.
"It's one of the most exciting, happy things that we've done ever. It's a lot of fun. It was very entertaining for the family and she's met a lot of wonderful people through this, as have I," said Mullane-Cavagnaro.
"And the fact that I get to continue doing this is really, really lucky for me. And I'll do it until I can't do it anymore. Or until they fire me, whichever comes first."
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