About a month ago, while still in the midst of the winter doldrums, I started seriously contemplating spring. Thoughts of daffodils, crocuses, and cherry blossoms were pleasant and warming in their way. But not far behind was the phrase “hope springs eternal,” with the emphasis on the spring. With the turning of the seasons comes another type of season altogether: baseball.
Since hope has been in short supply for Bucco fans over the last, oh, two decades or so, the inveterate fan’s mind frequently wanders to some of the ancillary benefits of an afternoon at the park: enjoyable spring weather, tasty ballpark fare, accompanied by a beverage of choice, rooting vociferously for the home team, and, in Pittsburgh, the delightful strains of the longtime organist Vince Lascheid.
Sadly, word came a few weeks ago that Mr. Lascheid had passed away at the age of 85. What I’d intended as a celebration has by necessity become more of a tribute. The wonderful memories Mr. Lascheid created for generations of Pittsburgh fans, particularly baseball and hockey fans, will always be cherished. With this afternoon’s home opener in mind, I thought perhaps we’d take a look at some of the fun things he did to help fans pass a day at the park, whether the home team was on top or not.
Music was always a part of Vince Lascheid’s life. In a magazine article from 2004, Lascheid recalled trying to play tunes by ear he heard on the radio when he was 4 or 5 years old. He studied and played music all his life and operated a music store for a number of years in Mt. Lebanon. Legend has it that he was playing one evening in the Colony Restaurant when Pirate broadcaster Bob Prince and general manager Joe L. Brown stopped in, were taken with his playing, and asked him if he would like to play organ at Three Rivers Stadium. The rest was, as they say, history.
What Vince Lascheid became known for was his expert use of the thousands of songs he knew in given situations. In addition, every year like a player in spring training, he would sit down with the baseball “green book,” familiarize himself with players’ names and match the player with a tune, often in a slyly humorous, always amusing way. Here in our Music, Film and Audio Department, we have a number of unique resources which helped me research the story of Vince Lascheid.
First and foremost is the Oral History of Music in Pittsburgh collection, for which Mr. Lascheid was interviewed. In the 40-minute-plus interview, he discusses his musical history and reminisces about his memories of the Glenn Miller Band, his record shop, his long-time gig at the Colony, and, of course, his time with the Pirates and Penguins. Along with the interview, which is on compact disc as well as cassette, there is an accompanying reference file that contains a number of articles on Lascheid, along with a list of the situational songs he used as well as a list of tunes he matched with players. The following examples are culled from the list he provided.
Pitching change: “Send In the Clowns”
Pitcher-catcher conference: “Do You Want to Know a Secret?”
Pitcher strikes out batter: “Another One Bites the Dust”
Pitcher issues a walk: “Ease on Down the Road”
Umpire music: “Do You See What I See?”
Benny Ayala: “Tie (Ayala) a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree”
Dusty Baker: “Dust in the Wind”
Dale Berra: “Here Comes the Sun (son)”
Bobby Bonilla: “Take the Money and Run”
Jack Clark: “Hit the Road, Jack”
Art Howe: “How Great Thou Art”
Jim Kaat: “Alley Cat”
Jason Kendall: “Grease” (Kendall motor oil)
Dennis Martinez: “Dennis the Menace Theme”
Rick Monday: “Rainy Days and Mondays”
Pete Rose: “Second Hand Rose”
Rafael Santana : “Evil Ways” (Santana)
Ryne Sandburg: “Mr. Sandman”
Ozzie Smith: “(We’re Off to See) the Wizard”
Kent Tekuluve: “O What a Relief It Is” (Alka Seltzer theme)
Andy Van Slyke: “Dick Van Dyke Theme”
Vince Lascheid certainly played ‘em as he saw ‘em. He even got in hot water once or twice, but considering the thousands of snippets he played over the decades, that was certainly understandable.
Over the past few years, Mr. Lascheid’s time at the stadium was greatly reduced. However, with some foresight, the Pirates recorded some of his standard anthems and will continue to play them in the coming years.
Unlike our beloved Buccos, lo, these many barren years, when it came time for the bottom half of the 7th inning and the strains of “Take Me Out to The Ball Game” resounded in that old “concrete ashtray” that was Three Rivers Stadium, Vince Lascheid just couldn’t be beat.
PS. If you’d like a taste of the music Mr. Lascheid played in his many gigs over the years, especially at the Colony Restaurant, check out his CD “Double Play.” The CD is a dual piano recording of him on multiple tracks; it seems Vince Lascheid never met a pun he didn’t like. He covers tunes like “I’ve Got a Crush On You,” ”As Time Goes By,” and “My Funny Valentine.” Oh, and there is one more thing: the last cut on the disc is “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”