Peace for Hideki

    Wednesday, August 3, 2011, 10:10 AM [General]

    It's always distressing to hear about a human being making the choice to end his life, and sadder still when it was someone with whom you had once enjoyed an interaction.

    Hideki Irabu committed suicide July 28 in his Los Angeles home.

    When Hideki was a Yankee, Ken and I once ate lunch with him and his translator, George Rose, at our favorite sushi restaurant here in Baltimore. Hideki’s translator travelled everywhere with him, since the player spoke few words in English.

    The use of a translator is quite an interesting conversation method – a matter of trust in all three parties. As sushi lovers, Ken and I trusted Hideki as well as we gingerly tasted the pieces of eel which he had recommended.

    Sushi aside, I do not know what dreadful demons Hideki faced that were consuming enough as to cause him to find a noose, however, I do know that whatever nationality we are and whichever language we speak … depression is depression, despair is despair, and tragedy is tragedy. There are no words for that.

    “I found that my interactions with Hideki were very interesting,” said Ken. “He was an interesting man, not outgoing, just always observing. Everything seemed new to him. For us to have had that lunch with him and his interpreter helped me to view him in a completely different light. That was a nice afternoon.”

    Ken added that it’s sad to see someone give up hope.

    To his family, to his friends, to his fans … Ken and I extend our sympathetic thoughts. We hope Hideki has found his peace.

     

    3.7 (1 Ratings)

    Don't show us a dying man

    Wednesday, July 13, 2011, 11:14 AM [General]

    Rarely do I watch television, and oh boy, am I glad for that since I didn’t have to repeatedly watch that poor soul of a baseball fan fall to his death while trying to catch a baseball at Texas Rangers Ballpark last week.

    I’ve always thought it in poor taste when the media sensationalizes the news by accompanying it with shocking video. I don't care if the image doesn't show the impact – we all have imaginations. Now it’s plastered all over the Internet.

    Where's the compassion and respect for the Stone family? And for firefighter Shannon Stone's six-year-old boy who witnessed the horrific catastrophe and probably has a repetitive visual loop in his mind of his daddy falling. It's unnecessary to show it at all. Mr. Stone may not have died on the spot, but he did die. And that’s all anyone posting video needs to know to show respect for him and his family.

    I wish I had the power to unplug each and every unsightly image from this massive monster we call the Internet, images which seem to satiate the morbid curiosity of human beings who want to watch someone fall to his death. Even as I googled the story to write this, I refused to hit “play” on any of the videos. I don’t want to watch it once; I don’t want to watch it 17 times.

    And now this got me started … for only 16 minutes the game was halted. Really? A mishap that shocked an entire ballpark into silence. A visual that had fans, umpires, players and coaches stunned and traumatized as they observed the plunge. After the field “was cleared,” normalcy resumed – and everyone was okay with that?

    What if it had been a player to meet his demise in a ballpark? I fail to see how anyone could have possibly concentrated after that, especially outfielder Josh Hamilton who innocently tossed the ball.

    In an ESPN story online, Texas Ranger Michael Young said “it was a pretty disturbing visual. I saw the whole thing. When he was about halfway down, I turned my head. I couldn't watch anymore.”

    Yet plenty of people since then have watched – and watched – and watched. 

    No, don’t show us a dying man. Show us compassion instead.

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Nicknames add to baseball lore

    Saturday, July 2, 2011, 10:40 AM [General]

    Are nicknames named after “Nick,” another name for Nicholas? Who knows, but nicknames can be fun. My friend’s husband calls me “Queen” and in high school I was “Bigfoot.” Close friends call me “Suz” and as you can see here, I’m nicknamed “Mrs. Singy” after hubby Ken Singleton’s nickname bestowed on him decades ago by Orioles teammates.

    Nicknames have always been common in the sports world. The 1900’s played “Wee Willie” Keeler since he was little; and thinking way back to the late 1800’s, there was a Major Leaguer nicknamed “Death to Flying Things” – Bob Ferguson’s nickname derived from his greatness as a defensive player. And the most famous nickname of all was “The Babe” for George Herman Ruth. No more needs to be said about that.

    “We all had nicknames,” said Ken. “But nicknames nowadays are more a derivative of the player’s name instead of their talent.”

    There was “Cakes” for Jim Palmer because he ate pancakes on the days that he pitched, being that pitchers tend to be superstitious, “Blade” for the late Mark Belanger because he was so skinny and “El Presidente” for pitcher Dennis Martinez, the first player in the big leagues to hail from Nicaragua.

    “I gave him that nickname,” said Ken, “and it stuck.”

    Another teammate, Tony Chavez, was nicknamed “Visa Presidente” (as in vice president). The team used to tease Dennis and Tony by asking, “Who’s watching the country while you guys are away?”

    There was “Little Boomer” for teammate Al Bumbry, one of Ken’s best friends, nicknamed after Boomer Scott of the Boston Red Sox because both wore similar puka shell necklaces in style at the time.

    A few interesting nicknames around the league that Ken remembers as a kid -- he was a Giants fan and his father, Joe Singleton, was a Dodgers fan -- were Willie “Puddinhead” Jones (Phillies third baseman in the ‘50’s), Eldon John “Rip” Repulski (Phillies outfielder; Cal Ripken Jr. also was called “Rip” by Ken and teammates) and George “Foghorn” Myatt (Phillies third base coach), “because he had a real deep voice,” said Ken, “like the cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn.”

    There was “Rocket” (Roger Clemens) and “Dominican Dandy” (Juan Marichal, a Hall of Fame pitcher for the Giants) who Ken liked growing up and “got to play against later. I hit two homeruns off him.”

    “The Bird” was a Detroit Tigers pitcher, the late Mark Fidrych because he looked like the Sesame Street character Big Bird. Ken said he used to talk to the ball to tell it what to do and he got on his hands and knees to arrange the mound.

    “The Wizard” was Ozzie Smith “because he was a great fielder,” said Ken, and “The Kid” was Gary Carter because “he was enthusiastic like a kid.”

    Andre Dawson was nicknamed “The Hawk” since he ran everything down and “The Cobra” had a quick strike in Dave Parker. “Pops” was Willie Stargell since he was older than some players, and Terry Crowley was “The King of Swing” as a good pinch hitter.

    Coming up to speed in 2011 around the Yankees clubhouse, Derek Jeter is known by the players as either “Jetes” or “The Captain” because he’s captain of the team. Alex Rodriquez was first to be called “A-Rod” by the late Dave Neihaus, Seattles Mariner broacaster, when Alex first started with Seattle. Mark Teixeira is “Tex” just like his father John’s nickname. Nick Swisher is simply known as “Swish,” Mariano Rivera is “Mo,” and there’s “Grandy” for Curtis Granderson.

    Then there are players who have built-in nicknames like “A.J.” for Allan James Burnett and “CC” for Carsten Charles Sabathia.

    Freddy Garcia is called “The Chief” since he resembles the character of the same name in the movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

    “Nicknames are like a term of endearment,” said Ken, “they’re less formal. It shows that you appreciate the player – the teammate – and are willing to give him a name.”

     

    3.7 (1 Ratings)

    Rosie talks Yankees

    Thursday, June 30, 2011, 11:13 AM [General]

    It’s always amusing when it’s a little old lady who’s a baseball fan -- Ken gets a real kick out of that. His grandmother, Quinella, was a Chicago Cubs fan until she died of old age at 101.

    Rosie Apicella, 82, met Ken at the bocce courts in Little Italy, Baltimore, during my Tuesday night bocce league. Ken had tagged along to watch our team of Molino cousins -- team “CUGINI” (translates to cousins in Italian) -- but he never had the chance to watch because Rosie found him.

    And when Rosie found him, she talked baseball. A lot of baseball. Mostly Yankees – Rosie is a colossal Yankees fan. And in a town that has its own baseball team, especially Baltimore fans true to their O’s, that’s sometimes surprising. 

    She knew it was Derek Jeter’s birthday the other day and that he was 37. She likes Robinson Cano. She knew Nick Swisher was starting to get hot. (As Ken continued to report the current score vs. Milwaukee from his iPhone for Rosie, Swisher had hit a home run.)

    “She knew more about the Yankees than I did!” Ken joked.

    During Rosie’s storytelling, she relayed one memory of a trip to New York to the old Yankee Stadium with her husband to see Joe DiMaggio play. “The Yankees lost,” she said.

    “When Joe played,” Ken said, “there were no Orioles, so she had to root for someone. I don't blame her. He was a great player. Everybody liked him. Joe was the most popular baseball player and as you would expect, he had a huge Italian following.”

    Once she cooked dinner for Orioles Jeremy Guthrie when he used to live in Little Italy. She met him as he pedaled past her house on a bike and they got to talking. “I was the only one who recognized him,” she said. “He called me Rosinda.”

    Ken enjoyed his chat with Rosie. “She’s a very enthusiastic and tremendous baseball fan,” he said, “A very nice lady.”

    She’s also one of the better bocce players in Little Italy. She knows all about that sport, too – one she has been playing for most of her life. In the old days the Italian men wouldn’t let girls play, but later Rosie helped to form the first all-female bocce team in Little Italy.

    The dark clouds rolled in faster than we could roll bocce balls that night and it began to rain. Rosie flashed a crooked smile Ken’s way as she dashed off to her row house a few blocks over.

    “I'm gonna go finish watching the Yankee game,” she said.  

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Geppetto lives on (and he's carving more than puppets)

    Friday, April 22, 2011, 9:29 AM [General]

    I’m not sure where Pinocchio ended up after he lied in Storybook Land all those decades ago, but a gentleman nicknamed Geppetto is alive and well, not in a small Italian village, but in Geppetto’s Wood Shoppe in West Monroe, N.Y.

    With wood chips flying around his workshop, it’s not a nose-growing puppet that Chuck “Geppetto” Nepage carves, rather, statuettes of NY Yankees’ pitchers and batters.

    These cleverly-designed figurines are the latest of attention-grabbing items received in hubby Ken Singleton’s fan mail, graciously sent by this Yankee fan, almost enough to make a team – he sent eight – pitchers, hitters, and two golfers (to appeal to Ken’s second greatest passion).

    Looking at one side of his four-inch tall statuette reveals a silhouette (a hitter, a pitcher), and when the statuette is turned a quarter, the NY logo is visible. It’s an ingenious design if you ask me, even though the only figurine I’ve ever carved was a stocky three-inch squirrel in ninth-grade woodshop.

    “These must have taken a lot of time and energy to do something so meticulous,” said Ken. “They’re great!”

    Chuck doesn’t take all the credit for the design. He and his wife, Nancy, collaborate in designing various pieces to carve, from religious to sports statuettes and everything in between.

    “Nancy will bring an idea out to my one-man wood shoppe for me to try,” said Chuck. “I think she is just trying to challenge me.”

    After the layout stage, “Geppetto” is ready to cut, using a scroll saw, which “takes a fair amount of concentration and patience,” he said. One NY statuette takes about an hour.

    A hobbyist in crafting from wood, Chuck decided to advance his pastime into a business two years ago. “The figurines are the smallest items I make,” he said. “I also build custom mailboxes and whirligigs, but my favorite things to build are the covered wagons, buckboards and stagecoaches.” (see photos)

    In the New York State Fair parade in Syracuse, Chuck enters his full-size stagecoach, with a handcrafted Pinocchio as the driver. As highlighted on his letterhead, his designs are “limited only by your imagination and physics.”

    And that’s no lie.

    (e-mail Chuck Nepage at geppettoswoodshoppe@gmail.com)

     

    0 (0 Ratings)

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