When the New York Yankees first offered
him the job in 1967, Eddie Layton turned them down.
"I dont know anything about baseball," he told them.
"And besides, I live in Queens and I dont drive."
But the Yankees came back to the mound, and threw him a curveball.
"They told me that a limo would pick me up in front of my apartment
in Forest Hills before every game," he said. "And when the game ended, the limo
would take me home."
It was an offer he couldnt refuse. "You gotta deal,"
Layton told them.
Thirty-two years and nearly 3,000 games later, Layton is still tickling
the ivories on the Hammond organ at the house that Ruth built.
Prior to taking the job with the Yankees, Layton played melodramatic organ
music during soap operas on CBS. When he joined the Bronx Bombers, he initially was
expected to play only between innings. But on one soggy summer afternoon, with the Yankees
down by a few runs and the crowd languishing in dismay, Eddie decided to play.
He innocently put together what has become the quintessential baseball
organ chord progression. The crowd immediately responded, as did the Yankees who came back
to win the game.
"The owner looked at me from his box, and gave me a thumbs up,"
said Layton. "The next day, I got a raise."
Over the years, Layton has developed a unique repertoire, tunes he calls
the "proven war-horses." At few other baseball stadiums can you hear melodies
such as "The Mexican Hat Dance," or "Hava Nagila."
"Ill play anything that works," said Layton.
"Anything that gets the fans involved."
But after playing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" every game for
32 years, how do you keep the music interesting?
"What makes it exciting for me is that is it a sporting event,"
said Layton. "Nothing is ever the same, you never know the outcome."
If there has been one improvement at Yankee stadium in Laytons 32
years, he says it is the quality of the hot dogs. "They are much better now that they
are answering to a higher authority," he said.
During the off-season, Layton sails his yacht, and collects model
railroads, but come April, he is right back in the booth where he belongs.
"Another 25 or 30 years from now I am going to get out of this
business," said Layton, on opening day. Until then
"I dont care if I
ever get back, for its