Today’s Wall Street Journal includes an article entitled At Dodger Stadium, A Noteworthy Figure Loses Playing Time. You have to have an online subscription to read it on the Web, or you can just read it in your local library on actual paper.
I point it out because it documents the changes in ballpark music through the experience of Nancy Bea Hefley, the Dodgers’ organist for the past seventeen seasons.
In late May, the Dodgers sharply cut Mrs. Hefley’s role as principal stadium entertainer. While she used to play before and after nearly every batter and inning, her organ is now largely silent.
Instead, the Dodgers added louder music and electronic gimmicks to match the audio pyrotechnics at other sporting venues. The move is also intended to appease players who want their personal theme songs played during the game. And while it may seem as if another venerable baseball tradition is fading, organists were added to ballparks only in the 1940s, and aren’t universally loved.
To me, hearing the organ at ballgames is part of baseball’s tradition, and I enjoy the Dixieland band at Wrigley, too. But I guess Chicago is unique in its focus on traditional ballpark music.
Though nearly half of the 30 major-league teams employ a live organist, how they use them varies widely. In Chicago, where the organ made its debut in April 1941 as a one-day stunt at Wrigley Field, both the Cubs and White Sox organists play throughout the game.
There are several other interesting tidbits in the article. It’s worth reading.