Results tagged ‘ Cal Ripken Jr. ’

Lifetime Stadium Pass

lifetimepass_310.jpgThere’s a metal gold and red lifetime stadium pass in our kitchen junk drawer about the size of a credit card. It reads: “American/National Major Leagues of Professional Baseball present this LIFETIME PASS to KENNETH SINGLETON AND ONE in appreciation of long and meritorious service.” It’s signed by then American League president Lee MacPhail Jr. and then National League president Charles S. Feeney (leagues no longer have presidents, according to Ken).

The pass is scratched up, bent, and very tarnished – after all, it’s old. Ken retired from the field 25 years ago. He saw the pass sitting on my desk in my office as I’m writing.

“I was looking for that,” he said.

“You were?” I laughed. “Why? When would you ever need this?”

Hard to imagine stadium personnel would require Ken to show his permanent metal pass to get into a Major League ballpark, nor can I imagine him attending as a fan in the first place to watch a game. (Why should he when he can view sports on his High Def TV from a choice of nine brown La-Z-Boy recliners in our theater room?)

Besides in the stands at Oriole Park at Camden Yards during Cal Ripken’s 2,131st consecutive game in 1995, where Ken had been invited to participate in a postgame ceremony, I’ve only seen him sitting in press boxes (not counting the bleachers at our three sons’ Little League and Minor League games).

Wouldn’t it be comical to see the look on a front gate attendant’s face when we tried to push through the turnstile using Ken’s metal lifetime pass?

“What IS this antiquated thing?” I’d imagine s/he would ask us. “Hold on, I better get my supervisor.”

My guess is that no stadium staff member has ever laid eyes before on a Major League Lifetime Pass.

“I think once you play 10 years, you get one,” said Ken. He cracks me up – he thinks he might use it “years from now.”

Guess I’ll be the “AND ONE” he takes along.

Before there was Ken

Clean confessions of a baseball-fan-turned-baseball-wife

As Ken and I celebrate our 18th year of marriage on October 11, I can’t help but remember once upon a baseball time in my pre-Ken Singleton days ….

? Once I made myself slurp down raw oysters – which I loathe – with Brooks Robinson at a museum fundraiser in Baltimore when I worked for a video production company. This was after I had interviewed him for his reaction about the fundraising party. I still hate raw oysters.

? Once I was a common fan in the upper deck of Memorial Stadium screaming along with the other 52,000 beer-filled fans … “C’mon Ken! Hit it in the bullpen!

? Once a friend, Bob, pretended he was Oriole Rich Dauer as we exited Memorial Stadium long after most fans had left. Those still waiting outside for players’ autographs surrounded him after another friend with our group had shouted, “Hey, it’s Rich Dauer!” Stupidly, Bob signed their programs and balls; to this day I cringe thinking how they believed his authenticity (or stupidity?) Please know I would never fake Ken’s signature on an autograph item (although I can script it perfectly).

? Once my friend dated the late Todd Cruz when he played for the Orioles. I was in awe (okay, jealous) of the fact that she had attracted a Major Leaguer.

? Once in my early 20s at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, a friend and I (in “happy” state), slid from the tippy-top to the very bottom of a long, smooth metal partition between the escalators. I sported the largest, deepest purplish bruise ever (top of left hip to outside of left knee) as my side thumped extremely hard against the bottom base. It’s a good thing I couldn’t feel much after that baseball game (and that I didn’t yet know Ken to have to explain the bruise!).

? Once during my lunch hour when I worked for a bank in downtown Baltimore, I stood in a long line to meet and greet Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken Jr. I didn’t want autographs, though; instead I asked each for a kiss. (And nowadays do not prefer when female autograph hounds manhandle my husband.)

? Once I chatted with Ripken Jr. at a nightclub called Christopher’s when he first played for the Orioles – before I knew him. Poor Cal now can’t step foot outside of his home without being barraged by fans.

? Once in 1985 when I worked in Employee Communications at Maryland National Bank, I interviewed Ken Singleton for our company newspaper when he played for the Orioles. I still have that edition of the paper, and the rest is history …

Fanatic fans … nice or obnoxious?

ripken_275_092809.jpg(Previously published in The Baltimore Examiner)
You spot him walking down the street like the average Joe, except his name is Cal, as in Cal Ripken Jr. You can’t believe your good fortune in spotting a sports celebrity, or your chump luck that you’re without a baseball. You nudge your kid, “See who’s over there?” as you frantically search for a scrap of paper. You must act fast or he’ll get away.

But how to grab Cal’s attention? You want that autograph! Should you touch his arm? Call his name? Offer a handshake? A tongue-tied oaf with four thumbs stands in your place, confidence transformed, unable to contain his exhilaration in the same breathing space as a Hall of Famer.

Ripken said plenty of fans fumble their words out of nervousness. It amuses him when he hears, “You’re my biggest fan,” when someone means the opposite. Once he calms them with his gentle demeanor, they usually express themselves more clearly.

What’s the best way to approach a player? Most people react without thinking, said Sandy Unitas, wife of the late Johnny U.

“We’d be sitting there [in a restaurant] and someone would obviously recognize him,” said Unitas, “Then right when they served John his food, a fan would decide to approach him.”

Her tip to the knack of celebrity-approaching is to consider the situation. Where he is? How is he engaged?

“Wait until an approachable time,” she said, “don’t just run up and start talking, ‘Oh my, he’s Johnny Unitas!’ and interrupt what’s going on. Be considerate of the people he’s with.”

Unitas said her husband became a tad annoyed when a fan approached him during their kids’ sporting events. “He was there as a father,” she said, “not as a celebrity. He didn’t like anyone talking to him while he was watching a game, including me!”

Fans may claim the attention comes with the territory, yet any territory has its boundaries. And fans sometimes can cross the line … such as when Ken Singleton was asked for an autograph by a hospital staff member while his wife was in labor.

Living close to Los Angeles, Janice Murray, wife of former Oriole Eddie, said so many stars and athletes are in sight, most people don’t give them the time of day. “It’s great out here. No one bothers him. He can even go to get groceries.”

Yet one “how not to approach” incident stands out in her memory. She and Eddie were leaving a game, and “a woman wanted Eddie’s photo,” said Murray. “She shooed me out of the way and said, ‘Oh no, not you, honey.’ That was kind of rude. There was a different way to do that. Maybe if that lady had been nicer, I would have offered to take the picture.”

Murray has witnessed women asking her husband to sign their T-shirts, maybe a tad too close to their you-know-whats.

There are many good stories, too. “The kids are polite,” she said, mimicking, ‘Mr. Murray? Could I have your autograph, please?’ That’s no problem. Adults are the ones.”

Her advice is to assess the situation, take into account people they’re with and what they’re going through (maybe rushing through an airport). Is it the appropriate time to interrupt them?

Brooks Robinson said 99 percent of the people he encounters are “wonderful” and respect his privacy. “I’ve always enjoyed people. I accept it; it’s part of the deal.” His wife Connie has patience with fans as well, he said.

Most are timid in approaching the third-base golden glove, yet he admitted an admirer occasionally may cross the line. “Sitting on the airplane, some guy wanted to bend my ear between Baltimore and Los Angeles … he wanted to talk and talk and talk and I couldn’t get rid of him. Connie was with me.”

Then there’s the restaurant fan who talks for 20 minutes while the Robinsons are eating. “That’s crossing the line,” he said. “But I’ve been around for so long, I can spot someone who wants an autograph. Some look at me and say, ‘You’re Johnny Unitas!'”
 
He shared Unitas’ story about a guy in a bar who knew Unitas was an athlete, but was incorrect with the name. “You’re Brooks Robinson,” he insisted repeatedly. Unitas had to pull out his billfold to prove otherwise.
 

One name: Willie Mays

MrsSingy@suzannesingleton.com
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.”
 
williemays_350.jpgIn 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.”

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. 

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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