David Adam

Explaining history of organ music at games and Father's Day uniforms

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jul. 5, 2016 10:05 am Updated: Jul. 5, 2016 10:15 am

When did organ music start and why at baseball games? St. Louis is OK, but some clubs such as the Brewers are very annoying. No other sport has music.

The first ballpark organ was put to use at Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, on April 26, 1941. The Chicago Tribune and the Sporting News reported an anonymous organist played "classic and soulful compositions" before a game between the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs. The Sporting News article also sang the organ's praises.

"What a joy! A cushioned seat in a beautiful ball park, delicious hamburgers with onions, a can of beer, victory and the restful, dulcet notes of a pipe organ. Baseball, indeed, has moved upward and onward since Abner Doubleday was a resident of Cooperstown!" the publication declared.

The article, however, also foreshadowed the activities of later organists as musical commentators.

"Be we admonish him to see that Mr. (Roy) Nelson (the organist) doesn't become a fan and fit his compositions to the ball score on those unhappy days. There is nothing so doleful as a dirge on a pipe organ," the Sporting News read.

Nelson stopped playing a half-hour before the start of the game, as he played many restricted songs by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, which protects its members' musical copyrights by monitoring public performances of their music, whether broadcast or live performance, and compensating them accordingly. Many of Nelson's tunes were picked up by broadcasting microphones.

Matthew Mihalka, a researcher from the University of Arkansas, wrote that Nelson promised he would be prepared to exclusively play less-restricted songs for the next home stand, but the organ was removed while the Cubs were on a road trip. An organ would not return to Wrigley Field until 1967.

The first permanent baseball organ was installed in 1942 at Ebbets Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Gladys Goodding, a native of Macon, Mo., was hired as the organist. Newsweek reported in 1943 that she went to New York to pursue a career in musical comedy but instead would up playing the organ for silent films. She became an organist at Madison Square Garden, where she played for a variety of sporting events.

Goodding played the organ for the Dodgers until the team relocated to Los Angeles in 1957.

Goodding and her organ did have critics. The Times reported J. Reid Spencer, a 70-year old resident of the neighborhood around Ebbets Field and a retired music teacher, took the team to court several times throughout 1942 in an attempt to silence the organ. Spencer claimed the organ interrupted his afternoon naps and adversely affected his health. The case, however, was dismissed.

Organ music is often used these days at professional hockey and basketball games. The first organ for any sporting event was used when Chicago Stadium opened in 1929 for a hockey game.

Why did Major League Baseball teams wear blue jerseys on June 19 games?

Different jerseys and caps were used by teams this season to celebrate Mother's Day (with pink uniforms) and Father's Day, as well as updated designs for Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. This year is the first time teams will celebrate Mother's Day and Father's Day in specially designed uniforms. Teams have worn special uniforms on Memorial Day (decorated in camouflage) for eight years and on the Fourth of July (red, white and blue) for nine years.

Major League Baseball is donating licensed uniform royalties to Susan G. Komen (Mother's Day), the Prostate Cancer Foundation (Father's Day), Stand Up to Cancer (Mother's Day and Father's Day) and Welcome Back Veterans (Memorial Day and Independence Day).

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