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.
There are three things my husband Ken dislikes: cursing, drunk women and fans who go “over the top” upon noticing him in public.
She wasn’t drunk, and she didn’t swear, but a female clerk in a furniture store once became way too excited when Ken Singleton walked in.
We were there to purchase an easy chair for his dad (“Pop,” now an angel), but gauging by this woman’s reaction, you would have thought we were hosting a Baltimore Orioles team parade right past her desk.
Recognizing Ken immediately launched her fully into what I call “excited nervous fan” mode. In case you haven’t ever witnessed this kind of dialogue, it goes something like this, and is spoken all in one breath:
You’re Ken Singleton, right??!! The ball player??
You are, aren’t you?? You used to play for the Orioles??
I can’t believe Ken Singleton just walked in!!
Oh my!! I need to get an autograph!! Can I have your autograph??
And I should take your picture!! Can I take your picture??
Wait, do I even have a camera?? Or a pen?? Do you have a pen??
Oh I have to call my husband!!
He’s NEVER going to believe this!!” …
And with similar exclamation points that continued much too long for our comfort, the woman ran to her desk to dial – we guess her husband, wherever he was – to announce the big news.
We took the opportunity to escape along the rows of furniture, selected a comfy-looking, rose-colored easy chair for Pop, and vamoosed out of the store before Excitable Lady could tackle Ken, tie him to a piece of furniture and slap a price tag on his chest.
I’ve witnessed other fans react “happily” when they spotted my husband out and about doing ordinary human things (being that he’s an ordinary guy who buys milk and dog food), but this lady wins for Most Excited Fan, taking the cake in the excitability department … using the shrillest voice to have ever reverberated throughout Baltimore.
By Mrs. Singy
One would think in 18 years of facing the start of another long baseball season – a wife might become accustomed to the idea of a baseball hubby leaving home. Not so.
Every year I cry on the day Ken first leaves on a plane to Tampa to catch up with the Yankees already in progress. He attends production meetings, announces a few games, receives media credentials, grabs a pile of press guides, and may practice pitching a bucket of golf balls while warm weather is in his favor.
Here we go again … baseball season is here.
I cried over our daughter’s raisin toast that morning, waking up to a half-empty bed occupied several hours before by Ken’s warm 6-foot-4 body (can you hear the violin?).
I remember he had kissed my cheek at 5:30 a.m. before departing for the airport.
“What’s wrong, Mom?” asked our 12-year-old.
“Nothing,” I said. Sniff. She stared at me as I stirred my coffee. “Okay … I don’t like when Daddy leaves. I miss him already.”
I forced myself to stop crying lest I get her started – she had school on which to focus (and I don’t like my kids thinking I’m a big sissy, because I’m not). So we moved along with our day … quick coffee with a friend to whine that Ken left, visit to the health club, and back to my home office to write.
Then his first road trip happens – this year April 16 as the new stadium opened –
and we were fortunate to be able to join him in the festivities and a few days walking the city, but then the kids’ school schedule dictates we return to Baltimore while Ken stayed another week in New York.
Maybe the tears went deeper; they may have been also for the fact that when the kids were younger, we accompanied Ken to Spring Training – we lived in Florida for a month. That was the days of West Palm Beach with the Montreal Expos who paid most of the rental price for beautiful condos on the golf course or the beach. Nice, very nice, and particularly welcoming when northerly winds howled in Maryland and our friends and family were donning gloves, scarves, and boots.
No matter how glamorous people believe Ken’s job is, the reality of it is that his schedule is challenging for family life. His absence creates one less plate on the dinner table. We miss him. And he misses a lot of family life.
The death of the offseason takes a slight adjustment on all of our parts. Specifically mine. Ken is a fantastic and functional house husband in the offseason. Now who will grocery shop, make the beds, and cook spaghetti for dinner while I write?
No wonder I’m crying.
By Mrs. Singy
Thank goodness the Yankees were visiting Baltimore the night before Orioles’ Opening Day because our house alarm sounded at precisely 2:54 a.m., causing Ken and I to jump out of bed faster than two volunteer firefighters.
It doesn’t exactly help our fight-or-flight mode when the robotic voice on our system barks insistently, “INTRUSION! INTRUSION!” followed by a shrill BEEP-BEEP-BEEP, and then repeats the announcement over and over until we disarm it. Scary, because until we know exactly what set off the alarm, we imagine an intruder breaking in, and we feel extremely vulnerable (kind of how the Orioles feel when the Yankees are in town).
The dog begins wailing as the noise pierces his sensitive Rottie ears; the kids dash out of their rooms terrified out of their sleepy wits; and simultaneously, the phone jingles (the security company asks if we want the police dispatched) – all before we have rubbed the sleep from our eyes and can think coherently.
I whistle for the pooch to lead the way into the basement where the alarm system has indicated a point of disturbance, first pushing along Ken. (He’s bigger than me, and hopefully more muscular than the imaginary prowler.)
If the alarm goes off when he’s on the road with the Yankees, unfortunately I have to be the brave adult in the house; yet truthfully, it makes me a basket case to have to investigate. It’s happened – ask our neighbor Tommy who has received my 2 a.m. scaredy-cat call when a tray table mysteriously fell over loudly and tripped the alarm.
Years ago when former Oriole Al Bumbry was our neighbor, he came to Mrs. Singy’s rescue when the house alarm sounded. He found nothing but me shaking in my slippers, and offered to sleep on the couch the remainder of the night.
Ballplayers are so brave.
Announcers, too. So … Ken checks the basement slider, all is intact, and we figure the wind tripped the alarm. We return to slumber, however, mine does not come easily as I imagine all the nights Ken will be sleeping in hotels instead of in our room. Already I have the heebie-jeebies.
Couldn’t the Yankees play in Baltimore more often? After all, the Orioles are used to New York’s intrusions.
By “Mrs. Singy”
Suzanne Molino Singleton
New York Yankees merchandise doesn’t consist of only blue and white pinstripes, as shopping fans know. Some creative genius along the design line had fun with color – maybe to appeal to us ladies – and produced hats, T-shirts, and jackets of all hues.
My hat rack holds NYY caps in lime green … shocking pink … pastel pink … yellow … red … and the traditional dark blue. Ken once gave me for Christmas a big puffy Yankees jacket in bright lime green. In the winter, I wear it to the gym and to power walk the neighborhood, and you can bet the neighbors see me coming … no reflectors needed.
Yet comments about the vivid color aren’t the only ones flung my way. Because I’m a Baltimore girl wearing a NY team logo (and worse, a rivalry of the Orioles), freedom of speech comes into play as friends have their say about my precious Yankees merchandise.
“Take off that jacket while you’re around me,” or “I’d like to burn that T-shirt,” and other smarty-pants remarks are uttered to me and the kids. They say the NYY cap is hurting their eyes or making them gag. Funny them.
My standard reply is, “Hey you, quiet, the Yankees feed my kids and pay tuition” (and buy me shoes, but I leave out that part).
It’s a bit of a quandary, being that I’m a lifelong Baltimorean, once a die-hard Orioles fan. But like baseball players are traded team to team, the kids and I played a little switcharoo in our baseball team allegiance when Ken began to call Yankees games on MSG Network 13 years back, then for the YES Network seven years ago.
Actually we’ve discovered it’s not too tough being Yankees fans – it’s rather fun. We love riding the train from Baltimore to the city, and it’s quite exciting to watch them make it to the World Series so often. We love the enthusiasm in the stands, and Yankees fans are everywhere! (We do spend more money eating stadium junk food but hey, the tickets are comps, so who can whine?) And we can’t wait to feast our eyes on the new stadium, especially now that Oriole Park is old comparatively, as the rest of America builds new ballparks.
At first I thought we could be fans of the Yankees and the Orioles, yet when the O’s hosted the Yankees I was traumatized … which team to root for? Whose T-shirt should I wear? And if the Orioles aren’t going to hawk colorful merchandise like the Yankees, forget them. A few seasons I sat in the stands quietly, wore street clothes, and rooted for neither team. It was torture.
And if you think his wife gets teased, you should hear Baltimoreans comment to Ken about announcing for the Yankees, the poor dear. O’s fans think he should have black and orange running through his veins – and he forever will be an Oriole and extremely proud of his World Series ring. Yet his career now is with the Yankees, which he enjoys immensely.
What many don’t realize is that Ken is from Mount Vernon, New York (always his out in that conversation) so technically he’s allowed to stand so close to the pinstripes. (Useless piece of trivia – the Singletons lived in a house once owned by the family of former Brooklyn Dodger Ralph Branca.)
Let Baltimore fans tease us all they want … we’re wearing our Yankees merchandise and that’s that. And I will continue to pledge allegiance to my lime green Yankees jacket … that is, until Ken comes home with a different color.
Suzanne Molino Singleton is a Baltimore-based writer and columnist, and spouse of YES Network announcer Ken Singleton. She is the creator of a weekly women’s inspirational e-column, www.SNIPPETSinspiration.com, and a columnist on www.smartwomanonline.com.