May 2009

Where oh where is that Richard Gere?

singysgere2_350.jpgThe wonderful hubby-wife team Anthony and Adriana Taffuri who own A&A Car Service, which the YES Network uses in New York City, told me they sometimes drive Richard Gere.

Cool.

Isn’t he a grand actor, that Richard Gere? Officer and a Gentleman … Pretty Woman … Nights in Rodanthe … Unfaithful … The Hoax (excellent true story book by the way – an unbelievable plot). Just a few of my favorite Richard Gere movies, but he thrives in all of them if you ask me.

In Cooperstown 2007, when Ken and I and the kids drove up for Cal Ripken Jr’s Hall of Fame induction, I tried not to get too tickled knowing Mr. Gere was “in the building” during a VIP reception we attended in the museum. Yet my Hollywood antenna rose up as I poked it around the room, bypassing the many famous ballplayers’ faces (most of whom I’ve met numerous times over the years so my enthusiasm meter has fallen) in hopes of zeroing in on one good actor.

Now where oh where is that Richard Gere? I couldn’t find him anywhere. Maybe it was a rumor. Rats.

Then Ken and I strolled into the museum’s art gallery. We stopped in front of a colorful Willie Mays oil painting – the “Say Hey Kid” is Ken’s all-time favorite player – to snap a smile of Ken next to it. No one else was in the room. A few minutes later, in walked Mr. Gere and his young son. He spotted Ken and extended a handshake, introduced himself, and relayed how he has enjoyed Ken’s work on the YES Network.

Wasn’t that friendly? Here’s a famous Hollywood movie star who probably constantly hears the same compliment himself, turning the table to compliment someone else and to indicate he’s a fan. I was so proud of hubby.

If my tongue wasn’t so twisted, I may have said something clever. I don’t actually remember what I uttered. The three of us posed together for a few photos; he introduced his son, a friend, and the friend’s son, and we merrily moved along. We never spotted Mr. Gere again over the weekend, although he had to have been at the induction ceremony I’m sure.

John Travolta and Kelly Preston were in the front row, although I didn’t spot them either, happened to see only their photo in the newspaper.

I really need to get my antenna fixed.

Proud in the press box

kenbooth_400.jpgIf I had my way in the bottom of the eighth inning, I’d stay in my seat. The kids, however, drag me upstairs to the press box to see “Dad” in live YES Network TV action.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m always proud of hubby watching him in the booth – he’s happiest around baseball. Yet I feel we are just in the way of everyone doing their jobs, even though the TV crews are extremely accommodating and friendly (they give us free water bottles).

It’s been fun over the years talking my way up to the press level. No one in 18 years has ever asked to see my ID in any ballpark in America or upon driving into any stadium parking lot. Seems they believe a mom with two kids in tow claiming she’s Mrs. Ken Singleton is telling the truth.

Basically though, standing in the booth would be equivalent to you going to your spouse’s job and watching him or her work. It would be like Ken standing over my shoulder right now in my office as I write.

Although the TV experience is a bit more commonplace for me because I’ve been around it so long, when we bring along family members or friends, it’s refreshing to watch them get fired up experiencing live television up close and personal, and meeting other sports celebs who may happen to walk past.

I’m tickled our kids have the chance to see Dad at work, because being that he was retired from the Major Leagues well before they were a glint in his eye, our youngest son and daughter have been attuned only to Ken’s second career. They witness behind the baseball scene, whereas Singleton boys No. 1 and No. 2 as youngsters were closer to the field (at times on the field!), able to see Daddy play the game, hang out in the dugout during batting practice and high-five all the players.

Their experience was different being up close and personal with pros like Cal Ripken Jr., Brooks Robinson, Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer and many other Hall of Famers and Major Leaguers.

Wherever Ken has worked – on the field or in the press box – has always made his family proud to stand behind him. 

Baseballs and bats which magically appear …

fans_250_051209.jpg… when Mr. Singy is near

I don’t know any magicians personally, but I have watched baseball fans pull out bats and baseballs from thin air when they stumble across Ken out in public.

After the Yankees-Orioles game in Baltimore Saturday night, a friend of a friend named Don – a devoted Orioles fan – was able to meet and shake hands with Ken after the game. We walked to our cars in the parking lot and Don (who had given me and two friends a ride to Oriole Park so I could ride home with Ken) conveniently whipped out a baseball and asked Ken to sign it. (He did not have a pen, however. Ha! An unprepared fan.

I lent him one … because a writer always has a pen.)

Although not so surprising that Don happened to have a baseball in his truck, being that he was attending a game (and probably hoping to meet hubby), over the years I cannot name how many times this very thing has happened in a non-baseball setting.

It’s amazing.

Once on my birthday, Ken and I dined out with four good friends in downtown Baltimore, and when a guy spotted Ken in the restaurant, he ran over to our table with a baseball bat to ask for an autograph.

I had to laugh and asked, “You just happened to have a baseball bat with you?” and he chuckled in return and said, “No, but I just got it for my birthday!” and as we looked over at his group of friends a few tables away, they were clearly in celebration mode.

Another time while waiting for a movie to start, Ken and I stopped for a beverage next door to the theatre and a fan spotted him. He walked over, introduced himself and whipped out two baseballs from his pockets.

Who goes to the movies with baseballs in their pockets?

And if fans don’t have a tangible thing to autograph, they make do with napkins, scraps of paper, menus, or whatever else nearby they can grab fast enough before the baseball celeb gets away.

All part of the territory – and most interesting to watch.

However, sometimes fans can cross the line a little bit. Last summer a Yankees fan ran after us on the streets of Baltimore’s Little Italy and wanted Ken to follow him back to the restaurant a block back to meet all his friends.

I stepped up to the plate. “Uh, we’re kinda on a date here?” (I wasn’t trying to be rude, I just wanted to be on a date with my husband.)
 
Though here’s the best one … and this is the truth: once a hospital staff employee asked Ken for an autograph at totally the inappropriate moment – while I was in labor having our first baby.

Oh boy! (And it was a boy) … if I could have pulled a bat out of thin air myself …

The night Tom Selleck missed meeting my mom

sellecksingy_250_051809.jpgThis is an old story but a favorite. Mother’s Day reminds me what a terrific mom I have.

Fourteen years later, my non-sports fan mom Gina still regrets declining a game ticket after Ken and I had invited my parents to the Cal Ripken Jr.’s “2,131” grand events September 5-6, 1995 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. We were allowed six tickets for each game: the tie of Lou Gehrig’s consecutive game record, and the record-breaker.

For the first game, my dad Louie (peeking through the photo to your left) and my sister Pamela joined us, as did our then-16-year-old son Justin and his girlfriend Michele. Mom had agreed to babysit our youngest son at our house, then aged 3. She didn’t quite understand the hoopla created around such baseball milestones.

Before the game, the Orioles hosted a fabulous VIP party with some big batters in attendance: Tom Selleck, Johnny Unitas, basketball pro David “The Admiral” Robinson, The Young & The Restless soap opera star Don Diamont, Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Earl Weaver, Olympics speed skater Bonnie Blair and other sports-related greats.

What a thrilling and memorable evening!

When I phoned Mom to check on the tot, she was frazzled. It was one of those “I want my Mommy and Daddy!” nights. He had been crying “plenty loud,” she said since we left, and “Mom-Mom” was unable to console him. Worse, he had seen us on TV, retrieved the car keys, and demanded his grandmother drive him to the stadium.

A night of babysitting hell.

Adding to my mother’s misery, I mistakenly mentioned, “Guess who’s here? Guess who we met? … Tom Selleck!” to which my mother’s wail could have been heard from our Baltimore County home all the way downtown. (She adores Tom Selleck, who doesn’t?)

“Do you mean I gave up a chance to meet Tom Selleck for this?” She was – and remains – in disbelief that she was stuck at home all evening trying to calm an irate toddler while her daughters and husband hobnobbed with Hollywood.

Sorry Tom, but you missed meeting a very pleasant lady – and a great babysitter. Thankfully, being the great Mom-Mom she is, it wasn’t the last time she agreed to watch our kids.

Thanks, Mom.

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Blind passion

At a Yankees/Orioles baseball game, a small group of blind fans filed into the row in front of us.

Intriguing.

What must that be like, attending a baseball game blind? For someone to experience a visual sport yet able only to hear its sounds? Must be quite a different sensation; one those of us with sight could never grasp … the distinct crack of a wooden bat … the hearty “BOO!” of an enormous crowd … and the silky voice of a PA announcer.

Sure, maybe a blind fan misses much visually, such as busy images on a stadium’s giant TV screen, or the spotless white uniforms before they’re muddied up, or the drunk fan in the second row being escorted out of the stadium by Security.

Yet blind fans are probably greatly attuned to their other four senses. What we may take for granted they may envelope in its entirety … the meaty aroma of a hot dog … the salty flavor of a soft pretzel … or groping their way along hard plastic stadium seats.

Two of the blind fans at that particular game were a young couple sharing an earpiece while they listened to the action on the radio. Their heads remained almost cheek to cheek for nine innings.

Endearing.

The group of blind people knew when to cheer for a good play or a home run. It didn’t seem to matter to them which of their senses led the open air experience, only that their passion for baseball led them to the game.

Meeting Mrs. Kitty Kaat

I didn’t meet Mary Ann Kaat until after she passed on and became an angel. Somehow we were never at Yankee Stadium simultaneously during Jim and Ken’s time together at YES.

Last November, when Jim and his family had organized a memorial party for Mary Ann, it was then I learned all about the woman Jim was completely in love with, as he voiced a stirring tribute to his wife.

By far, the event was the most moving memorial I had ever attended – not a memorial service, but a party! Everyone should leave the earth that way; it was absolutely magnificent.

Picture an enormous white tent pitched on the waterfront lawn of the Kaats’ residence on the east coast of Florida … round tables covered in white linen … a long buffet of scrumptious food edged the tent …100 of the Kaats’ friends and family from around the country … all on a beautiful butter-yellow sunny day.

In the covered walkway leading to the front door, Jim had hung large beautiful photographs of him and Mary Ann in various stages of their love. At the party, he wore the very same Hawaiian-style shirt and white pants in which they were married.

At one point during Jim’s speech describing his effervescent Italian wife, a boat rode by and tooted its horn – must have been Mary Ann saying, “Thanks – I’m watching all of this!”

Later, guests had the option of writing messages with black markers on environmentally-friendly helium balloons and releasing them. I wrote, “Mary Ann, we would have been friends … happy heaven …” and let the balloon slither out of my hands toward the very blue sky, wishing I had had the chance to befriend Mary Ann Kaat.

Because if her home symbolized her colorful personality – and evidently it did – she was an upbeat, bright, happy, and energetic gal. Don’t we all adore people like her?

Jim had invited his guests to wander through the house at whim to “read” the plethora of plaques, pictures, inspirational quotes, books, and fun artwork scattered amidst Mary Ann’s multi-colorful décor and furniture. What a great collector of whimsical items she was.

A splendid HAPPY HOUSE! It is still etched in my mind, that yellow house.
A quote on a wooden rooster plaque in the kitchen read: “Life is always in progress” … and indeed … life was in full motion that day as Mary Ann’s friends and family honored her life.

Included in a notebook was a collection of hundreds of poems Jim had written to his wife every day; many supporting Mary Ann through her illness. I had encouraged Jim that day to publish some of the poems, and he ran with the idea.

Now at the printer as I write is his new book of poetry: Dance of Love; Dance of Life attributed to his wife, titled after a sculpture in their backyard. Behind the sculpture now is a memory garden which includes a plaque naming Mary Ann.

I’m sure it took a huge adjustment for Kitty to remain in a home without his beloved Mary Ann, the woman extraordinaire who etched his heart for 22 years … Mary Ann Montanaro Kaat.

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