Results tagged ‘ Ken Singleton ’
There’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.
With the oodles of boxes and envelopes – large and small, bulky and flat, neat and sloppy – that over the years have entered our house from autograph-seeking fans, I’ve sort of become immune to them. Fan mail is scattered everywhere in the Singleton house – on Ken’s desk, in the La-Z-Boy chairs, on the dresser, and in the kitchen where the household mail piles up for the secretary to process (don’t be so impressed – she and I are the same person).
Yet once in a while the contents of an envelope or box, after it was spread across the kitchen table where Ken opened the mail, peaks my interest and I’ll pick up a letter to scan, view an old Ken Singleton baseball card, handle the nifty pen included to sign it, or marvel at a small plastic container of coconut macaroons.
Did I say macaroons?
In the last batch of “interesting things people mail to Ken,” one longtime Yankee fan Joyce Rockwood of New York City baked a batch of “Joyce’s Yummy Homemade Macaroons” and delivered them first to Yankee Stadium, and when it was rejected there, mailed her package with a nicely scrawled note that suggested Ken share the cookies in the YES booth.
I imagined Joyce painstakingly placing a chosen and thoughtful selection of other items into the box along with her friendly letter … a coffee table Orioles book photographed by her dad David Spindel; a photo of young Joyce in Bucky Dent’s locker in 1978; another current photo of baseball-glove-on-her-head Joyce next to her husband Ken at Yankee Stadium (which my Ken mentioned on-air); her business card; the carefully hand-rolled coconut macaroons of course … oh! … the recipe (see below) in case Ken feels like donning a baker’s apron during the offseason. (Actually he bakes only chocolate cakes, but there’s always hope he’ll try something new.)
I e-mailed Joyce to thank her for the entire package and told her if we lived in a perfect world, baseball husbands would have time to respond to each piece of fan mail. (He does the best he can, God love him. Gee, I hope Macaroon Joyce wasn’t disappointed that she heard only from Mrs. Singy.)
Then I told her if I liked coconut at all, I would have tasted what I’m certain must be THE YUMMIEST macaroons ever baked by a Yankees fan. (Yet apologized because I cannot think to place coconut into my mouth … well, except in the case of swigging my all-time favorite cocktail – Malibu Coconut Rum and diet soda – a drink my girlfriends and I have christened “The Suntan Lotion.”)
Dear Joyce … people such as yourself and your husband Ken, who take the time with such fun gestures, and are determined that a package reach its destination, are surely to be applauded. There are other fans out there who also should be thanked one by one.
Where is that darn secretary when you need her anyhow?
Joyce’s Yummy Homemade Macaroons
(Raw Vegan Vanilla Macaroons)
I asked permission of Joyce before posting to ensure this isn’t a handed-down secret family recipe that she shares only with YES announcers.
? 9 cups organic unsweetened shredded coconut
? 4 cups raw cashew powder (blend raw cashews to make this)
? 2-1/4 cups maple syrup
? 5 T coconut oil
? 3 T vanilla extract
? 1 teaspoon sea salt
? just the right amount of love
? optional: 1-2 T cinnamon; 1 T peppermint extract; replace cashew powder with 2-1/4 cups cacao powder to make chocolate macaroons. If exchanging cashew powder, also remove 1 T vanilla extract and replace with 1 T almond extract.
Place all ingredients in large bowl and mix well to blend thoroughly. (Cut recipe in half to make smaller batch.) Using a scoop with spring action release (single meatballer works perfectly), scoop out even portions to a dehydrator tray. Pressing firmly with fingers, make macaroons as compact as possible in the baller before releasing onto tray. Dehydrate @ 115 degrees for 8-10 hours or until crisp on outside and chewy on inside.
These tasty treats are free of yeast, dairy, and gluten. Share with a fellow NY Yankee commentator for added fun!
To your health!
(and those with cancer are still cool)
Cool Kids Campaign first began in memory of late Orioles shortstop Mark Belanger
It never seems to be the right order of things when people pass to death before the average human life span has been reached.
These were surely the thoughts of Ken and his former teammates as they were forced to bid goodbye to a teammate and friend in Belanger – eight-time Rawlings Gold Glove award winner – who passed from lung cancer October 6, 1998 at the young age of 54.
And although sometimes God’s plans deem a young death for reasons we cannot comprehend, none of us can do a darn thing about it … except to afterwards honor a loved one in some grand gesture.
In memory and honor of the shortstop stands a wonderful foundation called the Cool Kids Campaign (initially named the Belanger-Federico Foundation), started by Belanger’s son Rob and his close friend Chris Federico. The duo wanted to raise funds for lung cancer research by hosting a golf tournament to honor parents lost to cancer. (Chris’ mom Susannah died of leukemia.)
Enter idea genius and co-founder Sharon Perfetti, and four years later, the Cool Kids Campaign thrives with a cool list of programs: Cool Kids Cafe, Cool Kids Care Packages, Cancer Fears Me! product line, Cool Kids Reading Challenge, Cool Kids Family Support Fund and an array of other cool fundraisers to assist kids with cancer as they muddle through the ordeals of chemotherapy, radiation, and too many hospital visits.
“Dad went out of his way to bring smiles to kids’ faces when he gave autographs,” said Rob Belanger of his father Mark. “I think he’d be ecstatic about the campaign if he were alive now.”
His father probably would have become an ambassador he said, to help the program along as he rallied with his time and energy. Baltimorean Kimmie Meissner, a world champion figure skater, is an ambassador for the campaign and makes appearances at most of their events.
Ken, as an honorary board member, hosted their June 2009 golf tournament here in Baltimore. I have the pleasure of volunteering as copy editor for their Cool Kids Connection quarterly newspaper and assist with writing projects as needed.
The kids – mostly those being treated through Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland hospitals – are even treated to end-of-chemo parties, with cake and ice cream of course, because the Cool Kids Campaign philosophy is that kids are kids, regardless of if they’re sick or healthy.
“Every kid wants to feel cool even if they don’t feel well,” said Perfetti. “As we decide how to help these kids and best use the donated dollars … we try to make them forget, at least for a little while, that they are fighting for their lives.”
The Cool Kids Campaign is ready to take the organization to its next level. Knowing that kids with cancer spend most days in treatment with one caregiver while missing out on socializing, and feel different due to hair loss and surgical masks, the Cool Kids Care Center will be developed, offering a sterile facility for kids and families where they can be tutored, play, receive support, socialize, and share with other families facing the same challenges.
“I can hear Dad saying to his teammates, ‘C’mon! We’re going to pump this thing up!’” said Rob Belanger. “He’d be completely in their faces, ‘Let’s raise money!’ I think he would have really loved the organization and what we are accomplishing.”
How fans can help …
Should readers wish to make a donation to further the mission of the Cool Kids Campaign, there are three ways to donate:
1. Checks payable and mailed to Cool Kids Campaign, 9711 Monroe Street, Cockeysville, MD 21030
2. Donate through your company’s United Way campaign with the designated number 1121030.
3. Stock Transfers are accepted and delivered through electronic transfer: DTC# 0141 – Brown Advisory; A/C# 1051-7540 in name of Belanger-Federico-Perfetti Foundation, Inc.
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 …
(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.
By September in the Singleton household, admittedly, I’m weary of baseball. Let’s just get the Yankees to the World Series already, and get Mr. Singy home to make spaghetti.
If I had a dollar for every baseball game I’ve watched (um, sort of watched) being a Singleton, I could have loads of fun at The Dollar Tree. (You thought I was going to say I’d be rich?)
Throughout Ken’s radio announcing days for the Montreal Expos, TV broadcasting for Madison Square Garden and the YES Network, our son Justin’s little league, high school, and Clemson University games, his summer leagues (including Cape Cod), and on up to his Minor League career in the Toronto Blue Jays’ Triple-A system … whew, that’s a ton of baseball for someone who connects with the phrase ants in her pants.
Wait … forgot to count two other sons’ rec council baseball games. Now we’re up to 19 years’ worth of being a baseball mom and wife, loyally sitting through mega-innings of a sport with which I have a love/hate relationship. Good thing the tickets have been free.
It’s not a secret – Ken admits it, too – baseball is a slow, methodical, and sometimes
L-O-N-G game. I’ve been the one in the stands reading a book (hey, a girl has to prepare for rain delays somehow), and I’ve walked around stadiums to stretch my legs and people watch. I’ve hunted for the healthiest stadium food possible and even shopped in team stores to pass time through extra innings, although our household does not need one more jersey, cap, or jacket in the closets. (Wait – do they make high heels yet with team logos?)
I try to pay attention, honestly I do, but the distractions are too great … watching people pig out or guzzle beer, noticing kids more bored than I am fiddle with their dad’s hat or fold their stadium seat up and down 42 times. I contemplate why that girl walking up the aisle would want to show that much cleavage in a male-dominated venue (oh right); and calculate the time we’ll get back to the hotel to catch a “Sex and the City” rerun.
Basically I’ve decided that watching baseball is like going to work with my husband. The sport has been extremely good to the Singletons, certainly, I’d never want to sound ungrateful (that’s the love part). Baseball feeds our hungry teens and my shoe fetish. Yet it separates our family for seven months (that’s the hate part). We miss Ken, and Ken misses out on family life such as birthdays and weddings, meeting visiting cousins from Italy, simply hanging out with the kids – and the most recent, as you may have heard Michael Kay announce on air – the birth of our first grandson September 21.
We can bring Ken’s face into our living room via airwaves, sure, but that is no substitute for the real deal.
Yes, 19 years is a lot of baseball. Excuse me while I run out to the dollar store.
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 …
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.”
In 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.”
Waiting for a flight to Boston out of Baltimore earlier this summer, a Mark Teixeira-jerseyed guy approached Ken and I in the airport restaurant to meet and greet.
His name was Mike and he was headed on his honeymoon from Auburn, N.Y., along with his new bride Erin – a bridal corsage pinned to her shirt. The lovebirds asked for an autograph and photo of Ken, which I clicked of the three of them, and they went merrily on their way after sending us a complimentary beverage in appreciation.
Always Yankees connected.
An October ago in Venice, Ken and I stumbled across a kiosk of NYY caps of various colors – pink, red, white. NYY caps in Italy? Why not? Yankees fans travel, too. They’re everywhere, with a few recognizing Ken as we walked the promenade along the canal.
“What are you doing here, Ken Singleton?” a guy called out.
Using his standard answer to that question, Ken laughed and said, “Everyone has to be somewhere.”
Always Yankees connected.
And if there weren’t Yankees fans in Italy before we got there, we made some. Thanks to the kindness of Connie Schwab of Media Relations in the Yankees office, who provided us with a load of Yankees merchandise to take along to my cousins in Sardinia, Ken and I doled out hats, pens, and key chains and left a NY logo mark around the old village. The below photo is my cousin Tina in a tiny old village in Sardinia, Italy.
Always thinking Yankees.
Riding home from Pennsylvania after a family birthday celebration, Ken turned on the radio and the voices of Suzyn Waldman and John Sterling erupted loudly and clearly from station 880 AM … all the way to Baltimore.
Always Yankees connected.
When that signal went staticky, Ken flipped open his iPhone, touch-screened a few buttons, and wa-la … the YES Network sounded over the internet. Had we been home, the Yankees would have been making plays right in our living room on that impeccable hi-def image which shows every whisker on a player’s face. Had Ken not been home, we can still watch him announcing games … ahhh, the beauty of a Direct TV baseball package.
Always Yankees connected.
Nine-year-old Nicholas Ziff with the nifty crew cut announced confidently to Ken at a Bernie Williams’ performance in Longboat Key, Fla., Sunday night, “One day I’m going to play first base for the New York Yankees.”
“Keep practicing, Nick,” encouraged Ken, kneeling next to him on the beach to snap a photo, as he has uttered to other little boys who have shared their dreams of playing professional baseball. Hey, you never know. A dream – of any caliber – begins with a passion, an idea and certainly a declaration. When something invades your soul, gets into your veins and plants itself permanently, there’s no reason on earth why it cannot materialize.
Little Nicholas may change his mind about playing baseball as he grows up, or maybe not. Surely many a Major Leaguer had declared the same sentence of confidence during their Little League days. Williams had the passion to play baseball and music – and has done both beautifully. Derek Jeter wanted to play shortstop for the Yankees when he was a little boy, just like Nicholas – and we know the rest of that story. Ken knew his baseball future at age five.
With enough diligence and hard work, dreams can transform into reality. Anything can begin with a strong affirmation. If Nick repeats that sentence enough times, and believes in his baseball talent and the ability to make it happen … mark his words. Maybe one day we will see Nicholas Ziff, a Yankees fan from Sarasota, playing first base in Yankee Stadium.
It’s all about holding the vision. Keep practicing, Nicholas – and keep affirming your dream.