Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Day The Music Died

Old time sports fans in Pittsburgh couldn't imagine going to a ball game - or for that matter, a hockey night in Pittsburgh - without hearing the organ of Vince Lascheid extorting the team or blasting out a player intro.

Vince died late Thursday at the age of 85, ending an era in Pittsburgh sports. Oh, he was more than a house organist; he played for big bands like Tex Benecke and Glenn Miller before deciding life on the road wasn't for him and returning to the Pittsburgh club scene. But stadium and arena rock would make his reputation.

Vince was the first to tie a player and song snippet together, and some were classics. He played "Brian's Song" for Brian Giles, snake-charmer music for Dave "The Cobra" Parker, "My Favorite Martian" for Al Martin, "Elmer's Song" for Elmer Dessens, "Rubber Band Man" for the tireless Kent Tekulve, and "Jesus Christ, Superstar" for the Great One, Roberto Clemente.

Opposing players were fair game, too. Mark "Big Mac" McGwire was greeted by the McDonald's ad theme "You Deserve A Break Today," Mark Grace was introduced with "Amazing Grace," and GW's favorite was for Oriole Benny Ayala who played against the Bucs in the '79 World Series to the strains of "Tie Ayala (A Yellow) Ribbon 'Round The Old Oak Tree."

When the opposing manager would go to the bullpen, the yanked pitcher would head to the dugout accompanied by Vince gleefully pounding out Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" or the Beatle's "Fool on the Hill."

He was just as rascally at the Arena. Lascheid would welcome the refs with "Three Blind Mice" until the NHL made him stop. He tickled the keys into "Let There Be Peace On Earth" whenever a brawl broke out on the ice.

And hey, the Igloo still plays "Let's Go Pens," the long-time three note ("da-da-da") rallying cry of the Penguin faithful. Heck, he's even in the Pen's Hall of Fame. Even Billy Crystal can't top that! His taped "Let's Go Bucs" rings out in the North Shore during every Pirate rally to this day. Sometimes it even helps.

We'll miss Vince, as we have over the years when his witty (or corny; take your pick) organ interludes were replaced by three-chord rock anthems. But the Pirates stuck with tradition long enough to record him playing "Take Me Out To The Ball Game," and at least that lives on, played during every PNC seventh-inning stretch

1 comment:

WilliamJPellas said...

Do you have a link to a story or obituary about Vince? Being a former piano and organ player myself, I paid close attention to all of the various themes he so thoughtfully---and sometimes snarkily!---played for various people. One of my favorites was "Hail To The Chief" for Gary Carter. Heh heh!