There was sad news today – former Busch Stadium organist Ernie Hays had passed away at the age of 77. When I heard that Ernie had died, it brought back memories of Opening Days at the ballpark when Ernie would play “Here Comes the King” over and over until the Clydesdales had circled the outfield and left the field via the wagon gate.
Ernie was an important part of the ball game experience. Some friends and I attended a Cards-Reds game in the late 1980’s and there was a long rain delay. After the players left the field and the tarp was rolled out, Ernie played every song about rain in his repertoire. It helped keep us entertained while we waited for the game to resume and brought other songs about rain to mind.
Ernie was an exemplary musician. I’m a musician myself and I don’t think I ever heard him play a wrong note. Not only was Ernie a great musician, he had a great sense of timing. Ernie would play the theme from the movie “Jaws” whenever an intimidating player came up to bat. He knew just what music to play for any given situation. Ernie not only played the organ for the Cardinals, he also played the organ for the Blues, the old St. Louis Steamers and at St. Louis University.
An era has ended. Almost all of the music you hear now at Busch Stadium is pre-recorded. (And rather loud too, but that may be because I’m old.) The organist is no longer an important part of the ballpark experience, and that is sad. To us old-timers, the organist is as much a part of the ballpark experience as hot dogs, peanuts, popcorn scorecards and, oh yeah, the players too. The video boards have taken over the ballpark experience with the Kiss Cam, etc.
For your listening pleasure, here’s Ernie playing “Here Comes the King”:
So thanks for the memories, Ernie. I’m sure you and Jack Buck are sharing many happy baseball memories right now. I hope that when I get to heaven someday that you’re the organist at all the baseball games. “Here Comes the King” will have a different meaning up there.
Thanks for reading! See you next time!