St. Louis Cardinals' Organist Was A Master Improviser

Ernie Hays died Wednesday at the age of 77. For 40 seasons, he was the organist for the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Audie Cornish and Robert Siegel have a remembrance.

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(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HERE COMES THE KING")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Drove in Tyler Greene. They're going to the (unintelligible) of Busch stadium. Cardinals lead the Pirates three nothing.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

This is the signature sound of Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Ernie Hays played that Budweiser advertising jingle "Here Comes the King" for 40 baseball seasons, along with "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and other classics. Hays was the longtime organist for the St. Louis Cardinals. He died this week at the age of 77.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Ernie Hays was a local legend. And his improvisation and sense of timing influenced organists around the country. These days, almost every park plays music as batters walk to the plate. Hays helped popularize that.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

ERNIE HAYS: It's all trying to be creative without being tacky.

CORNISH: That's Hays in a 2010 interview with St. Louis Public Radio. Hays didn't like new or recorded music. In fact, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that when Hays was asked if he wanted to play more contemporary tunes, he replied: Hell, no, I want to play real music. Can you hear Duke Ellington playing Lady Gaga?

SIEGEL: Hays was also known for his colorful personality. In 2010, he retired from his stint at Busch Stadium after serenading fans and players alike through doubleheaders, rain delays and five World Series, through wins and losses, through joy and, of course, through heartbreak. After all, this is baseball.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

HAYS: I could play, well, I could play anything, and the crowd, it's hard to get them up. As a matter of fact, I could give you an example. Raquel Welch could walk, run across the field nude and nobody would care.

SIEGEL: But we're pretty sure Ernie Hays would've played a song to go with it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HERE COMES THE KING")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Leading off, shortstop Ronny Cedeno.

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