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Eddie Layton / Ed Alstrom / Paul Cartier

"The Organists" at Yankee Stadium

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Eddie Layton

October 10, 1925-December 26, 2004
Played the organ at Yankee Stadium for 30 seasons
Member of the New York Sports Hall of Fame

                    

Eddie Layton Passes Away
(Corrections are bolded! -Thank you to Paul Doherty for the corrections)

NEW YORK -- Eddie Layton, the long-time Yankee Stadium organist who retired after the 2003 season, passed away on Sunday at his home in Forest Hills, N.Y., after a brief illness.

The team did not know his age, but he was believed to be 77.

"Eddie Layton was a treasured member of the Yankee family and, as a gifted musician, he made Yankee Stadium a happier place," said Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. "Eddie was a dear friend who will be missed by all who come to Yankee Stadium."

Layton joined the Yankees' family in 1967 when team president Mike Burke inaugurated organ music at Yankee Stadium. When the announcement of Layton's retirement was announced during the seventh-inning stretch of a game in September 2003, the fans chanted, "Eddie! Eddie" as he played "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." The mistake here is that Burke did not inaugurate organ music at Yankee Stadium. Eddie, a CBS soap opera organist, joined the Yankees in 1967 when CBS took full control of the Yankees (during the winter of ’67 they painted the ballpark white and blue [it had been green since 1946 and brown prior to that] and refurbished the acoustical system), however organ music was inaugurated at the Stadium in 1965 by Dan Topping when he made a deal w/Lowrey organ to install one of their instruments in the loge and hire a local pianist and Lowrey demonstrator, Toby Wright, to play it. Wright played the Lowrey at the Stadium in 1965 and 1966.

"After 38 years of playing the organ at Yankee Stadium, there just comes a time to retire," Layton said last September. "They were wonderful years. I treasure my five World Series rings, though I can only wear one at time and still play the organ. I think I'm the only organist in the world with five world championship rings." This doesn’t make sense. If Eddie was really there for 38 seasons, he’d have six championship rings (’77,’78,’96,’98’,’99,’00). Eddie was with the Yankees twice, from 1967-1970 and 1978-2003. Toby Wright was with the Yankees for two terms as well, 1965-66 and 1971-1977 (Wright was best known for playing “Pomp and Circumstance” upon Sparky Lyle’s entrance into games in 1972 and 1973 and his last game was the big Reggie three homer game vs. LA).

Layton has performed concerts for the Hammond Organ Company in more than 200 cities around the world, and has played the "Mighty Wurlitzer" at Radio City Music Hall, performing at the Music Hall's gala reopening in October 1999. He is also a distinguished member of the New York Sports Hall of Fame.

Layton released 26 albums, including "Ya Gotta Have Heart" in 1997, selling more than three million copies. Prior to coming to the Yankees, Layton wrote musical scores for soap operas, including Secret Storm, and was the organist for the New York Knicks and Rangers for 18 years.

Even after his retirement, Layton said that his time with the Yankees were the most important days of his long life.

"I've seen amazing feats on the field of Yankee Stadium, but maybe more importantly, I have met people who I will consider a part of my family for all of my life," Layton said last fall. "The sights and sounds of Yankee Stadium will remain with me always, tucked away in a part of my heart filled with so much joy and happiness."

Yankee Organist
 
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Eddie Layton

 When the New York Yankees first offered him the job in 1967, Eddie Layton turned them down.

 "I don’t know anything about baseball," he told them. "And besides, I live in Queens and I don’t drive."

 But the Yankees came back to the mound, and threw him a curveball.

 "They told me that a limo would pick me up in front of my apartment in Forest Hills before every game," he said. "And when the game ended, the limo would take me home."

 It was an offer he couldn’t refuse. "You gotta deal," Layton told them.

 Thirty-two years and nearly 3,000 games later, Layton is still tickling the ivories on the Hammond organ at the house that Ruth built. Eddie was with the Yankees twice, from 1967-1970 and 1978-2003. Toby Wright was with the Yankees for terms as well, 1965-66 and 1971-1977 (his last game was the big Reggie three homer game vs. LA). Eddie was with the Yankees for 30 seasons (not years).

Prior to taking the job with the Yankees, Layton played melodramatic organ music during soap operas on CBS. When he joined the Bronx Bombers, he initially was expected to play only between innings. But on one soggy summer afternoon, with the Yankees down by a few runs and the crowd languishing in dismay, Eddie decided to play.

He innocently put together what has become the quintessential baseball organ chord progression. The crowd immediately responded, as did the Yankees who came back to win the game.

"The owner looked at me from his box, and gave me a thumbs up," said Layton. "The next day, I got a raise." Highly unlikely.

Over the years, Layton has developed a unique repertoire, tunes he calls the "proven war-horses." At few other baseball stadiums can you hear melodies such as "The Mexican Hat Dance," or "Hava Nagila."

"I’ll play anything that works," said Layton. "Anything that gets the fans involved."

But after playing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" every game for 32 years, how do you keep the music interesting? 30 seasons.

"What makes it exciting for me is that is it a sporting event," said Layton. "Nothing is ever the same, you never know the outcome."

If there has been one improvement at Yankee stadium in Layton’s 32 years, he says it is the quality of the hot dogs. "They are much better now that they are answering to a ‘higher authority,’" he said. 30 seasons.

During the off-season, Layton sails his yacht, and collects model railroads, but come April, he is right back in the booth where he belongs.

"Another 25 or 30 years from now I am going to get out of this business," said Layton, on opening day. Until then… "I don’t care if I ever get back, for it’s…"


Eddie Layton

Eddie Layton has been the organist for the New York Yankees for over 30 years and has released 24 albums. His latest being "Ya Gotta Have Heart" which is a collection of songs that he has played for the Yankees. Eddie took some time to sit down with us and tell us some history. Real Video
Here are some tracks from his latest CD "Ya Gotta Have Heart"
Bring On The Yankees Real Audio MP3
Take Me Out To The Ballgame Real Audio MP3
You've Gotta Have Heart Real Audio MP3

Music man fine-tunes spirits of Yankees, fans

By CATHEY O'DONNELL
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: October 19, 2003)

(Corrections are bolded! -Thank you to Paul Doherty for the corrections)

NEW YORK — With the strength of 50,000 watts of power, "New York, New York" reverberated last night inside Yankee Stadium as Eddie Layton tapped on the Hammond organ, a perfect opening to the 100th World Series in the nation's most historic ballpark.

He sat above it all, in his familiar cramped booth, with the joy of a performer who once again had a world stage and a throng of 56,000 screaming fans to hear his music. Spectators responded, leaping to their feet in a chorus of cheers.

For nearly four decades, Layton has been the Yankees' official cheerleader, rallying the crowd when the team was behind and energizing the players when they needed it most. He hasn't missed a day in 37 years, being there for rain delays and cold April nights and extra innings that stretched well beyond midnight.

Last night, at Game 1 of the World Series, Layton watched his beloved Yankees play the Florida Marlins. The Series continues tonight before moving to Florida on Tuesday, possibly for three games. If necessary, the Series will return to Yankee Stadium on Saturday and next Sunday for Games 6 and 7.

Sometime this week or next, perhaps even today, depending on how the Yankees perform in the Series, Layton will play his last tune, leaving a certain emptiness that fans say no one can replace.

"Everyone should retire at some point," Layton said yesterday. "If you have a job, you either get fired, resign or retire. I choose to retire." He was very, very sick w/emphysema. He was a MAJOR smoker (his ashtray is still there in the booth). That’s actually what killed him.

Right now, the Yankees plan to find a replacement for Layton, although they don't have anyone in mind. That will be decided in the off-season, said Rick Cerrone, spokesman for the Yankees.

Today, Layton will celebrate his birthday at Game 2 of the World Series, although he guards his age like a state secret. He's at times outgoing, other times shy and often flashes his biggest smile when he mentions his small tugboat docked at the Tarrytown marina.

While Layton lives in Queens, he spends much of his time on the 26-foot-long maroon and dark green boat with teak accents, which has all the modern conveniences of home. He stays on his boat when the Yankees are out of town, although now that retirement looms, he can't wait to spend even more time on his vessel. He’d sold the boat by this time due to his illness.

"When you're cruising down the Hudson, there's nothing like it," Layton said. "People think I have a real tugboat and they steer clear of me. All my friends at the marina say, "Hey, Eddie, you're really from Westchester."'

Local fans reacted with sadness at Layton's retirement, saying he provided a key part of the nostalgic Yankee Stadium atmosphere that they simply don't get at other baseball venues.

"He's irreplaceable," said Raymond O'Prey of Piermont. "One of the things that makes Yankee Stadium special is hearing Eddie Layton play that organ when you walk through the entrance. It could be a dull game or the team is down, and you hear Eddie trying to pump everyone up."

Some fans understood Layton's reasons for retiring, although they admit he will be terribly missed. As a lifelong Yankees fan, Michael Amoruso of Pleasantville remembers hearing Layton on the organ when he came to the stadium as an 8-year-old.

"It's amazing that he has been playing all these years," Amoruso said. "He's part of what makes Yankee Stadium unique."

On Thursday, Layton admitted he had second thoughts about retiring after experiencing the dramatic 11th-inning win in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, which led the Yankees to the World Series.

In the end, though, Layton said he realized the pace was getting too tough, especially with the Yankees' 81 regular season home games, not to mention the addition of a long post-season in October. He also performs occasionally at Radio City Music on the "Mighty Wurlitzer," an organ so powerful that, he says, it can drown out the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

Still, he choked up at the thought of retirement. After all, he understands the importance of setting the stage for fans and players. He knows when to play, and more important, when he shouldn't to avoid distracting the players or disrupting the game. He also learned some vital lessons along the way.

"You cannot miss a note for the national anthem because people know every note," Layton said. "If I make a mistake, I'll repeat it three or four times so no one notices."

Layton, a fixture in New York who joined the Yankees in 1967, used to play the organ for the New York Knicks and Rangers. He's a member of the New York Sports Hall of Fame and possesses four World Series rings given to him by Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. I thought it was five WS rings

With a solid fan base, Layton has recorded 27 albums and CDs, which collectively have sold more than 3 million copies. One of them features a classic medley of his favorite songs that he plays at Yankee Stadium. Among those topping the list: "New York, New York," and "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," which he plays during the seventh-inning stretch.

And up there in the booth, with a perfect view of home plate, Layton monitored the game, deciding the right time to rouse the crowd with his "bump-bump-bump-bump" rhythm. Tonight, fans will hear Layton's music as he performs in his 74th post-season game. We’d have to do a count of the games; the Yankees had 3 Stadium-based post season games in 1977, so he’s pretty close w/this count.

"People cheer with their vocal chords," he said. "I cheer with my music."

Pictured (l-r): The newly-hired Yankee Stadium organists this season, Ed Alstrom and Paul Cartier, stand flanking a photograph of Eddie Layton (c), their legendary predecessor, in the press dinning room at Yankee Stadium. - PHOTOGRAPH BY ALBERT COQUERAN

Inheriting the Yankee Stadium Organ
Bronx Times Reporter, July 22, 2004
by Albert Coqueran

A legend at Yankee Stadium is no longer present this season. Eddie Layton, the organist for the New York Yankees, retired at the end of last season, after 37 years as the Yankee Stadium organist. Yankees’ principle owner George Steinbrenner extended Layton upon his departure the well-earned respect to select his successor. Some may have thought the Yankees would resort to musical tapes of the famed Layton tunes. However, in February 2004, Layton auditioned organists to assume his role and play the 25-year-old Hammond Collanade Organ at Yankee Stadium, whose ivories he "tickled" so gracefully for 37 years. 30 seasons.

Layton was familiar with Paul Cartier, a 45-year-old full-time Air Traffic Controller who played the organ part-time at the Nassau Coliseum for the New York Islanders hockey team. Layton was also the full-time organist for the Islanders until he retired last year. Cartier substituted for Layton during games since 1980, until Layton’s retirement and then he prevailed as the full-time organist for the Islanders.

Cartier was also the organist for the New York Arrows Indoor Soccer Team, which inhabited the Nassau Coliseum from 1978 until the team disbanded in 1984. Therefore, although Layton was familiar with Cartier’s organ playing resume in the sports spectrum of New York, he had never actually heard him play-since they shared the organ at different times in the Nassau Coliseum.

Layton hired Cartier immediately after he auditioned on the Hammond Collanade Organ at Yankee Stadium last February. "Although I knew Eddie all that time, he never heard me play because when he was not there (at Islanders games), that is when I was playing, and if he was there, he was playing rather than me," stated Cartier. "I came to Yankee Stadium in February with snow still on the ground. I played a bunch of tunes that Eddie asked me to play. Afterward he told me, ‘You are the guy,’" remembered Cartier. Cartier and the other gent have gotten rid of the Collonade according to an organist friend of Eddie’s.

Notwithstanding his past organ playing achievements, Cartier disclosed that it was a breathtaking experience the initial time that he sat at the Yankee Stadium organ. "This is the ‘Cathedral!’ Oh yeah, (I was in awe) for sure! In fact, I was hardly sitting down (at the organ) and Eddie asked me to do the National Anthem or some song during the audition. I said, ‘One minute, Eddie, let me take this all in!’ This is amazing to know that you are sitting here where Eddie sat for 37 years. The whole experience is amazing," thrilled Cartier, in the organist booth at Yankee Stadium. 30 seasons.

A resident of South Hempstead, NY, Cartier has been playing the organ since he was nine years old. He achieved a Bachelor of Science in Music Education from Hofstra University in 1981. Cartier has been married to his wife Jan for14 years. They have two children, a son Kevin, 16 years old, and a daughter, Katie, 13. Besides his organ duties at Yankee Stadium and the Nassau Coliseum, he has played the organ for 13 years at Our Lady of Hope Church in Carle Place, Long Island. Cartier also works as a volunteer fireman in his hometown and he holds the position of Chairman of the Board of Fire Commissioners in South Hempstead.

Cartier’s sports affiliation was inspired by one of his music professors while he was a student at Hofstra. Dr. Fred Mendelson shared his musical talent with his students at Hofstra, while playing the organ for Islanders games part-time on Tuesdays, when Layton did not play. One evening after class, Mendelson invited his progressive student, Cartier, to join him in the organist booth at the Nassau Coliseum during an Islanders game. Mendelson surprised Cartier by asking him to play the organ during the game. Cartier must have impressed his professor, because after Mendelson retired from Islanders hockey in 1980, he asked Cartier to succeed him as the Islanders’ part-time organist.

Cartier has pursued his organ talents to Yankee Stadium, in the Bronx, NY, a venue that as he mentioned is "The Cathedral of Sports." He stated that "New York, New York" is his favorite tune to play at Yankee Stadium. " My theory is that the Yankees want to keep the old time organ. They want to have the traditional ballpark sound. Therefore, I do not get into playing too many newer tunes. I stick with a lot of Broadway show tunes, old time Cole Porter songs, classic organ sounds, to keep the tradition. ‘New York New York’ has to be my favorite song to play," explained Cartier. "I read an article that stated that there are only eight stadiums remaining with live organ music," commented the newly hired Yankees’ organist. How lucky an organist is Cartier, who grew up in NY, graduated from Hofstra and now plays one of the eight stadium organs that stood the test of time. The organ in "The House That Ruth Built!"

Alstrom Hired for Weekend Duty

Nonetheless, Eddie Layton’s job to pick a successor to his 37-year career as the Yankees organist did not conclude with the hiring of Paul Cartier in February 2004. Cartier’s full-time occupation as an Air Traffic Controller scheduled him for weekend duty, at the Radar Facility, in Ronkonkoma, NY. Therefore, the weekends, an essential time during the Yankees baseball season, would still need an organist to spirit the crowd. 30 seasons.

Ed Alstrom, 45 years old, has been playing the organ since he was five years old. In what place most keyboard playing families might possess a piano, Alstrom’s home as a child had an organ. His father, a plumber by trade, was musically inclined and played the organ each evening after work with his son.

The younger Alstrom had been dreaming of being the Yankee Stadium organist since his initial visit to Yankee Stadium to see the Yankees play. He reminisced, "I have played the organ since I was a young child. My dad took me out to Yankee Stadium in 1967 when I was nine years old. I remember hearing Eddie Layton play. I said to myself that is what I want to do. I love baseball and I love playing the organ, so I want to do that someday!"

Alstrom is employed full-time for Music Industries Corporation, as the Director of Marketing and Development. He had been working there for a few months when he heard the news that Layton was retiring as the Yankee Stadium organist. Although Alstrom pursued the job of Layton’s successor fervently, it was the persistence of his wife of 19 years, Maxine, that lead to Alstrom capturing the coveted position. "I heard Eddie was retiring. I made some telephone calls but my wife was a little more persistent than me. She made the call that finally got through to the person that was doing the hiring, and they said to fax a resume. A week later, they called me back and said that they wanted to hear me play," explained Alstrom. Maxine, Alstrom’s wife, is a professional piano player and teaches piano.

In late March 2004, Alstrom visited Yankee Stadium to audition for his idol Layton, on the famed Hammond Collanade organ. "I went to Yankee Stadium and there was nobody there but me and Eddie Layton. I sat at the organ and Eddie stood in the doorway of the booth. He asked me to play a little ‘New York, New York,’ a little ‘Happy Birthday’ and some of the National Anthem. I played forty-five seconds of each tune and the entire process took about five minutes. Then Eddie said they’d let me know," depicted Alstrom. Not predicting that his dream had come true, Alstrom thought, "I figured at that point that at least I got to play the organ at Yankee Stadium. A week later, the Yankees called me and said that they would like to have me play on Saturday and Sundays. I was on ‘cloud nine!’

Alstrom’s dream as a young child came to pass when he played the organ at Yankee Stadium during the Yankees game against the Chicago White Sox on Saturday, April 10, 2004. His initial tune played was his now organ partner Cartier’s favorite song to play at Yankee Stadium, "New York, New York."

Alstrom resides in Pine Brook, NY. He and his wife Maxine, have two daughters, Sophie, 15 years old, and Nina, 10. He was an accomplished musician many years before his Yankee Stadium appointment. He has played alongside such musical talents as Bette Midler, Herbie Hancock, Chuck Berry, Steely Dan, and Dion of the renowned Dion and the Belmonts. Alstrom is also a member of Musicians Local 802 and he plays the organ in the orchestra during Broadway show productions. Like Cartier, Alstrom also plays part-time church organ. Alstrom has played for two years at the West Caldwell Presbyterian Church, in West Caldwell, NY.

However, Alstrom’s claim to fame before his hiring at Yankee Stadium may have been his trio, Acid Cabaret. He plays the piano and sings for the group at Jazz and Cabaret Clubs in New York and New Jersey. The trio released a Compact Disc last year titled "Acid Cabaret." Alstrom was presented the Back Stage Biestro Award in 2003, for the group’s Cabaret playing achievements. The award is sponsored by Back Stage Biestro Magazine.

Bronxites are now introduced to the musicians that will attempt to fill the traditional role as the Yankee Stadium organist, a position vacated after 37 years by a legend, Eddie Layton. Moreover, what does the professor, Layton, say concerning his successors? "They are both extremely adequate, they are going to do all right," anointed Layton. 30 seasons….

 

A Tribute to Eddie Layton    By Curtis Stephen

Like legions of baseball fans nationwide, I was saddened to learn of the passing of longtime Yankee Stadium organist Eddie Layton, who died at his home Dec. 27th in Forest Hills, Queens, after briefly falling ill. For nearly four decades, Layton entertained millions of fans who streamed into The House That Ruth Built, capturing about as much respect and adoration as the players themselves. And so the tributes dedicated to Eddie have naturally focused on his many years regaling fans and players alike in the ballpark with his Mighty Wurlitzer. But equally fascinating, though, was Eddie himself -- whom I was fortunate to call a friend.

The year was 1997. It was a few months after the Yankees won the World Series (after an 18-year drought) in dramatic fashion against the Atlanta Braves. I was a journalism student at Long Island University's Brooklyn Campus and served as the news editor at the campus newspaper. One afternoon, I got a phone call from the Athletics Department about the possibility of profiling Eddie Layton, who in 1996 began to play at home games for the LIU Men's basketball team, the Blackbirds. I was beside myself thinking about the prospect of meeting someone deemed to be such an indelible part of my beloved Yankees. Without a second thought, I took the assignment.

We met at LIU's gymnasium, where Eddie, who was stylishly dressed in a light brown pinstriped suit and sporting a new World Series ring, took a seat before his treasured organ. What struck me most, though, was his enthusiasm. After all, here was a man who had been featured in mainstream newspapers like The New York Times and appeared on countless radio and TV programs, including David Letterman's. He played Radio City Music Hall and toured the world, performing in hundreds of cities across the globe. And yet he still seemed genuinely excited to be interviewed by a lowly college newspaper reporter. But Eddie didn't make those distinctions -- he so loved what he did that he didn't mind sharing some insight with whoever cared to listen.

Eddie was such a masterful storyteller that you couldn't help but listen. He had stories for days. And over the course of two hours, he shared many with me. Born in Philadelphia, he began playing the piano at the age of 7. And ever curious, decided to play the organ when he turned 14. Eddie fondly recalled working as an organist on CBS soap operas in the midst of radio's Golden Age. But the Yankees clearly held a special place in his heart -- a gig he surprisingly turned down initially because he wasn't an avid baseball fan, didn't drive, and wasn't looking forward to the prospect of shuttling between Queens and the Bronx on the subway. Eddie, of course, changed his mind when the team offered a limo to drive him to-and-from the stadium.

I was enchanted listening to Eddie describe how he arrived to the Yankees in 1967 just as the team was beginning to struggle after years of dominance through the likes of DiMaggio, Mantle and Maris. Nevertheless, Eddie brought his heart and good cheer to the stadium every game, trying to buck the spirits of dejected fans with his music. Ten years later, as raging fires, a menacing serial killer, and social unrest exploded on the city's streets, the Yankees -- powered by the strength of Reggie Jackson's bat -- gave New Yorkers a reason to cheer again when they desperately needed it most. And with his first World Series ring, Eddie was on top of the world in 77. Playing at Yankee Stadium is like asking a journalist to write an article that will appear in every language and every country in the world, he told me.

When we met, Eddie was commemorating his 30th anniversary with the Yankees, and was weeks away from releasing his 26th album. That CD, entitled, Ya Gotta Have Heart, would eventually go triple platinum. At my request, Eddie played a rendition of Take Me Out To The Ballgame. Afterwards, he patted my shoulder and playfully suggested that I begin my article with this question: Who played for the Yankees, the Knicks, and the Islanders all in the same season? Answer: Eddie Layton. Not only was it true, but it was a brilliant lead for the story. I would have been foolish not to have used it. And Eddie's quip also taught me a valuable lesson in writing -- use the very first sentence to grab the reader.

Little did I know that it would be the first of many lessons he'd teach me. As the interview concluded, I asked Eddie what he really wanted LIU students to know about him. Pondering the question, he briefly looked away and replied softly: Even though I have no family of my own, I'm a family man. And I feel that wherever I go, I'm with 100 percent of my family, from Yankee Stadium to LIU. His words were quite revealing. But I didn't fully grasp its meaning at the time. While we agreed to keep in touch, I didn't believe I would see much of him given his schedule performing what he considered a labor of love.

But he made the time. Weeks after the article was published, Eddie called and offered to take me out to lunch to his favorite restaurant, that venerable Brooklyn mainstay, Juniors. There, we swapped stories about everything from my Trinidadian heritage to his beloved tugboat, which he would spend a lot of time in, cruising along the Hudson River. But it wasn't long after those initial meetings that I realized that Eddie had adopted something of a grandfatherly role in my life. Through regular phone chats, Eddie would impart advice on topics ranging from my career plans (journalism fascinated him greatly) to the most effective means of romancing an irresistible girl next door (Always be yourself. It's the only way she will see who you are, Eddie would counsel). Yet he could also be an enigma. It's doubtful, for example, that anyone alive knew his real age (he was reportedly 77 at the time of his death). But as anyone who got the chance to spend any significant amount of time with Eddie knows, he always shared the very best of himself -- his boundless energy, a zest for life, and a loving spirit.

For most, thoughts of Eddie will summon memories of a bygone era in baseball history -- a time when an instrument as beautifully simple as the organ ruled the ballpark. And while that alone would have sufficed for Eddie, for those of us who knew him, it's the memories of the man behind the music that shall forever endure. Rest in peace, Eddie.


Ed Alstrom

                           

Posted on Nov 3, 2008 1:16 pm
By Alex Belth

[Editor's Note: The Lasting Yankee Stadium Memory series will continue tomorrow.  But first, enjoy this special treat...]

By Ed Alstrom

Ed Alstrom playing the organ on the final day of Yankee Stadium behind a framed picture of Eddie Layton

Ed Alstrom playing the organ on the final day of Yankee Stadium behind a framed picture of Eddie Layton

There’s always something about the ‘last time’ you do something, especially when you know for sure it’s going to be the last time. Preparing for the last game at the existing Yankee Stadium was was a little easier than it might have been, because by that time we all knew it would be the last time. I was able to walk around and soak it all in with a sense of closure, and smile and say my silent farewells to this and that (jeez, it even extended to the bathroom and the elevator), without any nagging doubts that maybe we’d be back yet again.

I arrived early, as I customarily do, at noon, about an hour before the gates opened. There is always a sense of calm at that time at the Grand Dame, but especially so on this day. The place looked stunning, as it always does. The red-white-and-blue bunting always comes out for the special occasions, and the place seemed to have an extra halo around it just for the day.

This was gonna be a longer day that usual for those of us working there. The gates were opening at 1:00 for an 8:00 game (and this was the Orioles, so we could expect a marathon game), in order to allow early-arriving fans their own moment to smile and say their own silent farewells. Heck, they could even exit Monument Park via the warning track, where they could soak in the glories of that hallowed field firsthand. Our memories of this place make our minds race in so many different ways.

I started playing organ at 1:00 when the gates opened, and I played for a good hour and a half. I don’t remember exactly what I played; probably some of my favorites (When You’re Smiling, Eight Days A Week, Take The A-Train, The Shape I’m In, Because, Come Fly With Me, Oye Como Va, Patricia, Chest Fever, Sunny Side Of The Street, Sir Duke, Rehab, etc.), some ‘Sunday’ stuff (Groovin’, Beautiful Sunday, Sunday Will Never Be The Same), and maybe just jammed to fill some of the time. I then had a break for about an hour while they showed video of great Yankee Moments, and went back to play another hour or so.

During this break, I grabbed my camera and took a walk, and this time turned it into a pictorial ‘walking tour’ of my usual route from the parking lot to the press box, thinking someday when I’m old and gray that I’ll revisit it through these pictures. From getting out of the car and seeing the DiMaggio quote on the façade (which still brings a grin each time I see it; that never gets old), to the press entrance to the elevator, down to the basement to the press dining room. When I walked in there to grab a cup of Joe, I couldn’t do so because Bernie Williams was doing a press conference there, and I hung around long enough to hear him answer a question about his greatest moment at the stadium. He said there were so many, but one of the best was him walking o ut to center field one time before the game and seeing Paul Simon sound-checking with his guitar; he was going to do ‘Mrs. Robinson’ live that day. Then, back up the elevator to the Loge, down the concourse to the press box, and through the narrow corridor to my booth, which adjoins the PA booth. These are all halls and pathways down which many luminaries walked, to be sure.

The only deviation this time was after initially leaving the parking lot, I had to stop for a minute and take a few shots of the construction site across the street, where the new palace is emerging. Now, I know the idea of a new Yankee Stadium has its detractors, but here’s my take on it. I’ve been to every other major league city to see games, and I’ve seen the new parks in almost every one. And in sitting in those shiny new cathedrals, with their wide concourses and comfortable seats and spacious bathrooms and myriad amenities and culinary choices and state-of-the-art sound systems, I’ve always had one overriding thought: gee, why can’t WE have one of these? Doesn’t NY deserve this? And now we’re finally gonna get one, and it’ll surely trump all the others. As for the ‘vibe’ and the ‘aura’ and the ‘ghosts’, I believe Mr. Torre hit the nail on the head when he glibly said something like, “The ghosts will get up and walk across the street”. And you know they will, as soon as the team brings home #27. Heck, the ghosts will probably be there to greet us opening day, like some ethereal maitre d’s in Yankee uniforms as we enter the new shrine. (And yes, the organ will be there, same one as now.)

Anyway, I did my pre-game organ hit at 6:21, for fourteen minutes. My playlist was: “New York, New York”, “You Gotta Have Heart” (always open with those, as props to Mr. Layton), “The Way You Look Tonight”, “NY State of Mind” (I do this as a samba, works pretty well), “Bye Bye Blackbird”, “Save The Last Dance For Me”, “Thanks For The Memory”, and “More Today Than Yesterday” (not only apropos, but props to The Mighty Burner, Charles Earland, of course).

The actual pre-game festivities started around 6:50 PM. They kicked it off with the U.S Army Field Band doing a house-wrecking version of the “Stars and Striped Forever”, which for me kicks as much ass as any piece of music there is when done right. These fellas did it right! That sheer volume of sound and air moving, the push-and pull of the different sections, the harmonic tension in that piece… wow.

Then they started introducing the Yankee greats. They honored the deceased greats with a ‘field of dreams’ kind of thing, replete with yellowed uniforms (the ones Yogi said he doesn’t remember wearing), and even some actors who looked eerily like the people they were portraying. Now, I’ve read that some people thought this was ‘creepy’, but it certainly was novel and effective, and no other organization would have the creativity, the cujones, or the greats to do it. Then the parade of the living began, and so what If some of them weren’t ‘all-time greats’? They were Yankee greats who continue to conjur up great memories for all those present.

My part in this was to play short fanfares on the organ for each player as they were announced. In some cases, they were plays on words, as any organist would do; coulda been the player’s name, where they were from, a snippet of a song tied to something they did. Stuff like the ‘Yogi Bear’ theme for Yogi, ‘This Magic Moment’ for Don Larsen, ‘Oklahoma’ for Murcer, one of Bernie’s compositions when he came out. I’ve now done enough Old Timers’ Day games to know that there are some people you just can’t come up with anything clever for (what do you play for Ross Moschitto, for example? I’m sure some of you will have ideas…). So those people just get a generic fanfare, but with the same gusto as the others.

I had a copy of the script of the pre-game introductions that Sterling and Kay were reading from in my possession (a nice memento), since I had to follow it to play the fanfares. You may get a kick out of just reading the names of the living that were introduced, just to get a handle on the magnitude of the honorees and the event: Roy White, Winfield, Cora Rizzuto (representing Phil of course, and escorted by Mariano), Gene Michael, Nettles, Boggs, Brosius, Maris (represented by his son Randy), Reggie, O’Neill, Billy Martin (by his son), Richardson, Randolph, Skowron, Chambliss, Tino, Yogi, Elston Howard, Munson (by his son Michael), Girardi, Whitey, Larsen, Catfish (by Helen), Goose, Guidry, Wells, Cone, Mickey (by his son David), Murcer (by Kay and his children Todd and Tori), and finally Bernie.

Prior to that, in the ‘dream sequence’ they introduced the 1923 team stand-ins (Huggins, Shawkey, Schang, Pipp, Aaron Ward, Dugan, Everett Scott, Meusel, Whitey Witt, Ruth), and the stand-ins for Gehrig, Dickey, Gomez, Ruffing, McCarthy, Reynolds, Stengel, and DiMaggio. That’s a hell of a guest list, no?

The biggest cheers went up, it seemed, for the modern-day dynasty: Brosius, Tino, Boomer, Conie, O’Neill, and the last great hurrah for Bernie. There was a relentless tide of love and appreciation for these people, and it had to have warmed their hearts, too. And I couldn’t help but notice: almost no one sat down for the whole hour of this ceremony. Think about that!

As regards the brouhaha about Joe Torre, bear in mind that the way it was organized was in segments for each position on the field (a video montage followed by the attendees’ introductions at that position), but there was no segment of on-the field intros for managers. Torre was indeed featured in a video montage that honored the managers, and got a nice ovation at that time. The nonsense on a lot of blogs about Torre not being there was obviously absurd; I think he may have been a little busy that night (as was Mattingly). And as for him not being honored, he most certainly was, within the confines of the format.

My organ booth is secluded behind several panes of glass, and I can’t really hear the crowd, but I could see that that the place was electric that night. No one throws a party for themselves (or has the ammo to) like the Yankees. I thought this was a nearly perfect event, with great planning and execution, a real honor to the people being honored, and crowd-pleasing to the max in every sense of the word. Anyone who disputes that is nitpicking, and kudos are due to everyone that organized this. It must have been one heck of an undertaking.

The game finally began, and the Yanks did what they could by playing a crisp game and beating the O’s. Bernie even made an appearance in the scoreboard ops booth late in the game, by now in a suit looking quite dapper, to say hello to some friends there. There were more festivities after the game, as the Yanks did a victory lap around the field. Then, Jeter grabbed a mike on the infield and saluted the crowd and the Yankee tradition, in an apparently impromptu, yet elegant and concise, speech. And of course, one idiot had to try and run onto the field. You could do that in the late 80s/early 90s, but not no more. This person was engulfed instantly by an overwhelming cadre of uniformed and armed personnel of every stripe (horses, too), and seemingly disappeared into a black hole, never to be seen again. The incident was gone and forgotten almost as soon as it happened.

My great honor of the night was to get the last word musically. It was requested by the organization that I play a song called ‘Goodnight Sweetheart’, which Eddie Layton apparently used to close games with. On researching this, I found there to be two songs with this title: one written in the 1940’s and recorded by Bing Crosby and Dean Martin, among others; and the second, perhaps more widely known by us ‘youngsters’, the doo-wop hit by the Spaniels recorded in 1955 (and a blanched version as covered by the McGuire Sisters was also a smash).

It was not easy to find out which one they meant, as no one really knew. Layton obviously was not available for comment. I asked Bob Sheppard and he naturally assumed it was the older one, but wasn’t 100% sure (he’d never even heard of the Spaniels’ tune). My final arbiter was Bill Shannon, the official scorer, who had ironically had just mentioned this a few days prior to me being asked to do it, and he assured me it was the older one.

So, after the victory lap and Jeter’s message, and a few more rounds of Frank singing “New York, New York”, I was given the cue, and played the song. On the scoreboard, it was posted in tribute to Eddie Layton, although I can’t really see the scoreboard from my seat in the press box. “Goodnight, sweetheart, ‘til we meet tomorrow; goodnight sweetheart, sleep will banish sorrow…”: it was all pretty emotional to me, although I may have been the only one who knew what was going on. As an added bonus, on the official list of ‘stadium lasts’ distributed to the media, it was listed (with my name alongside) as the last piece of music to be heard at the old Yankee Stadium. So, I’m at least part of the answer to a trivia question.

The idea was that most of the people would be gone by then (it was now about 12:30 AM), and it would be the last thing played, but there were still a lot of people hanging around, soaking it in. Francis Albert inevitably came roaring back in after I was done, so technically the Chairman of the Board got the last word, but still… it was a pretty cool moment for me.

After almost all of the people were finally gone, we had a little private party in the scoreboard booth. At about 2:00 in the morning, we were summoned down onto the field for a staff picture. Then, I got my final opportunity to bask in the history from that hallowed ground for just a moment, and commune with the ghosts on their turf.

People ask me what I took from the stadium. There were no seats, no signs, no toilet fixtures. Only a little bag of dirt and grass from the field, the script from the formalities, and the name plate from my ‘office’ that says “Ed Alstrom – Organist”. They were the only material things I got. But a flood of feelings and memories from this old place and all the great times I’ve had there are what I really take with me.

And this last spectacular and beautifully-paced night tied it all together in grand fashion.

Ed Alstrom is the weekend/holiday organist for the Yankees.


Paul Cartier

      

Organist, New York Yankees/New York Islanders
Air Traffic Controller, Federal Aviation Administration
Volunteer Fire Fighter/EMT, South Hempstead
Chairman of the Board of Fire Commissioners, South Hempstead Fire District

Biography
Paul Cartier '81 has been the organist for the New York Yankees since 2004. He has played the organ for the New York Islanders hockey team on and off since 1978, and has been playing steady for the past six years. At the age of 19, Paul began his career as the organist for the New York Arrows indoor soccer team.

Paul currently works full-time as an air traffic controller for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), a position he has held for 19 years. In his spare time, he serves as a volunteer fire fighter/EMT in his hometown of South Hempstead, and as chairman of the Board of Fire Commissioners for the South Hempstead Fire District. Paul has been a member of the fire department for 28 years and a commissioner for eight years.

A transfer student from the University of Dayton, Paul earned a Bachelor of Science in music education from Hofstra in 1981. While a student at Hofstra, Paul played the organ at St. Martha's Roman Catholic Church in Uniondale to assist with tuition, and continued his classical organ lessons with Robert Kennedy at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City, during his sophomore year. Paul's sports affiliation was inspired by Hofstra Music Professor Dr. Fred Mendelson. Dr. Mendelson shared his musical talent with his students, including Paul, while playing the organ for the Islanders games at the Nassau Coliseum. After hearing Paul play the piano before class, Dr. Mendelson encouraged him to visit him at an Islanders game, where he allowed him to play the organ during intermission. Paul was later hired as the organist for the New York Arrows soccer team, and when Dr. Mendelson retired from Islanders hockey in 1980, Paul succeeded him as the Islanders' part-time organist.

Following the NY Yankees' 2003 season, Paul was contacted by Michael Bonner, NY Yankees director of scoreboard operations, after longtime organist of 37 years Eddie Layton announced his retirement, to see if he would be interested in playing the organ at the NY Yankees games. Paul, unable to commit on a full-time basis because of his responsibilities with the FAA, accepted Mr. Bonner's offer a few months later to play the evening games Monday through Friday, and in 2004, began his NY Yankees career.

In addition to his sports organist career, Paul serves as associate organist for Our Lady of Hope Roman Catholic Church in Carle Place, NY. He plays every week at Mass and was recently recognized with an award for 35 years of service with the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

Paul has been married to his wife, Jan, for 17 years. They have two children, son Kevin, 19 years old, and a daughter Katie, 16. Their family time is spent boating, traveling to various timeshares and spending time at their trailer in Eagle Lake, PA, in the Poconos.   (From: http://www.hofstra.edu/Alumni/AOTM/aotm_nov06.html)

Thanks to Paul Doherty for the great YouTube video below of Paul Cartier.

 

Paul Cartier's Gem Job At Baseball Diamond

April 08, 2009|By MARYELLEN FILLO, fillo@courant.com

He has one of the best seats in the house at Yankee Stadium and one of the biggest responsibilities - whipping all those Yankees fans into a supportive frenzy.

He's Paul Cartier, a full-time air-traffic controller who has done dual duty as the organist at Yankee Stadium the past five years. On Monday, he hit the big-time as the guest on ESPN's "SportsCenter," where he showed off what he does best - knocking tunes out of the park.

"At the stadium, I play a Hammond organ, but I brought a small Roland organ to play here," said Cartier, who set up shop in ESPN's Bristol studio and then tickled the ivories from the balcony of the digital center's studio during the noon and evening sports shows.

Since starting piano lessons at 9, Cartier continued his music education at Hofstra University, eventually taking on gigs as full-time organist for the New York Islanders hockey team at Nassau Coliseum, where former Yankee Stadium organist Eddie Layton heard him play. When Layton stepped down in 2003, Cartier was named his successor. And if he has it his way, he'll be playing for the Bronx Bombers until they have to move him off the bench.

So what about his new digs at the new $1.5 billion Yankee Stadium?

"It is so much better than where the organ was before, it's almost like an office," said Cartier of the room high above home plate where he now plays, and it has a great view of the game. "At the old stadium, it was more open, so in April, it would be really cold while I played."

And his playlist for Opening Day at the new stadium next week?

"Always open with "New York, New York," said Cartier, who plans to keep the music traditional and nostalgic. There will be the must-plays, like "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" to mark the seventh-inning stretch, as well as some standards of his own choosing, including Cole Porter songs, rock 'n' roll classics like "Why Must I Be a Teenager In Love" and Broadway standards like "You Gotta Have Heart" from Broadway's "Damn Yankees."

As for how the Yanks will do this season: "The team has made some good additions this year," Cartier said. "I think they could take it all the way."


Videos of Eddie Layton - Compliments of Paul Doherty

Eddie Layton 1988 - Plays "Age of Aquarius" on the Yankee Stadium Collonade Organ, 7/26/1988
 

Eddie Layton 1988 - Plays "On B-Way" on the Yankee Stadium Collonade Organ, 7/26/1988

Eddie Layton 2001 - Plays "Yellow Rose of Texas" for GWB 1st Ball, Yankee Stadium Organ, 10/30/2001

Eddie Layton 1988 - Plays "Take Me Out to the B-Game" Yankee Stadium Collonade Organ, 7/26/1988

Eddie Layton 1988 - Plays Home Run! on the Yankee Stadium Collonade Organ, 7/26/1988

Eddie Layton 1988 - Plays "This Could Be.." on the Yankee Stadium Collonade Organ, 4/5/1988

Eddie Layton 1988 - Plays "Happy Birthday" on the Yankee Stadium Collonade Organ, 7/26/1988

Eddie Layton 1988 - Plays "Here Come the Yankees" on the Yankee Stadium Collonade Organ, 7/26/1988

Eddie Layton 1988 - Plays "NY, NY" on the Yankee Stadium Collonade Organ, 7/26/1988

Eddie Layton 1988 - Plays Crowd Build-Up on the Yankee Stadium Collonade Organ, 7/26/1988

Eddie Layton 1988 - Plays "Saints Go Marchin'" on the Yankee Stadium Collonade Organ, 7/26/1988

Eddie Layton 1988 - Plays "Yankee Doodle" on the Yankee Stadium Collonade Organ, 7/26/1988

Here is a great tribute to both Bob Sheppard and Eddie Layton!  Great job by Chris Pavia.

Here is one more from Chris Pavia.  It is the Yankees 2007 lineup.  Great tribute to Bob and Eddie.

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