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Eddie Layton Wizard of the 50,000 watt Yankee Stadium Hammond, Passes on to the Great


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Eddie Layton, a sports institution in New York as the organist at Yankee Stadium and Madison Square Garden, died Sunday at his home in Forest Hills, Queens.


His death was announced by the Yankees, who said it came after a brief illness. Layton customarily declined to reveal his age, but he was believed to be in his late 70's.


When he was hired in 1967 to play for the Yankees, Layton had never been to Yankee Stadium and knew nothing about baseball.


"I thought that a sacrifice fly had something to do with killing an insect," he recalled in an interview with National Public Radio, shortly after his retirement at the end of the 2003 baseball season. "I didn't know where first base was or third base. But I quickly learned within a week, and I started doing the famous chants, the hand-clapping things, and the dun-dun-dun-dun-da-dun."


"And I was the first guy to do that," he said of the "charge."


Wearing his oversized eyeglasses and his captain's hat (he owned a maroon and green tugboat he piloted on the Hudson River), sitting on his padded bench at his 50,000-watt Hammond organ, Layton was a fixture at Yankee Stadium.


He played at Yankee games for more than three decades, although he missed a few years during the 1970's while pursuing other musical commitments. He was as familiar as Bob Sheppard on the public-address system, Phil Rizzuto in the broadcast booth and Robert Merrill singing the national anthem.


He played the organ at the Garden from 1967 to 1985 for Knicks and Rangers games. He also played at Islanders games in the Nassau Coliseum for a few seasons in the 1990's.


If the occasion fit, Layton would depart from his standard fare. When the Yankees' Alberto Castillo got a hit in mid-May 2002, after going 0 for 14 to that point in the season, he played the "Hallelujah" chorus.


When a Rangers opponent went to the penalty box for slashing, "If I Had the Wings of an Angel" might accompany him.


Layton had five World Series rings, but wore only the smallest one, from 1978, fearing that he might play a wrong note if encumbered by the heavier ones.


In addition to his sports work, he made numerous recordings, performed at concerts, played at Radio City Music Hall and represented the Hammond company on tours.


A native of Philadelphia, Layton was the son of a supermarket owner. He graduated from West Chester State Teachers College in Pennsylvania, where he majored in meteorology and minored in music, having played the organ since he was 12 years old.


After serving in the Navy, he pursued a career as a professional organist and played for many soap operas on CBS.


Mike Burke, who was running the Yankees for their owner, CBS, in the 1960's, heard him play and asked him to become the Yankee organist.


Layton was not supposed to play during the baseball action, but he told National Public Radio how once "I just got lost in the moment" with the Yankees' Reggie Jackson at bat.


"I kept playing and playing and playing and playing," he remembered. "And Reggie looked up at the booth, and the umpires looked up at the booth. Reggie threw down the bat and he started dancing at home plate."


But there were also somber times. When the Yankees played the Baltimore Orioles on Sept. 11, 2002, the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Layton played a slow, poignant version of "Ave Maria" after a moment of silence at 9:11 p.m.


Layton lived in an apartment building in Queens, where he played a miniature version of his Yankee Stadium organ.


He never married. The Yankees' announcement of his death did not list survivors.


As the summers passed, recorded music pumped in through speakers cut into Layton's musicianship at Yankee Stadium.


But he expressed no regrets.


"I've had my day," he told The New York Times in October 2003 as he closed his career. "Playing with 50,000 watts of power, what rock star has an amplifier like that? I play for up to 56,000 people a night. Not even Madonna has done those kind of numbers."


Note that the Times left out: He turned down the Yankees gig until they offered him limo service to and from the games. Rock-star!


I'll miss Eddie Layton as I miss the work of Jane Jarvis when she retired (I'm a Mets fan and Jane jammed at Shea when I was a kid).


The passing of Eddie Layton is the end of an era for the sports arena organist. Unfortunately more and more piped in 'get psyched' music will replace the ambience that I associated with baseball. Rest In Peace Eddie, and this is from a Mets fan. :cry:

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Eddie Layton was huge .

Think about it.

Forget, for a moment, the much-heralded multi-sport professional players like Jim Thorpe, Deion Sanders, Michael Jordan, and Bo Jackson.


Although he was paid only by

the Yankees, the Knicks, the Rangers, and the Islanders,

Eddie played for every team in the AL, tha NBA, and the NHL

during his career. Amazing.


Yep, he played....... ORGAN ! :D

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I believe I had an organ book of arrangements of tunes reharmonized by him when I was growing up. For some reason I remember Girl Of My Dreams or Don't Blame Me with his changes. I probably still have that book somewhere.


I used to play the organ at Army ice hockey games and I would use a lot of the same ideas that he first came up with. He will be missed.

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.


In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.


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This is a bummer... I only visited Yankee Stadium once, on a trip just to hear him play! He was definitely "the example" to follow for the classic ballpark sound.


I've been playing the stadium organ for the Cleveland Indians for the past 4 years- I wish I had a morsel of Eddie Layton's talent, along with his ability to leave permanent mark on the game, with his little 'bum bum bum'/charges that have become baseball trademarks...


(I also wish for a nice Hammond in the scoreboard room, and hang a Leslie in every section, but that's besides the point.) :rolleyes:

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I'm a Bronx boy (born and raised there) and attended many Yankee games. As a keyboard enthusiast, I always focused on his playing when at the games. This is definitely the end of an era. The other distinctive amplified sound of Yankee Stadium, by the way, is the great Bob Sheppard (the voice of the Yankees). They were two of the most influential sounds of my youth!


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outjet - you lucky s.o.b.! Baseball and hi-wattage keys! Can you put up a photo of the rig?

At Convention Hall in Asbury Park, NJ - they had a huge monster with 6 manuals. my bro's friend was the organist before Asbury became a ghost-town.

I played at some minor league games but it was like "bring yer own board" or "our PA is on the fritz, could you bring an amp?" I was later replaced with a portable CD player.

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Yah - unfortunately it was better to "bring yer own board" for me too. When I first showed up they had an Ensoniq ASR-10! I brought in my Motif ES6 this season, since there's only room for a 61 key board presently... I'm hoping XK-3 or similar for 2005.


Here's photos of the rig as requested (took these in '03)




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