Sudden Organ: Inside Baseball’s Most Endangered Gig

Posted in Baseball, It's A Living, music at 11:14 pm by

(Quintron, carefully monitoring any instances of incongruity)

A friend who works in radio emailed me a couple weeks ago to ask about organ music at baseball games — if it still exists, which teams use it, whether all organists can get down as hard on “Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog” as former Shea Stadium organist Ray Castoldi. (Yes, I know Jane Jarvis is the Shea Stadium organist, forever and ever, but I was a year old when she retired)

Except for the third, “Jeremiah”-related question — to which the answer is ‘no, they cannot get down that hard’ — I was pretty stumped. I knew the Cubs stayed with the organ. I know about Quintron’s brief, ill-fated stint as the New Orleans Zephyrs organist (note: not true). But I kind of didn’t really know anything, and had to admit as much. Which is sad, because today Idolator’s Maura Johnston was kind enough to link to this enjoyable, service-y piece from Making Music Magazine on Busch Stadium organist Dwayne Hilton, one of the last stadium organists still slinging keys.

Nerves didn™t get the best of Hilton on his first œat bat behind the organ in the Cardinals™ press box. Rather, it was the timing that was a bit tricky to master. “Once a pitcher steps on the mound, or a batter is in the box, the music has to be totally killed, says Hilton. œOne has to be aware of the game at all times and what™s going on.

Hilton also has to coordinate with the DJ, video board, and game announcers, as well as calculate what songs can be played comfortably through a commercial break without being cut off in the middle. Another challenge is reading whether or not a base hit will be a single or a double. “I have to watch and see when the cutoff man gets it before I start the fanfare, so I™m not playing while the action is going on, says Hilton.

The time allotted for the organ at Busch Stadium is fairly generous including 45 minutes of pregame tunes, 20 minutes of post-game ditties, and interactive game chants and clap-alongs throughout the game and between innings.

Before the game, Hilton plays songs that appeal to all ages, including classics from the ™40s and ™50s like œRock Around the Clock, disco songs, upbeat Beatles tunes like œOb-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, and ™70s rock classics. To top it off, Hilton will sprinkle in some fun ™80s jams like Van Halen™s œJump or some pop tunes from the radio. œI definitely keep things upbeat and happy, says Hilton. After the game, depending on whether it was a win or a loss, Hilton will play songs like U2™s œBeautiful Day, or Garth Brooks™, “Friends in Low Places.

And here I am already having used my Quintron joke. Anyway, the follow-up I did for this post also led me to this not-an-article webpage, which features some truly amazing Nixon-era pics of stadium organists. Shay Torrent (real name!) and Nancy Faust have the best pictures, in my opinion.

4 Responses to “Sudden Organ: Inside Baseball’s Most Endangered Gig”

  1. Gary says:

    The song is entitled “Joy To the World”, and Hoyt Axton wrote it for Three Dog Night. GET THE FUCKING SONG TITLE RIGHT, you lazy fucks!!!
    Maybe you shouldn’t call it “Can’t Stop the Bleeding”. How about “Can’t Stop the Beating Off”, instead??? Jesus Motherfucking Christ, what’s next??
    Laziness, fucking laziness…that’s what the fuck it is…

  2. GC says:

    Let’s see if we can’t find an autographed copy of “Blood, Sweat And Real Tears” for our friend, Gary. I kinda like Can’t Stop The Beating Off, actually. I see a traffic spike in our future

  3. David Roth says:

    Sorry, Gary. I absolutely see why you’re so fired up about this. This is not the first time I have failed to give Hoyt Axton his due on this site.

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