Results tagged ‘ Ken Singleton ’

Life needs diversions

You know that reflective, somber mood that overtakes us after attending a funeral? I’m in that today.

I don’t much prefer to attend funerals – who does? Yet I do like to write when my mind is swirling in such a pensive frame of mind. This afternoon’s office plan was to return from the internment Mass of my former coworker – “Marvelous Melba” I called her – and write a Mrs. Singy column about baseball clothing.

But the topic of baseball in any shape or form on a gloomy cloudy funeral day seemed totally inconsequential. Who cares about a Yankees anything when we feel sad? Can’t take that to heaven.

In many conversations with Ken, he explains that sports is a release … a diversion … pure entertainment. Maybe that’s why we need activities like watching baseball – so we don’t walk around like post-funeral zombies 24/7, contemplating the woes of the world.

Maybe without those championship lacrosse games to focus on, Sharon and Lexie Love – the family of the University of Virginia lacrosse player, Yeardley Love, who was murdered by a former boyfriend – wouldn’t have been able to get out of bed any morning after May 3 when the horrific and incomprehensible news was delivered to them.

Maybe without the release of the cheering and the cohesiveness of UVA fans surrounding them in the stands, they would be instead lying on the floor at home kicking and screaming, totally inconsolable and heartbroken. Maybe without the thrill of watching Yeardley’s teammates “win it all for Love” … those first few emotionally raw weeks would have been absolutely and completely unbearable -not that they weren’t.

But Sharon and Lexie somehow got dressed and put one foot in front of the other to go watch a sport they heartily supported. In the stands at Klockner Stadium in Charlottesville, Va. at the start of the NCAA Tournament, they watched Yeardley’s lacrosse team win that day. They stood up and clapped, cheered, hollered, smiled and yes – sobbed – their way through the game because the sport had held great significance for their athletic daughter and sister.

Maybe for some of you, Yankees baseball has helped to get you through … a divorce, a job loss, God forbid a family tragedy, even just a bad day. Maybe watching a game or talking baseball helps you to take your mind off of a dilemma.

Yes, life needs diversions like sports. We need petty day-to-day activities to balance the heavy. We need distractions so we are able to slip out of somber moods and once again think happy thoughts.

Short commute

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.

Stadium noise is par for the course

On an off day in Spring Training, Ken took time to enjoy one of his favorite pleasures – to watch professional golf at a PGA Tournament in Palm Harbor, Fla., about 30 minutes from Steinbrenner Field.

If you have ever attended a pro golf tournament, you’re familiar with how quiet is the atmosphere – a courtesy extended by fans so golfers can focus and eventually sink miniature white balls into tiny cups in as few strokes as possible.

What amazes Ken is the difference between the hushed atmosphere of a golf tournament versus the deafening one of a baseball stadium.

“Quiet applause is accepted after a shot,” said Ken. “Very few fans shout comments, and if they do, it’s mostly encouraging. In baseball stadiums, some things that fans yell are not so encouraging and can include disparaging comments about your family members.”

In Minnesota on Mother’s Day some years back, Oriole Ken was in the on-deck circle warming up when a Twins fan shouted, “It’s Mother’s Day and even your mother doesn’t love you!” Ken went up to bat, hit a home run, and on his way back to the dugout, addressed the guy, “Now even your mother loves me.” That elicited a hearty laugh from the fan’s friends.

What people do not realize, Ken said, is that players use the discourteous comments as incentive to play well against the opposing team. “When you’re on the road and fans say bad things, you really want to do something to shut them up. Then they might learn to leave you alone.”

Ticket takers at pro golf tournaments take more than your entrance fee at the gate – they confiscate all cell phones, too. This is so phones do not ring during play and so people aren’t tempted to chat and make business calls.

So when it was time for Ken to receive a scheduled phone interview from a Montreal radio station, he was forced to step outside the gates where he could talk Yankees in a comfortable tone of voice without disturbing the quiet on the links (first having to retrieve his cell phone from the front gate staff).

Could you imagine if a Yankee Stadium PA announcer whispered, “Shhh, all quiet please … Derek Jeter’s up to bat.” Or if a vendor at a golf tournament screamed, “Get your beer here!”

The hype and rowdiness of attending a baseball game is half the fun – no – make that all the fun. And who cares if anyone’s yakking on a cell phone? We can’t hear them anyway over the roar of Yankees fans.

Two different sports, two different atmospheres. The notion supposedly, is that golfers would not be able to concentrate if fans were able to scream at will.

If a pro makes a good putt to take the lead in a tournament, then people get excited. But only after the fact. While a putter is in pendulum motion, no one’s clapping and shouting “C’mon! Sink the putt!”

I asked Ken what’s the difference with baseball and why doesn’t the noise bother Major Leaguers?

“You just have to concentrate and put all the sounds behind you,” he said. “You can hear the crowd but it’s almost like a buzz in the background because you’re so focused. Even years later, I can remember specific pitches, sequences, what it felt like to hit a baseball and how I swung … all because my concentration was so keen. Not to mention that if you don’t concentrate, you can get hurt while batting or playing the field.”

While comments from fans and the overall racket were challenging to a player, Ken said the noise and excitement is part of the game. “It’s easy to get pumped up in front of 50,000 excited fans.”

Quiet please. Ken is going to go hit golf balls now.

Denmark fan sends reindeer meat

Move over Joyce’s Coconut Macaroons, the Singletons have received a new contender for the most unique item included in Ken’s fan mail — three cans of reindeer and elk meat from Horsholm, Denmark.

meat300.jpgFormer New Yorker Larry Landman included a neatly-typed letter pointing out that during the playoffs last season, Ken had thanked fans on the East Coast for staying up late to watch the Yanks play on the West Coast, but had inadvertently omitted the fans outside of Copenhagen who were watching the next day via the Internet.

“We did not stay up late, that’s true,” wrote Larry, “but we were rooting for the Yankees as strongly as anyone. We thank you and your fellow broadcasters on TV and radio for giving us a little taste of home while we live abroad. Given the beauty — the absolute beauty — of condensed [Internet] games, we have seen more Yankees games the last few years than while growing up and living in New York.”

Ken was awed as he studied the letter and three cans sitting on the kitchen island. “I didn’t know people in Europe were watching!”

We were all too curious to see what reindeer meat looked like, so our 17-year-old son bee-lined for the can opener. But who would be brave enough to taste it?

Six-foot-three teenage boys eat anything, so no surprise that Dante volunteered. And since I had tasted reindeer sausage once on a cruise through Alaska — and lived to tell about it — I fished two forks out of the utensil drawer.

“Is it cooked?” I asked, staring at the blob of raw-looking red meat peeking from under the jagged lid. “Read the label.”

The majority was written in Danish except for the ingredients — and we had already used our imagination for that. We each stabbed a tiny forkful.

“It tastes like um … um … um,” said Dante.

“Chicken?” I joked.

“No, I can’t put my finger on it,” he said, “but I’m not crazy about the aftertaste.”

Ken put no fingers or taste on any of the reindeer meat. “I’ll give you 24 hours,” he laughed. “If nothing happens to you, I’ll taste it.”

As a group of friends were scheduled to come to our home that Friday evening, Ken had a bit more fun with the topic. “Make an hors d’oeuvre out of it,” he suggested. “Think our friends would know?”

Oh dear Larry Landman, we apologize for the jokes, but please understand that reindeer meat is a new concept for the Singletons. We eat seafood in Maryland!

All joshing aside, we were touched by Larry’s gift and laminated letter, especially the last sentence, a request that Ken enjoy the delicacy during Spring Training with fellow broadcasters: “Open a bottle of red wine and say a toast in memory of Bobby Murcer, and particularly Phil Rizzuto, whose admonition that one should not try to hit a home run, just a single, applies far, far beyond baseball.”

A Maryland crab feast in California

On the night before Eddie Murray’s wedding
Picking Maryland steamed crabs is a messy endeavor. You either know how to do it or you don’t. So only veteran crab eaters would think it odd wearing surgical gloves while eating crabs. In California no less. Yet this is what a small group of friends did on the night before Janice & Eddie Murray’s wedding at the condo of Brady Anderson and Rene Gonzales, both former Orioles.

Imurraywedding_250.jpg had flown out to California with my friend Diane Hock to attend the Murray wedding, and she had promised steamed crabs to Brady, Rene and friends. After carting them to the airport in a big box packed with dry ice, Diane successfully delivered the seafood securely to the dining room table in Huntington Beach where the Californians gobbled garishly with nary a spec of Old Bay on anyone’s fingers. When folks began to snap on white surgical gloves to operate on the crustaceans, I almost spit out a mouthful of Coors Light. Indeed, a funny sight to behold.

Yet not as funny as the little trick played on me the next day at the wedding. Some guy convinced me to ask a sturdy man at the next table for an autograph, claiming it was Barry Bonds. So I did.

“I’m not Barry Bonds,” the guy answered.

Oh. Oops.

“Very sorry to have bothered you,” I said red-faced with a squint in the trickster’s direction. “Excuse me, I need to go visit someone who gave me the wrong information.”

I’ve never repeated that mistake. At least I knew what Eddie looked like.

murraywedding_350.jpgThe Murray wedding was a splendid event. I remember lots of balloons decorating the hall and lots of Eddie’s siblings (he has 11). Somewhere on a VHS tape in the Murray house is a long silly rhyming verse, which a small group of us had concocted as our congratulatory message for the new bride and groom. High on wine and the ambiance of marital bliss, we giggled hysterically during its’ performance. Seventeen years later, I am confident in saying that it was probably rather dumb. Well, we had amused ourselves in the creative process at least.

“I absolutely remember the video you guys made,” said Janice, “and I thought it was great … a window into Eddie’s friends I would come to inherit.”

Post reception, we had been invited back to the Murrays for a party in Santa Clarita. This stands as the single most gigantic house I have ever stepped into and probably ever will – a Swiss Chalet style house that could have been featured in a celebrity homes’ magazine: a ridiculous amount of bathrooms (11 – did he build one for each sibling?) and bedrooms (9), a wine cellar, a bridal suite, nine-car garage, an elevator, a cave room, an adorable girl’s room with a ladder leading up to a loft, a to-die-for kitchen that went on forever, and a long rec room with Eddie’s collection of baseball hats and a billiards table.

Even the glass and wood design of the front door was beautiful! The square footage went on for miles, but sadly my memory does not, or I could describe it in greater detail. In a 35′ deep lake out front – stocked with large fish – a beautiful swan paddled around softly (or did I dream it?) and peacocks wandered the grounds.

Ken and I had visited the Murrays’ home one other time, after a Dodgers-Expos game. We followed them home for a visit, and upon leaving, shook our heads in awe all the way back to Baltimore. The Murrays have since moved from that gorgeous home, yet still reside in California. We wish we could see them more than we do, which is not often.

Ken and Eddie have bumped into each other over the years at various stadiums, and sometimes the Murrays will fly back east periodically to attend an Orioles-related functions – and yes, to eat Maryland steamed crabs.

Please, no more chocolate cake!

Here’s an oft-asked question: “What does Ken do in the offseason?” My common silly answer: “He bakes cakes.”

Someone tell me how I’m supposed to shed these extra holiday pounds with all this cake around the house?

Daughter brings home straight A’s? Ken bakes a celebratory cake. Son receives an acceptance letter from college of his choice? Cake. TGIF? Cake

And what do you know … there’s actually a National Chocolate Cake Day and it’s celebrated annually on January 27th in the U.S. – a day for those who love chocolate cake and other chocolately items. A perfect reason for Ken to pull out the mixer and spatula.

Ken always finds a reason to celebrate with cake – frosting them with two cans of icing, mind you, so it’s double-chocolately and double- thick. The man is one cake-eating machine.

I am forced to hold my nose to escape the tempting aroma of a cake baking in the oven for 45 minutes and I don’t want to smell the sweet icing during his careful application, lest I repeatedly dip an index finger into the gooey, yummy mess. Because doesn’t everyone think the icing on the cake is the best part? (Actually, Ken leaves most of his icing on the plate. Therefore, his double-frosting act perplexes me.)

Hurry up and get here, baseball season, so Ken can return to announcing and the oven is turned off. Not only because he needs to earn more to stock the pantry with Pillsbury cake mixes, but also because he will be immersed in his favorite sport – the one he’s forced to live without through the cold Maryland winter as the oven warms our kitchen.

Then he can have his cake and eat it, too.

Christmas tree lighting in the Bronx

Ken and I had hopped up to Manhattan for the day on Saturday and after a yummy Italian lunch at Lattanzi on W. 46th St., we strolled to Rockefeller Center to see the world-famous Christmas tree.

What? Not decorated yet? (I’m from Baltimore, what do I know.) Instead the enormous tree was hidden behind sky-high scaffolding and word on the street was that it would light up on the day after Thanksgiving … but hello New Yorkers! Those of you who told us incorrectly will be standing there waiting for five days — the ceremony is scheduled for Dec. 2.

It was perfect, then, that Ken had been invited to the annual tree lighting ceremony at The New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, which was “a huge success,” said Robert Heinisch, Vice President for Site Operations. “It was a thrilling event for the [approximate] 1,000 people that were present to witness the annual lighting of our trees.”

treelighting_300.jpgCollaboratively lighting the tree at the NY Botanical Garden Saturday was (l to r) Ken Singleton, Assemblyman Carle Heastie, Senator Jeff Klein, Senator Jose Serrano Jr. and Congressman Jose Serrano.

Garden staff member Gayle Schmidt, Manager of Public Education, coordinated the show. After a few words from Assemblyman Heastie and Senator Klein (who also lit the menorah), Ken had the podium and was greeted enthusiastically by many Yankees fans on the promenade, some who are members of the Botanical Garden and had turned out on Members Day & Community Holiday Open House to tour the 18th Annual Holiday Train Show.

Mr. Heinisch treated us as well to an exploration of the model train garden in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory with Yankees staff members Gina Chindemi, Senior Manager of  Non-Baseball Events, and Tony Morante, Director of Stadium Tours and Team Historian. (Also on hand outside at the tree lighting was Robert Brown, Yankees Vice President and CFO, and Michael Margolis, Media Relations Manager.)

I sound like a commercial here, but if you have a chance between now and Jan. 10, skip over to the Bronx and see that illuminated lush train garden. Take the kids. Take the grandparents. It’s beautiful! Very well done. Who needs Rockefeller Center?

ken_300_112309.jpgInside a Victorian-style glasshouse, replicas of New York’s historic landmark buildings, including Yankee Stadium, were designed using all natural and plant materials such as grape leaves and orange peels. This year designer Paul Busse added Penn Station and the Brooks Brothers flagship store to the annual favorite displays such as St. Patrick’s Cathedral and some of New York’s most treasured Hudson River mansions. Trains of all shapes and sizes — even a ladybug train — wind their way through the buildings and foliage.

We loved it. What a splendid way to infuse the beginning magic of the holiday season into our hearts. As Senator Klein said in his brief speech before assisting Ken and the others with the lighting of the trees, “If you don’t believe in miracles, you’re not a realist.”

For more details on the train garden and other features of the beautiful NY Botanical Garden, visit them online.

That Perfect Spring

Bruce Fabricant, a Somers, N.Y. resident pens a book about what it was like to grow up and play baseball in Mount Vernon during the 1950′s

perfectspring_250.jpgKen often receives baseball-related books through the mail from publishers and individuals who hope he might plug the titles on-air.

“But I’m not a book critic,” he says, “I’m there to do the games.” And so he’s made it a policy not to mention any of the books (nor would he have time anyhow to scan them and the accompanying promo materials).

Because we cannot keep everything that makes its way into our house, when the baseball books pile up, I’ll make a basket of them and donate it to whoever was the last to ask us for a silent auction item.

I’m the paper pusher around the house – Ken, the kids and I create piles of it from the mail and two schools, and I’m the one who sorts and processes everything. (I’m liking the e-bill scene lately; sure cuts down on paperwork.) So while cleaning off the dresser, I picked up a slim book titled “That Perfect Spring” by Bruce Fabricant.

I’m not a book critic either, nor can I give Mr. Fabricant an on-air plug for his book since I’m not a TV announcer, but I can do so here.

The author is a Mount Vernon, N.Y. native – where Ken and his younger brother Fred grew up – which is almost certainly what prompted Mr. Fabricant to mail a copy of the book to Ken. Maybe he wasn’t soliciting a free TV promo; maybe he just wanted to share a nice baseball story, or in this case, stories of 15 men, then-boys, eager to reminisce “warm, vivid memories of playing Little League and high school baseball and of chasing a dream. Fifty years later, that championship season isn’t about each individual; it’s about the team, the friendships, and the glory of realizing that dream.”

Isn’t that nice? I like the concept.

Mr. Fabricant wrote that he had found himself “wondering where my teammates were and how life has treated them” since the boys had won the 1959 Westchester Interscholastic Athletic Association baseball championship for A.B. Davis High School. Then he went and found those connected to the team who were still living, listened to their stories, and learned much more about them than he knew before … “their hopes, triumphs and failures in a game learned at the hands of their fathers, brothers and even mothers.”

One of the players, Neil Arena, even told how his cobbler father repaired Lou Gehrig’s and Frank Crosetti’s shoes, Yankees players from the 1920s-1940s. In the Mount Vernon Pony League, John Fortier once threw the ball around with Ralph Branca when Branca played for the Dodgers.

“There aren’t many youngsters who get a chance to pitch to a Major League player,” wrote Mr. Fortier. “I did. It was a nice experience. I’ll never forget it.”

Branca had also attended A.B. Davis and lived in Mount Vernon in the same house as the Singletons before they bought it.

“Mount Vernon was a good place to grow up,” wrote Nick Giordano about the community where playing baseball was not just a sport but also a way of life. “I couldn’t ask for a better place what with all those ball fields around me.”

The book also looks at forgotten places such as the annual high school band parade down Fourth Avenue … Ferrara’s Bakery on Sidney Avenue that made the best Italian bread this side of Italy … the bargains at the Five & Dime stores … a kid’s first baseball glove from Tom Godfrey’s … and Saturday afternoons at the Biltmore Theatre.

Mr. Fabricant’s glove was bought in a corner toy store near the Mount Vernon train station. It didn’t even have a pocket, it was just a flat piece of leather.

“The tattered and re-stitched glove remains one of my most prized possessions,” he said.

And now his book “That Perfect Spring,” which forever will hold Mr. Fabricant’s boyhood baseball memories inside the pages, is surely among those possessions as well.

“That Perfect Spring” is available for $14.49 on Lulu.com, Amazon.com or through Barnes and Noble.

Hanging on a fence watching the parade pass by

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.

oriolesparade_350.jpgNo 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.

oriolesparade_250.jpgMy 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.

Wah! I wanna be in New York!

I don’t want to live in Baltimore this week. I want to wake up in the city that never sleeps … even though my beauty sleep has been compromised trying to squeeze in these Yankees games.

We’re asked all the time about why we live here in Maryland if Ken announces for the Yankees. If someone asked me that question this week, I’d say, “How I wish we did live in New York!”

It’s been tortuous for the kids and me unable to physically attend the thrilling playoffs and World Series games – bummer. But alas, school dictates our schedule whether we’re a baseball family or not, so we’re forced to stay home. (Who invented school anyhow?)

It’s been worse for the kids, ages 13 and 17, because they don’t get to watch the end of the games since I make them go to bed, so they’re not too tired to get up for school. In their shared bathroom, I tape a little “Yankee Report” to the mirror so they can learn the score and the outcome as soon as they awaken.

Like many of you Yankees fans who are parents and/or work full-time, we all still have to get up early and scoot the kids out the door whether baseball season thinks it’s still summer or not. (Can you believe it’s November 3 and baseball is still on and hubby is not home yet?)

Watching the games at home isn’t nearly as amusing as being in Yankee Stadium. There’s no cotton candy vendor. No fun graphics on the big screen. No cheering alongside at deafening tones with everyone else wearing assorted Yankees hats, giving high-fives to perfect strangers when the Yankees score.

Maybe at least if I had a few New York friends here in Baltimore, I could invite them over for the final game or venture out to a sports bar with 12 HD-TVs and cheer aloud in something other than my pajamas.

I told Ken I felt sorry for him, John Flaherty and Bob Lorenz reporting on the Yankees from the studio – they’re not allowed to watch the game in person either.

At least I have these little individual packs of salted peanuts in the pantry.

LET’S GO Y-A-N-K-E-E-S! I need a little sleep.

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