When I opened the lumpy envelope containing Jim Kaat’s just-published poetry book, one word came to mind – WOW! Then one thought – every person after they die should be honored with such a lovely book.
Dance of Love; Dance of Life … Poetry by Jim Kaat is a substantial wow for several reasons … one being who would expect a self-proclaimed “dumb jock” to go so deep? And I don’t mean to left field.
The second reason being that the contents of Jim’s book depicts a love so sturdy and affectionate between a husband and a wife, even if we all didn’t know Kitty, we would have shed a tear for the tenderness he offers with words, and the sadness and helplessness he surely experienced watching his beloved bride of 22 years wither away with cancer.
Mary Ann Kaat passed away July 21, 2008.
It was through death when I first met her. Ken and I flew to the Kaats’ Florida home last November to attend a stirring memorial party. In their happy yellow house, Jim kept notebooks of hundreds of poems he had written daily to his beloved “queen.” He ran with my suggestion to publish them, thus Dance of Love was born, and unlike any of us, it shall live forever in a splendid tomato-red hardback book. The cover artwork is a mock of a contemporary statue on the Kaats’ front lawn. Mary Ann’s bright face bursts from almost every page as the reader watches her live, hug, swim, laugh, kiss, share, sit and love Jim Kaat right back “mutually” as she once told him.
And if Kitty’s poems aren’t beautiful enough, two surprises are included before and after his collection. Eight of Mary Ann’s family members and friends wrote their wonderful thoughts; then after Jim’s “Farewell” poem, there are several pages of Mary Ann’s notes to Jim in her handwriting. Very nice touch.
I’m still shaking my head paging through Dance of Love. It’s a beautiful testimony of marriage. And I hold true to my initial reaction … wow.
“Facing Mickey Mantle with the bases loaded was relatively easy,” writes Jim Kaat in Dance of Love, as he weighed how he would pen his last words to his wife. The following is the last poem he recited to Mary Ann on the day before she took her last breath:
Farewell my beautiful queen,
The most magnificent woman I’ve met or seen.
I look forward to seeing you again some day,
I’ll recognize you as soon as I see you;
You’ll be the one that stands out from the crowd
The dynamic outspoken one, free-spirited Italian,
Maybe a bit boisterous and loud.
You’ll always be with me in spirit, my guiding light,
Even though you’re gone from my sight.
All my love,
Although Dance of Love was produced only to share with Jim’s family and close friends, I encourage you to meet Mary Ann on Jim’s Web site.
Meet Bron Locke … it’s his 45th birthday!
Bron, an avid Yankees fan who lives in Clearlake Oaks, Calif., has been a fan since 1976. He was 12 years old when Mickey Mantle shook his hand and autographed a photo for him at an Apple Blossom Festival.
Before that he was a Baltimore Orioles fan when he lived nearby, and Ken was one of his favorite players, said his daughter Tasha in an e-mail to Mrs. Singy.
“He never misses a Yankees game and watches most of them on the YES Network,” wrote Tasha, a Virginia resident.
Bron has attended nearly 100 Yankees games at 12 different stadiums. During the recent Yankees-A’s series, Bron was thrilled when Johnny Damon acknowledged his wave with a nod, a smile and a lift of his glove. When Johnny chased a foul ball then flipped it to an A’s attendant, the attendant flipped the ball to Bron. Regrettably, another fan bumped his arm and the ball bounced away for someone else to snatch up. He was heartbroken.
Tasha said it is her dad’s lifetime dream to own a baseball from the Major Leagues. And good daughter that she seems, she wants to ensure her dad has a very happy birthday.
“You have no idea how much my dad’s happiness means to me,” she said.
What a sweet girl. Tell your dad to watch his mailbox, Tasha, for a little baseball birthday surprise from Ken.
Happy Birthday, Bron Locke, Yankees fan extraordinaire!
UPDATE: A week after this entry, Mr. Locke was kind enough to send me a nice e-mail.
Hi Mrs Singleton,
This is Bron Locke, thank you for the great blog entry! It’s a shame I was so clumsy at the game, I should’ve anticipated that someone would be reaching for the ball as well. But, to get an autographed ball from Ken is MUCH more special.
Attached is a collage picture I made for Tasha, with an extra message added to the bottom for you and Ken. I wanted you two to have it so you can know that you made a Ken Singleton fan’s year! I’m building a walnut display case to house the ball and display the card.
Thanks again for your kindness,
As I write, the Yankees just left San Francisco and Ken just landed in Boston on a red eye, leaving behind the home of the Giants, where his all-time favorite baseball player – Willie Mays – played most of his career.
“He was a great all around player,” said Ken of the center fielder. “He was exciting, he made the right plays at the right time, was a great home run hitter, a tremendous fielder, and a great base stealer and base runner.”
In Cooperstown in 2007, when we attended Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn’s inductions into the Hall of Fame, Ken and I bumped into Mr. Mays several times during the infamous weekend, once in the gift shop where we snapped this photo that caught Ken in an excited mode to meet and greet his favorite player.
The two had played against each other when Ken first arrived in the big leagues as a New York Met in 1970. In the first expansion of baseball to the west coast, the Giants moved to San Francisco in the late ’50s, as did the Dodgers. That broke the heart of Ken’s dad Joe – he never got over it.
Years later, the face-to-face interaction with Mr. Mays clearly thrilled Ken.
“If I had a ball, I would have asked him to sign it,” he said, admittedly apprehensive and a bit nervous at the time. “I asked to take a picture together but I didn’t want to be all over the guy, knowing how that feels.”
Mr. Mays said he remembered Ken as a player, and asked if he was still doing TV. “Which I thought was nice,” said Ken. “When I was a youngster, he was the man. He couldn’t do anything wrong. I remember when the Giants moved.”
Yet as a fan back then it was hard to follow the Dodgers and Giants. Communication wasn’t nearly as effective as today.
“There was no Direct TV to watch every game,” said Ken. “People back east wouldn’t find out game results until the late edition of the newspaper.”
Waiting for a flight to Boston out of Baltimore earlier this summer, a Mark Teixeira-jerseyed guy approached Ken and I in the airport restaurant to meet and greet.
His name was Mike and he was headed on his honeymoon from Auburn, N.Y., along with his new bride Erin – a bridal corsage pinned to her shirt. The lovebirds asked for an autograph and photo of Ken, which I clicked of the three of them, and they went merrily on their way after sending us a complimentary beverage in appreciation.
Always Yankees connected.
An October ago in Venice, Ken and I stumbled across a kiosk of NYY caps of various colors – pink, red, white. NYY caps in Italy? Why not? Yankees fans travel, too. They’re everywhere, with a few recognizing Ken as we walked the promenade along the canal.
“What are you doing here, Ken Singleton?” a guy called out.
Using his standard answer to that question, Ken laughed and said, “Everyone has to be somewhere.”
Always Yankees connected.
And if there weren’t Yankees fans in Italy before we got there, we made some. Thanks to the kindness of Connie Schwab of Media Relations in the Yankees office, who provided us with a load of Yankees merchandise to take along to my cousins in Sardinia, Ken and I doled out hats, pens, and key chains and left a NY logo mark around the old village. The below photo is my cousin Tina in a tiny old village in Sardinia, Italy.
Always thinking Yankees.
Riding home from Pennsylvania after a family birthday celebration, Ken turned on the radio and the voices of Suzyn Waldman and John Sterling erupted loudly and clearly from station 880 AM … all the way to Baltimore.
Always Yankees connected.
When that signal went staticky, Ken flipped open his iPhone, touch-screened a few buttons, and wa-la … the YES Network sounded over the internet. Had we been home, the Yankees would have been making plays right in our living room on that impeccable hi-def image which shows every whisker on a player’s face. Had Ken not been home, we can still watch him announcing games … ahhh, the beauty of a Direct TV baseball package.
Always Yankees connected.
I’m a week late writing about the distractions at Tropicana Field while we attended the Yankees game in Florida versus the Rays.
Sorry, got distracted.
Listen, I try hard to pay attention at Yankees games, honestly I do, but it was odd sitting under a dome at a ballpark versus being in the fresh open air (although the A/C is a welcome addition during Florida’s humidity attacks). Even when I did settle in to watch the game … ugh. A night of bad plays on the part of the Yankees.
If the roof wasn’t enough to keep my eyes roaming away from the field, these did the distraction trick for sure:
? The cowbells … everyone had cowbells. Fans rang them repeatedly to demonstrate their delight when the Rays made a good play or scored a run. Even the PA system sounded a cowbell! Why? Is it a Tropicana Field tradition or something? It’s not like the team is in the country; they’re in downtown St. Petersburg for Pete’s sake! I just didn’t see the connection. Cowbells are quite annoying when repeatedly shaken and, if you ask me, belong at football games.
? Then there was a female Rays attendee behind us shouting almost directly in my left ear “WOO!!!!!!!! WOO!!!!!!!!” – quite deafening for nine innings;
? And I couldn’t stop observing a couple several rows down who were clearly on a first or second date. She acted like she cared about sports with her little girly nods and phony grins as the guy talked about the teams. When she marries him, she won’t smile that much.
? It was entertaining watching the three belligerent drunk girls being escorted out of the stands by security – twice;
? And the guy behind us won first prize for sporting the funniest T-shirt: “Boobies Make Me Smile.”
? Then I wondered if it was yet dark outside (that dome again…)
? And we were forced to perpetually pay attention to the slew of foul balls coming our way like small white torpedoes, without the luxury of nabbing one ourselves;
? Then there was the creative Cotton Candy Caller: “HEY!!!!” he screamed frantically, and everyone turned around immediately to look at him. “I got cotton candy,” he said matter-of-factly, with a smirk;
? And how comical to watch the hefty quantities of junk food and beer being shuffled up and down the aisles by vendors and fans, then being consumed by the average gorging American (with my teens asking for money to buy most of it: ice cream, cotton candy, pretzels, soda, French fries).
Yes, a night at a Yankees game, try as I may to pay attention, is no easy walk in the ballpark for me. Maybe I should sit in the front row.