Utter 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.
The 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.
After 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.
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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
When people and organizations ask Ken for an autographed baseball, I politely inform them that we don’t currently own a warehouse of sporting equipment (see “The Singletons are fresh out of autograph items“) yet if they provide a ball, Ken will be happy to sign it.
With certain situations that tug at my heartstrings, however, I’m a little more lenient, so once in a while I scurry around the house in search of a blank baseball to stick under Ken’s nose to sign.
There aren’t many – blank ones, that is. On the last go-round, I stopped upstairs in Ken’s office at a red felt, almost-Santa-like bag filled with over 40 autographed baseballs. One of these days I should buy him a shelf or display case because the baseballs – or rather what’s on them – are fairly impressive even to my amateur eyes.
I wish some of these guys had had better handwriting for me to report what names are on the balls! Ken, without a doubt, could sit here and relay a zillion stories behind each in his collection.
Alas, this is what I see:
? Rawlings official ball of the 1983 World Series signed “To Matthew, Good Luck, Pete Rose.” Unfortunately, our son Matthew, in a creative mood as a kid, tried to decorate the ball further using small rubber stamps so Pete’s scribble has a little company.
? On another ball, Ken’s handwriting reads: “RBI #100 and 101, 8/30/79 vs. Twins in Baltimore”
? “1,000 Major League Hit, pitcher Jim Slaton, Milwaukee vs. Baltimore 7/25/77”
? “First A.L. Grand Slam 5/22/76, 8-4 win over Tigers”
? “1st American League homerun, donated by Jim Perry 4/27/75”
? “Homerun off Juan Marichal 6/13/71”
? “Homerun #23, R.B.I. #100, 9/23/73”
? “RBI #1000 & 1001, homerun Chicago, 8/11/83”
? “9th Consecutive Hit, a club record, 4/28/81”
? “Career Homerun #200, 4/26/81”
? “Hit #1,500 at Baltimore vs. Chicago, double, 1st inning, 8/6/80”
? “American & National 1979 Japan Major League Series”
? “N.Y. METS” with a ball full of faded autographs
? official league ball with Montreal Expos logo and various signatures
? “To Matthew & Justin, Al Bumbry, Padres #4, 1985” (Al is still one of Ken’s good friends; he lives in Baltimore, too)
? “50th All-Star Game” ball
? official ball of 1981 All-Star Game with various signatures
? baseball stamped with “Liga de Baseball Profesional de Puerto Rico”
? many other autographs too numerous to list, however, legible names include Frank Robinson, Earl Weaver, Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken, Jim Palmer and many others
One lone autographed ball not in the red bag with the others, sits amid Ken’s papers and baseball books on his desk. It has one signature – Hank Aaron.
If 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.