This piece is one of six usher profiles I wrote that were published by Major League Baseball on the San Francisco Giants website in 2004. They originally appeared in my Guest Services paper newsletter, ‘The Home Plate.’ To read the piece online, click here.
For Margaret Cahill, growing up as the middle child of five in Endicott, N.Y., in the 1950’s had its advantages and disadvantages — such as lots of other kids around, plenty of physical activity, early exposure to the joys of watching pro baseball … and an early introduction to the limits of her gender.
“I could throw the football farther than any of my brother’s friends,” she says of her abilities at age 12. But it was the ’50s, and because she was a girl, she wasn’t allowed to play the game. So, she sat on the curb and watched the boys play. Then there was the tree house, which she helped build, only to see a sign added that said “NO GIRLS ALLOWED.”
“I was brokenhearted; I remember my uncle took me out for a hot fudge sundae,” she recalls.
Happily, Cahill didn’t end up spending her life on that curb, symbolically speaking. She forged a life for herself of career, family and adventure instead, and the San Francisco Giants family has benefited from it.
Her love of baseball originated watching the local Binghamton Triplets play. So named because of the “Triple Cities” of Binghamton, Endicott and Johnson City, they were an Eastern League affiliate of the Yankees. Cahill watched Whitey Ford pitch there before he became a Yanks great. Also, her dad would take the kids to Yankee Stadium two or three times a summer, and those trips were memorable.
“We were so excited; I have wonderful memories,” she says. “Everybody in my family was a big sports fan — especially baseball.”
As she got older, she worked summers in playgrounds, organizing activities for kids from the ages of 5 to 18, and decided that her goal was to become a teacher. After graduating from Lemoyne, a Jesuit college in Syracuse, she began teaching second grade back home and completed graduate school at SUNY Cortland during the following nights and summers.
Around this time, Cahill and some of her teaching cohorts hatched a plan to come to the West Coast.
“Everybody talked about going to California, because that was where the action was,” she explains. On July 4, 1962, she and four friends arrived in San Francisco, and set about finding their paths.
“I knew I could teach, but I wanted to work in the business world,” she says. After six torturous months at Squibb, she decided that world wasn’t for her after all, and she returned to teaching. In the meantime, all of her friends she arrived with had moved on, while she began to put down roots. She was hired at a new public school in South San Francisco, Fox Ridge, where she taught first grade for 27 years until the school closed due to declining enrollment.
“I opened it and closed it,” she says proudly of her time there.
In the mid-’60s, Cahill discovered a passion for travel when she “hitchhiked around Europe with a pack on my back” with fellow teachers during summer vacation. She cites Paris as still being her favorite destination of all.
“It’s a wonderful place to walk,” she explains. “I love the outdoor cafes, the beauty of the city, the style. I don’t happen to feel the way a lot of people do about the French. I could never get tired of it.” She’s just recently returned from a week spent there with college friends.
Having divorced after a 10-year marriage, Cahill got into sailing in the mid-’70s, which has provided many travel adventures. She has sailed in Micronesia (in the western Pacific), Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong and nearer to home on the California coast.
Cahill had attended Giants games at Candlestick Park since moving to San Francisco, where she became very fond of the team of her adopted city.
“I watched the Willies play,” she says of that era. She is “still a Yankees fan if they’re not playing the Giants” and loves baseball enough in general to enjoy being a fan of either league.
She felt strongly enough about having a new ballpark in the city that she “went out with an ironing board in my neighborhood, collecting signatures” for the various propositions on local ballots. And, knowing she would be retiring from teaching in 2000, she contacted the Giants to ask about working as an usher. From her vantage point as a fan, she saw them at work and thought, “When I retire, I’d like to do this.”
An interview landed her a weekend job ushering in 1999, the final year at the ‘Stick. Cahill worked the last game there, explaining, “My new career was going to be with the Giants. I wanted to be there for that — it was important to me.” She got the school superintendent’s permission to miss that day of teaching so she could do so.
Since the 2002 season, Cahill’s primary position has been Press Box Rover, between Lower Box 113-115. She has won the Helen Zimmer Special Services Award, given each year to someone who “best exemplifies [retired veteran] Zimmer’s ‘can do’ attitude and unending energy level.”
In her modest way, Cahill says she was “deeply honored” to receive the award. “I like my job very much and enjoy making my area a nice place to be,” she says. “I had a career teaching, but I’m glad I retired when I did and am doing something I like.”