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.