Ernie Hays, Longtime Organist for St. Louis Cardinals, Dead at 77
|Photo: Jennifer Silverberg|
|Hays at his home in 2005.|
Hays manned the stadium organ for the St. Louis Cardinals for 40 years before retiring prior to the 2010 season. In an age when more and more ballparks use pre-recorded pop songs to entertain fans, Hays was an outlier who insisted on playing show tunes and classical music.
He is perhaps best remembered, however, for his renditions of the Budweiser theme song, "Here Comes the King."
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|Hays' 1975 album, Organ for All Seasons|
Behind the scenes Hays was also known for his playful demeanor and off-color sense of humor. A Riverfront Times profile of Hays in 2005 began with him rattling off some of his favorite one-liners. "What's better than a rose on your piano?" quipped Hays. "Tulips on your organ!"
The jokes left some rolling their eyes and Cardinals brass -- at times -- shaking their heads. But for Ernie, the goal was not to offend. He simply wanted to bring a smile to the face.
"I'm a motivational keyboardist," he told Riverfront Times. "That's something you have to learn over time. If fans are positive, my job is to reinforce their attitude. If their mood is foul, my job is to work like hell to change that."
Hays is survived by his wife of 50-plus years, Loreta, and their children and grandchildren.
This morning the Cardinals issued the following statement: