ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals' organization is mourning the loss of Ernie Hays, a longtime Busch Stadium organist who passed away on Wednesday night. Hays was 77.
Hays, a native of St. Louis, began playing the piano at age seven and took those skills to Busch Stadium II in 1971, when the Cards installed an organ at the ballpark.
"We are deeply saddened by the passing of Ernie Hays," Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said. "Ernie's music shaped the soundtrack of Cardinals baseball for nearly four decades. He was one of the premier sports organists in the country, and a valued member of the Cardinals family. The entire Cardinals organization extends its sincere condolences to his wife Loreta and his entire family."
Hays retired from the Cardinals 40 years later, but not before he had left an indelible mark on fans' ballpark experience. He helped to popularize walk-up songs and reliever introduction music in St. Louis. He also introduced the popular Budweiser advertising jingle, "Here Comes The King," at the ballpark. The tune is still played at every Cardinals game during a late-game innings break.
Hays also played the organ for several other local sports teams, including the NHL's Blues, NFL's Cardinals, and the St. Louis Stars and Steamers soccer teams.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB.