Ken is in “commute” mode this weekend, able to zip down I-83 to Camden Yards from our home in Baltimore County, instead of hopping a plane or train to meet up with the Yankees and the YES Network crew. Since he wore an Orioles uniform for 10 seasons (1975-1984), yet announces games for the pinstripes, fans generally think he must be “torn” between his allegiances. Mrs. Singy sat down with hubby to get the real score.
Mrs. Singy: What’s it like for you to announce a Yankees/Orioles game?
Ken Singleton: Much like all of the others, that’s the way I look at it. I approach it the same way. I think other people may look at it differently because I used to play for the Orioles and I’ve been with the Yankees so long. Maybe they think, “He must be torn.” I’m not really. I just do the games. And my job is easier when the Yankees win. I’ve been fortunate to see them win quite a bit.
Mrs. Singy: Would you prefer to announce a Yankees/Orioles game in Baltimore or New York?
Ken Singleton: Well I like doing Yankees games in Baltimore because I don’t have to travel far. I’ve lived here for about 35 years. But I really love the new Yankee Stadium. I don’t think there is a more exciting stadium in the Major Leagues in terms of the crowd, how they get into the team, and their knowledge of the game. Plus, New York is where I grew up [Mount Vernon]. I’ll always love New York.
Mrs. Singy: The Orioles network MASN usually show you on TV during an Orioles game in the YES Network booth – what do you think of that?
Ken Singleton: They do, so I heard, but I’m not aware of it during the game. Someone usually tells me that I was on. Hopefully, the guys are saying nice things about me. 🙂
Mrs. Singy: How do you think fans react to that at home – you working for the Yankees?
Ken Singleton: When I was announcing games for the Montreal Expos, fans in Baltimore didn’t seem to mind. Now that I do games for New York, at first they would ask, “How can you do that?” [Mrs. Singy hears this constantly!]. But I think now they understand better … I hope. The Yankees are good. They are a good team to work for.
Mrs. Singy: Does it bring back memories as a player when you announce in Baltimore, or not as much since you didn’t play at Camden Yards?
Ken Singleton: Not so much; only when I’m reminded by people who I might see around the stadium whom I’ve known over the years, like Jim Palmer, Mike Flanagan, and some of the ushers who have carried over from Memorial Stadium to Camden Yards. But that was a long time ago. Times change. Camden Yards has a different atmosphere than Memorial Stadium. A lot of that has to do with the fact that the Orioles were big winners in those days.
Mrs. Singy: What do you say when fans consistently ask why you don’t announce for your “home” team?
Ken Singleton: I consider myself a Yankees broadcaster; I work in New York. I’m very happy where I am. Who wouldn’t be happy working for a team that I have witnessed win the World Series four times? I’ve seen them in the playoffs 13 times in 14 years.
Mrs. Singy: What did you think of the NY Yankees when you were an Oriole?
Ken Singleton: Good question. I had a lot of respect for the Yankees. They were the team that we always tried to beat. As Orioles, we went to the World Series twice and I can recall in 10 years in Baltimore, we finished second, six times – some of those to the Yankees. They had great players: Thurman Munson, Reggie Jackson, Willie Randolph, Ron Guidry, Catfish Hunter and Lou Piniella. George Steinbrenner was still the boss back then. I had a lot of respect for their organization.
Mrs. Singy: What are some of your standard responses to fans when they allude to the same questions like: “Do you still have orange and black running through your blood?” … “We need you back here” … “Why don’t you live in NY?” … “Do you miss playing?”
Ken Singleton: When they comment that they need me back, I say, “There was a time.” But those days are over. It’s very nice for people to remember, but the game goes on and the players change. About living in New York … that’s easy. All I have to do is get on a train and I’m there – it’s a simple commute. My kids grew up here in Baltimore, you [Mrs. Singy] are from here. I don’t miss playing, no. Like I said, those days are over. When you start as a player, you know you can’t play forever. I was blessed to have played for 15 years – 12 on winning teams. Fifteen years in the Majors is a good run. I earned a good living – still earn a good living. I’ve been in the Majors for over 40 years now.
Mrs. Singy: What do you think about the Orioles now?
Ken Singleton: I would like to see them play better, but not against the Yankees. They are showing signs of improvement with new manager Buck Showalter and it will make the division even more competitive next year.
Strangers’ grins peer out from a collection of photos scattered around Ken’s office: some buried under paper piles, some stuck in drawers, others graduated to frames, sitting on a crowded credenza among baseball memorabilia.
These are the standard four-golfer poses … a typical souvenir from the bazillion golf tournaments in which Ken has been invited to play by charitable organizations trying to raise a buck.
The other three golfers in each pose took home an identical photo. I would wager to say they would be able to name Ken in the picture for a long while. But if Ken had to name them, most likely he could not. With no offense to anyone (I can guarantee my husband most certainly enjoyed each tournament), Ken has greeted thousands upon thousands of fans over two baseball careers. If he still remembered each of their names, we would change his name to Einstein.
Hopefully, their memory of a day on the links with a baseball celebrity is a great one. Maybe they bragged to their golf buddies that Ken Singleton played in their foursome. Maybe they proudly showed the souvenir photo to a spouse or displayed it on a desk.
And just because Ken may not remember names and faces of the myriad of golfers with whom he shared 18 holes, doesn’t mean he wasn’t congenial and polite while interacting with them. Ken is a very friendly guy.
If the one thing he prefers fans “take away” from him, is that he looked them in the eye, gave them his time, and tried his best to provide a pleasant experience. Many fans approach or e-mail me – or share on this blog – with wonderful comments about the “great guy” I’m married to. He has been described as personable, genuine, hospitable, and gracious. And it’s true. I have never seen my husband act none other than gracious to baseball fans. When we are out and about with friends, some have commented about this, as they observe him in “celebrity mode.”
Lesson here for all of us is that we cannot control another person’s experience, memory, or judgment about another human being. Yet if we are involved in the interaction, what we can control is ourselves. We can do our best to ensure that another person takes away the best pieces of ourselves that we have to offer.
It’s 3 p.m. and the kiss on my cheek fades as Ken leaves for work, a seemingly simple gesture performed by countless spouses on an ordinary day.
The Yankees have come to us this time; a three-game stint in Baltimore during a few chilly spring days after their April 26 visit to the White House less than an hour south of Camden Yards.
We pretend for three days, Ken and I, that he has nothing more than a 30-minute commute into the city, leaving in the afternoon and returning after the household is snoring, once again planting a soft kiss on my cheek as I doze close to midnight.
“Did they win?” I mumble as I turn on my side, feeling disappointment that the Orioles managed to find a burst of energy to beat the Yankees in spite of Baltimore’s atrocious start to the season.
But we don’t get used to it – this ritual of the 3 p.m. kiss and commute. It’s just a tease and we know it. And not that Ken wishes to work for another team – he does not – what could possibly compare to the New York Yankees experience?
So just for three days we pretend that he doesn’t have to pack a bag, go on the road, hop a plane, hail a cab, commute by train, and exist as a dad and a husband through cell phones, texts and emails.
Yes, just for three glorious days, the Yankees come to him.
Everything in New York City seems to be done on a grander scale. The newspapers said an estimated two million people lined the streets to celebrate the Yankees’ World Series win. Two million!
We were just two people watching it on TV at home in Maryland, Ken and I.
“I enjoyed watching the city’s reaction to winning the championship,” said Ken, “because they haven’t had one in nine years. I also liked hearing what the players had to say, like CC Sabathia’s comment, ‘There’s nothing like winning in New York!'”
Ken is delighted for the players able to experience such a conquest in their first year with the Yankees, such as Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and A.J. Burnett.
No doubt watching the festivities elicited his own happy memories as a Baltimore Oriole during a victorious time in 1983 after the Birds had clinched the World Series (also upsetting the Phillies). Ken sat not on a float in Baltimore’s World Series parade but on the back of a convertible Oldsmobile with his family.
On a much smaller scale than the parade in New York, Ken remembers, “People got very close to the convertibles carrying the players. They were able to touch us – that wouldn’t happen nowadays. My two young boys were in the car. Justin [then age 4] didn’t like it. He said the fans were too close – it made him uncomfortable.”
In the throng of that boisterous scenario on “Oriole Boulevard” near Fayette Street, there was only one place for me to go for a better view – up.
My sister-in-law Susan and I braved the crowd in our Orioles caps and corporate clothes to watch the convoy (I’m on the right). Making sure no one could see under our skirts, we somehow climbed up onto a skinny piece of a wall and daringly hung on to a fence to afford us clearer glimpses of the titillating celebration over the hairy heads of the other million fans (or so it felt – I do not know the number).
Between us we held hand-to-hand with a small stuffed Oriole mascot while the ballplayers and their families shook hands, accepted pats on the backs, and grinned ear-to-ear in the hype of an overwhelming reception from the deafening massive crowd.
I was an average Orioles fan like the rest of the screaming people showing pride for our home team. Had someone told me that October day that one Mr. Ken Singleton passing by to the shouts of “Singy!” and “C’mon Ken hit it in the bullpen!” would one day be my husband, I would have laughed at the notion and probably fallen off the wall.
“It was fun,” said Ken, who remembers that people were hanging off street poles and out of office windows. At age 36 and ready to wrap up a long and productive baseball career, it had taken him 13 seasons before he had the opportunity to play on a World Championship team.
“Winning the Series was such a feeling of accomplishment,” he said. “For that particular season no team played better than us. We went down in history for champions of that year.”
Gleefully, the Orioles had returned to Memorial Stadium on 33rd Street by bus from Philly. Ken remembers that “the fans had been waiting for us – they were all over the place! In the parking lot and everywhere, in spite of it being close to midnight. There were so many people cheering us on, it was hard to drive through the streets.”
Since then, the Orioles have hosted several World Series Reunions at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, holding onto that precious era. Ken and many of his former teammates have been invited back to reminisce.
“I’m sure Cal Ripken thought he would be on many more championships teams,” said Ken. Cal was then in his second season as an Oriole. “But it never happened again. It’s been 26 years.”
Hubby wears his World Series ring proudly and often. “Winning was the culmination of a good year,” he said.
People ask often how Ken and I met, so I may as well tell the story here, too. How Mr. and Mrs. Singy ended up in the same life is accredited to my 9-to-5 corporate days as a communications officer for a bank where I was editor of publications.
After Ken retired as a player, he had signed on with the bank as a spokesman for a product called “The Lineup,” which tied in neatly with a baseball theme. He made appearances at bank branches, taped a TV commercial with the late Clara Peller of “Where’s the beef?” fame, and allowed our department to interview him for a 1985 issue of RECAP, the bank’s newspaper (I still have it).
I remember being somewhat nervous – more excited actually – to meet a real live Baltimore Oriole the morning he stepped into my small lamp-lit office in downtown Baltimore. Yet he quickly placed me at ease with his congeniality and easy smile.
Ken had moved on to his second career, broadcasting games for TSN (The Sports Network) in Canada, which produced games for the Montreal Expos and the Toronto Blue Jays, among others; he also anchored sports on the weekends for a Baltimore TV station.
“I enjoy it,” he had said about being behind a microphone instead of behind home plate. “I’m comfortable since I’m talking about something I’ve been doing my whole life.”
On the topic of retiring from baseball, Ken explained it like this, “There are different stages to an athlete’s career. When you make it to the Majors, you make it on talent alone. You have the ability, but the talent and experience aren’t mixed together. The longer you stay, the more the experience blends with the talent. In my case I was a good player, but I wasn’t overly talented. As you get older, the talent decreases, then it gets to the point when the talent is almost gone and you rely solely on experience – which is not good enough. That’s the point I reached.”
The interview goes on for a long page after that (and how I wish I could edit my young green writing) with questions such as “What career would you have pursued if not baseball? (teaching) … “Would you like to manage?” (no) … “Who was your idol in baseball?” (Willie Mays) and other topics.
Our department then began to produce news videos for the branches and satellite offices, and we had invited Ken to host them; I was chosen as co-host (and I still have the videos, too, but I swear I’m not a packrat).
While sitting around waiting for the crew to set up shots, lighting, sound, and make script changes, Ken and I chatted off-camera, and a friendship began. Occasionally he would phone me at work for a chat, or we would meet downtown for a meal, still as friends. I had a stuffy bow-tied banker boyfriend at the time; and neither of us looked at the friendship as anything more.
After resigning from the bank in 1989, I freelanced as a communications/events specialist and was hired to help plan a treasure hunt fundraiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The event called for local celebrities to present clues to the contestants, posted around various departments of Saks Fifth Avenue in Baltimore where the event was staged.
I had invited Ken to participate, and because my frugal boyfriend chose not to attend, Ken and I went together. There was a magical kiss on the escalator at the end of the black-tie evening, eventually I broke up with the banker and hung out with Ken more.
The next summer while renting a house with a roommate, the landlord decided to sell it. We approached our friend Ken with the idea to housesit for him while he worked on the road for Expos radio. He agreed, and we moved in to what was supposed to be a temporary situation. At the end of the baseball season the roommate left, I stayed, and became Mrs. Singy the following October ’91.
And they lived baseball ever after …
I cannot envision the magnitude of fan mail and requests for autograph and auction items which must pour in for the extremely popular baseball players such as Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera – not only to the Yankees office, but to the players themselves.
Comparatively, Ken probably receives a hundredth of that as a former Major Leaguer, however, the requests do appear fast and furious. Not a week goes by that an auction item isn’t solicited by a group or individual via e-mail, letter, phone, or verbally. And not a day passes that our Maryland mailbox doesn’t contain fan letters mixed in with the junk mail. At least 3-5 envelopes arrive every day from all around the country requesting Ken’s autograph – and this after all these years – he retired from the field in 1984.
We’ve given away autographed baseballs, bats, cleats, duffel bags, programs, scorebooks, baseball cards, postcards, lithographs, 8x10s, a stadium seat, posters, hats, personal photographs, and golf shirts … you name it, Ken has signed it and I’ve mailed it or dropped it off. We’ve doled out these donations to schools, nonprofit organizations, dances, bull roasts, libraries, golf tournaments, little leagues, churches, baseball programs, and friends and neighbors … for this cause, that cause, the best cause, the littlest cause, and for no cause at all.
Honestly, we’re running out of items for Ken to sign. It’s not like we stockpile an inventory of bats and balls in a sporting goods warehouse attached to our house. The only thing we keep on hand because they’re requested so often is 8×10 autographs of Ken in action in Orioles uniform. We still have a few old pieces of O’s memorabilia like programs and posters in the basement, but nothing to draw big money in a silent auction.
As the unofficial Ken Singleton secretary, at times I’ve had to get a bit creative when promising items to people. I’ve created photo albums from our personal stash, such as our 2007 trek up to Cooperstown for Cal Ripken Jr’s Hall of Fame induction. I snapped close-ups of Willie Mays, Yogi Berra, Brooks Robinson, and a bunch of other Hall of Famers. Add a little caption-writing and Ken’s autograph, and ta-da … the baseball decorated photo albums thrilled several bidders as they wrote checks at fundraisers.
Sometimes I stick under Ken’s nose used scorebooks to autograph which I extract from the pile in his home office and send them as auction items. They’re filled with Ken’s left-handed slant as he diligently keeps score during Yankees games. These have proved to be well-liked; we witnessed one earn $400 at a fundraiser.
And when I can’t locate any more big ticket items around the house, I give away Ken himself! When we belonged to a local golf course, I would create an attractive certificate on the computer for A Round of Golf and Lunch with Ken Singleton. These go over well also, as Ken remains a popular Baltimore sports celebrity.
So when the question is lobbed my way – “Does Ken have a baseball he could sign?” I suggest to autograph seekers if they supply the ball I’ll gladly get him to sign it. For the nonprofit organizations, I do my best to find an item to donate.
Notice I get the question rather than Ken; usually people are too chicken to approach him. Just like in public. A fan may spot Ken, but s/he approaches me instead, “Do you think your husband would autograph this?” I redirect the anxious person in hubby’s direction, “Ask him,” I say. “He’ll do it, and he doesn’t bite.”
Not to be discourteous, but I get no agent fee (wink), and if someone wants Ken’s autograph badly enough, I figure they should be bold enough to ask him for one.
But they better find a piece of paper or something, because sorry fans, the Singletons are fresh out of autograph items.
… 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.
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 …
At a Yankees/Orioles baseball game, a small group of blind fans filed into the row in front of us.
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.
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.
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.