June 2010

When teammates call, they come running

Ken-Singleton-275.jpgUtter the words golf tournament and some former Major Leaguers will show up with their clubs. Mention the phrase “kids with cancer” and teammates come running in bunches. On Monday, Ken, seen here with Paul Blair and Jim Palmer, hosted the Ken Singleton Celebrity Golf Classic in which he had invited former teammates and others to play for this Cool Kids Campaign fundraiser, of which Ken serves on its board.

This young but amazingly strong organization here in Baltimore assists kids and their families with cancer as they muddle through horrifically challenging months — sometimes years — of treatments, surgeries, hospitals, financial setbacks and watching their “babies” become bald, feel ill and endure this crappy disease.

Mrs.-Singy-325.jpgThe impressive celebrity list featured Hall of Famers Palmer, Eddie Murray, Gary Carter and a Brooks Robinson stop-by. Other former Orioles — Ken’s friends — committed their time as well: Tippy Martinez, Blair, Boog Powell (pictured with Mrs. Singy), Rick Dempsey, Bobby Floyd, Bobby Grich, Steve Rogers, Dick Hall and Joe Orsulak, among other retired players, TV hosts and entertainers.

Other celebs on the links included Dancing With The Stars’ Tony Dovolani; NBA’s Jack Marin; and NFL’s Victor Green, Lydell Mitchell and Bruce Laird. Tom Matte also stopped by afterwards.

When Ken’s friends call him to participate in one of their causes, he doesn’t bat an eye — he goes. This time when Ken did the inviting, they came.

“When we were playing,” said Ken, “we all had each other’s backs … it’s nice to know we still do.”

These guys played in an era when Major Leaguers stayed in one town, performed for one team and bonded with each other in dugouts around the country. Lifelong friendships were formed.

mac2.jpgAfter this tournament, Ken’s teammates went home with more than a tote bag silk-screened with “Ken Singleton Celebrity Golf Classic.” They took with them an image of one pre-teen girl riding around in 90-plus degree weather to greet the golfers in a festively decorated golf cart. Her face is swollen from medication; her disposition sweet. MacKenzie Stuck is rounding third base with a brain tumor (as in three times it has returned) with nothing more that docs can do for her.
 
Her mother was barely audible through tears as she spoke to the golfers at a pre-tournament dinner the evening before.

So yes, mention the words golf tournament and a group of jocks will show up. Yet it’s for a better reason than chasing a miniature white ball around 18 holes. They call on each other and they come running … in friendship … and in support of a cause.

This time it was for the kids.

* * * * * * * *

When fans write to Ken requesting autographs, he asks them to consider a donation of at least one dollar per autograph to Cool Kids Campaign. Many fans generously donate more. If you feel so inclined, please consider mailing a donation of any amount to:

Cool Kids Campaign
9711 Monroe Street
Cockeysville MD 21030
www.cancerfearsme.org

Clothed in baseball

caps 6-11.jpgSince I write solo in my Baltimore home office without an editor, I often ask a fellow freelance writer, Nancy, to review my stories before I submit them to YESNetwork.com.  

So when Nancy read a story I had written titled “Clothed in baseball,” she admitted she didn’t like it – the story was weak.

Nancy knows.

The idea had evolved during a week when one Mrs. Singy was a tad “dry” for a topic. So instead I tackled the laundry. (Thrilling. Proof of a real case of writer’s block). After padding barefooted around the house putting away clean clothes predominantly stamped with the “NY” logo, I wrote about how us Singletons could open a New York Yankees store with all the baseballs on our clothes.

It went something like this:

… hats, socks, sweatshirts, knit caps, windbreakers, workout clothes, basketball shorts, winter coats, robes and T-shirts – oh so many T-shirts! Long-sleeved, short-sleeved, no sleeves. There’s even a pair of “NY” underwear at the bottom of the laundry basket (whom they belong to, I’ll never tell). The kitchen drawer holds a neatly folded NY Yankees pinstriped apron (which Ken should wear when he grills to avoid barbeque sauce splattering on his favorite YES T-shirt).

Our shirts are screened with “Property of YES NETWORK” … “Why New York is better than New York: We never traded Nolan Ryan” … “My Yankees Baseball” … “YES HD” … and various players’ names and numbers white-on-navy across the backs.

I continued the tale about how these New York-based clothes have long since replaced logos of other baseball jobs Ken has held; shirts and jackets boasting MSG Network, FOX, Montreal Expos and The Sports Network in Canada. Way before that we wore a plethora of orange and black Baltimore Orioles garments.

When Nancy had suggested to spice up the subject by maybe tying the T-shirts to memories, still I had nothing more to add. After all, Ken constantly brings home baseball stuff, so there is not much nostalgia there since we have lived and breathed the sport for a few decades. (“Baseball Is Life” is the most significant T-shirt in the pile.)

Nope, there wasn’t even much to reminisce about that pair of NY underwear other than that they were purchased in a Cooperstown gift shop during a pleasant family trip to Induction Weekend. (Okay they’re mine – happy now?)

Enough about baseball clothes; Nancy warned you it was weak.

Then I read a comment on the Mrs. Singy column from a Yankee fan who knew how to attach true feeling to a New York Yankees garment (see May 2010 – Life needs Diversions), putting my dim words to shame had I decided to post that feeble story.

This fan’s anecdote was about how Yankees baseball pulled him through cancer. “It was like being in a safe environment for a few hours,” he wrote. “One that made me forget, even for the shortest of times, that I was sick or in pain.”

When this fan lost his hair during three rounds of chemo, he purchased a new NY cap that he will “never get rid of. It’s worn heavily, but I can’t discard a cap that did so much for me.”

And he said he feels the same way about the entire Yankees franchise – a team that helped him greatly through a tough time, providing a distraction from ill health. Luckily, remission has been his friend since December 2007.

Now my collection of colorful NYY caps has meaning. As I donned the canary-yellow one to wear while walking the dog today, I recalled this fan’s bittersweet story – how a simple item like a baseball cap can evolve into such sweet significance for an ordinary baseball fan.

Yankee Frankie: A 101-year-old fan

frankie_275.jpgMy neighbor Annie emailed me about a “most delightful” scene she witnessed while shopping at a Publix grocery store in Hilton Head, S.C., where she has a vacation property. An announcement sounded over the store’s P.A. system about a customer’s birthday: Frank Ventre is 101 years old.

Annie said the Publix staff had thoughtfully prepared and presented a few small birthday gifts representing Frank’s interests, including orange cupcakes for Syracuse, N.Y., and a few blue and white goodies to delight him in his passion for the New York Yankees.

“Where else in the modern world on a busy Saturday afternoon would a food store go to such lengths for a regular customer?” said Annie.

While Frank was being presented with the Yankees gifts (one an autograph signed “To Frank”) the gentleman spoke in great lengths about the team’s 27 championships, what city they were playing in that day, and where they would be playing in upcoming away games. Frank knew his facts.

When he nostalgically mentioned how he wished he could again attend a game some day, but that “the tickets are too expensive,” Annie approached him. Without mentioning who her neighbor is, she said she might be able to help him grant his wish. That’s when she emailed me to ask Ken if it was possible to obtain tickets.

Frank is now making plans to attend the game against the Tampa Bay Rays July 17 in New York. Ken laughed just now glancing at the schedule while he double-checked the date for me. “Huh! How about that? It’s Old-Timers’ Day at Yankee Stadium.”

No pun intended, Frankie.

frank.jpgWhen Ken had relayed this story to the Yankees PR office, they sent Frank a letter inviting him onto the field before the game. His 68-year-old son will accompany him to the Big Apple and his daughter (who he lives with) is treating them to the airfare.

A little old-timer recognition can go a long way.

“Oh my, I can’t believe it!” Frank relayed to Annie who told me, “He is so very excited!” (If you knew Annie, you’d know how she gets big kicks out of helping people – strangers and friends. It’s just the way she’s wired … Angel Annie … one of the last of the good Samaritans.)
Healthy still at 101, Frank goes to the gym regularly. He uses the treadmill, stationary bike and free weights. He’s 100 percent Italian – a sweet, entertaining man, reports Annie about her new friend. And believe me, they will be Hilton Head Island friends for sure.

“Hats off to the Publix staff that took time and effort merely to be nice,” said Annie, “and to make an amazing old man feel very special.”

This, she said, was truly a great example of “publix” affection.

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