In 1971, the St. Louis Cardinals made a change in game day operations. For the first time in team history, they hired an organ player for the ballpark. The familiar noises that would encourage fans to yell “charge”, clap their hands, and sing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” would begin to echo through the park at Busch Memorial Stadium.
Over the course of the next 40 years, Ernie Hays would continue to entertain the fans, encourage the support of the team, and punctuate the on field events with humorous and poignant sounds. His perch inside the stadium would be sought out by reporters, fans, and casual observers. He would join the organization in 1971 as a feature to the ballpark and ballgame that crowds would see as new and exciting. In 2010, he was a part of the organization that showed their dedication to the past and tradition. Many teams have gone to recorded music in today’s digital age, but the Cardinals continued to feature an organist at the park, even after building a new home and moving into it in 2006.
In 2011, fans will be treated to something new that still pays tribute to the past. Ernie Hays has played his final note in Busch Stadium, retiring from the organization as the only organ player they have ever known. Now that the opportunity has presented itself for the Cardinals to move forward into the technological world with the music at the ballpark, the team will replace Hays with a new organist and keep the traditional sound booming through the old ballpark.
Hays himself has not ruled out a guest appearance or two in the future, as the itch to do what he loves and surround himself with the environment he craves may be too much to bare at times.
Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
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