Eileen Gascon grew up in a time when Cubs games cost a quarter, there was “Ladies Day” on Tuesday, and the neighborhood sandlot was considered sacred grounds.
Gascon’s life revolved around baseball. Born in 1931, he grew up just down the block from Wrigley Field, on Seminary Avenue.
Starting around the time she was 10, Gascon would make her way over to the Wrigley Field gate her uncle, a police officer, was working.
“Come on, get in there,” he would tell her.
Gascon would sneak in and find an open spot to take in the game. She’d marvel at her favorite players, Phil Cavaretta and Andy Pafko.
Gascon admitted to sneaking into Wrigley Field “many times” thanks to the help of her uncle.
“It’s one of those things you can’t get away with doing today,” Gascon said.
When she wasn’t at Wrigley or school, Gascon would be at the sandlot.
“I was the only girl in a neighborhood full of boys,” Gascon said. “So if I didn’t play this sport with them, I wouldn’t have any friends.”
Gascon ended up making a short career out of baseball, playing in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League before she went to college.
A lot has changed in women’s baseball. But as she returned to Wrigley Field this week, Gascon, now 86, hoped to inspire a new generation.
With the Women’s Baseball World Cup being played in the U.S. for the first time next month, Gascon was honored alongside two Little League players and Bridget Venturi Veenem, a two-time gold medalist and former Team USA player. They represented three generations of females in baseball.
“It’s important girls know they can play baseball, too,” Gascon said.
Said Veenem: “We’re here to show girls and women that women’s baseball exists at the world-class level. And that there are opportunities at the highest level and all the levels in between … When girls want to play whatever sport they want to play — especially baseball — at whatever age, they [should] know that the glass ceiling has been broke.”
The tournament begins on Aug. 22 at Florida’s Space Coast in Viera, Florida. Team USA hasn’t won a gold medal at the world’s stage since 2006. It’s been primarily dominated by Japan, which has won five consecutive World Cup titles and is eying its sixth.