Posts Tagged ‘Gladys Gooding’

The Organist

March 1, 2018

Gladys at the organ

Gladys Gooding from FindĀ  Grave

One of the glories of sports in general and of baseball in particular is the sounds that go with the game. Think about the “crack” of the bat, the “roar” of the crowd. Another sound that frequently goes with the game is music. Some of it is the special song done for a particular player as he comes to bat. Sometimes it’s the “Jeopardy” theme as the visiting manager takes the stroll to the mound. And in big league parks there’s the organ. Easily the most famous baseball organist was Gladys Gooding.

Gladys Gooding was born in 1893 in Missouri. She learned to play music, had a brief marriage, children, and a divorce. The latter was unusual in early 20th Century America so she had to find her own way. That way led her to New York and the silent movies. She wasn’t an actress, but even silent movies required sound. The in-house soundtracks for movies could be quite elaborate. You can pick up a silent like “The Battleship Potemkin” and watch it today. If you do, make sure you notice there’s a soundtrack that goes with it. It’s all music and someone had to play it in the theaters. Gladys Gooding found a profession as the organist at a movie house in New York.

It got her noticed. There was the Chautauqua circuit, there were concerts, there were various musical concerts. I’m unsure whether she ever made it to Carnegie Hall or not, but the crowds thought she was good and she became, in her circle, quite famous.

In the 1940s it got her a new gig; her most famous. She was hired to play the organ at Ebbets Field. She became something of a celebrity in her own right. Her rendition of the National Anthem became famous. She played “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh inning stretch (and at other times), had her own list of numbers she’d play for particular situations (Couldn’t find out if “Charge” was one of them). Her most infamous moment occurred in the 1950s when one of the umpires for the day’s game at Ebbets Field was sick. When only three umps showed up on the field to call the game, Gladys Gooding serenaded them with “Three Blind Mice.” It seems to be the only time an organist was thrown out of a ball game.

She was there when the Dodgers moved away from Brooklyn, playing the organ for the last time at an Ebbets Field game. She also took over the music responsibilities at Madison Square Garden where she played for both the Knickerbocker basketball team and the Rangers hockey squad. That led ultimately to a great trivia question: “Who played for the Dodgers, Knicks, and Rangers?” She also did the National Anthem for a number of major professional boxing matches, including championship bouts. She died in New York in 1963.

Much of this is taken from a short article at the “Find a Grave” website. The article is written by a Barbara Dines Hoffman. Ms. Hoffman also included a picture of Gladys Gooding away from her organ. It’s above. You can also find Gladys Gooding performances on You Tube.