CultureSaturday 04.30.22

Boston Red Sox Organist Josh Kantor on Accompanying MLB

Time for “This Week In Sports History,” where we break down an event from the past through the lens of 2022.

Eighty-one years ago this week, MLB’s Chicago Cubs became the first team to employ an organ player after Ray Nelson worked the pipes for a crowd of 18,000 fans. The practice quickly caught on, reaching a new level of popularity when Nancy Faust brought her musical talents to the Windy City’s other team, the White Sox, in 1970.

Faust got attention for peppering the game action with pop song riffs, a much-imitated approach for many ballpark organists today. Her most famous contributions include accompanying legendary announcer Harry Caray to the tune of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in the seventh-inning stretch, which became a Chicago attraction for decades; playing the Bill Withers hit “Just the Two of Us” as a blow-up doll bounced around in the outfield; and playing Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is?” as a streaker made a run across the field.

Boston Red Sox organist Josh Kantor joins LZ and Will to talk about how the tradition has evolved, and his own take on it. “I just started my 20th season doing this and people often ask me, ‘Is this a dream job?’ And the answer is, ‘If you like playing the organ and watching baseball at Fenway Park, then yes, it is a dream job.’”

Baseball is more than a century old. LZ, Will, and their guest talk about how its ability to reinvent old traditions like this and keep them current is key to the sport’s survival.

The Long Game