Red Sox organist Josh Kantor is more than happy to indulge your weird Twitter song requests
The first performance of organ music at a baseball game happened on April 26, 1941, at Wrigley Field. According to the Chicago Tribune, it went very well ... but the team didn't have its own theme song yet. (As you can probably guess, this was long before "Go Cubs Go.") But don't worry -- organist Ray Nelson promised he'd play a Cubs anthem puzzlingly titled "When the Midnight Choo Choo Leaves for T-U-L-S-A" at the next home game.
Weird team theme songs aside, organ music during games caught on, and now, it's a beloved MLB tradition in many parks. The A.V. Club sat down with Josh Kantor, the Red Sox's organist since 2003, and he told them all about what it's like to have one of the most unique jobs in baseball. For example, did you know there is no MiLB for organists? Sure, there might be organ players in MiLB, but it's not like they develop you to get called up when the moment is right.
AVC: Did they have you at Spring Training games or was Opening Day your first day?
JK: No. Opening day was my first day, although it was rained out. So I guess opening day was sort of the next day, but it was definitely a trial by fire …
They had told me, "Oh, don't worry, we'll sort of ease you in gradually." And I thought, "Well, that's great. I could use a little bit of easing in." But then the first day that I showed up for the first game, they said, "Oh, yeah, by the way, slight change of plans. We're going to need you to play for like 90 minutes straight during the team warm-ups before the opening ceremonies." So that was a little bit terrifying. ... Once I had done that, I felt like, "Well, now I'm probably ready for just about anything that they might throw at me," and I did feel less nervous and more prepared.
Kantor is also known for interacting with fans. Have a song you want him to play? Just tweet at him and he probably will.
AVC: How do you know what to play and when? And how do you know what songs will work? JK:
… In the last four years or so, I've been taking song requests from fans via Twitter.
Fans in the stands can send me their requests and I'll do my very best to fit those songs in based on where I think they might fit within the context and the action of the game, and that's been a really fun thing for me. It started as an experiment, and I've learned a lot from it. It's worked out pretty well.
… That's usually how I end up playing a lot of the stuff that's more off the beaten path because mostly I play big hits, whether it's new ones or old ones or really old ones. But sometimes people will ask for something that's a little unusual either because they're trying to be goofy or trying to trick me or just think it would be fun to hear. And so from time to time, I will play those songs, and I've gotten a little bit of a reputation of being the person who will sometimes indulge that sort of thing.
So if you've been waiting all your life to hear that song you wrote in high school get played during a Major League game, just shoot Kantor a tweet and an mp3, and maybe he'll indulge you. And don't forget -- read the rest of his interview here.
Gemma Kaneko has been a writer for Cut4 since the end of her term as Witch President in 2014. She is the proudest Tigers fan in New York City.