For four decades, the sound of the organ at Busch Stadium during Cardinal games came from the fingertips of Ernie Hays. From 1971-2010, Hays was the soundtrack to Cardinals games, and anything associated with St. Louis sports.
Hays was born on New Year’s Day, 1935. His father played the banjo and worked for the Chevrolet. His mother was a seamstress who played guitar and sang in the church choir. He was 7 when his parents bought him a piano. His teacher charged $1 a lesson and was surprised at how quickly he learned to play by ear. The piano lessons ended when his father retired and moved the family to Houston, Mo. At Drury College in Springfield, Mo., he got jobs through the musicians’ union and played at parties and dances. He transferred to Southwest Missouri State and married Loreta Heriford in 1954. He worked as a disc jockey and news announcer and supported his growing family on 95 cents an hour. He enlisted in the Navy, where he played piano at the Officers Club and served on a minesweeper off Libya. He retired from the Navy in 1960 and spent three years at Southwest Missouri State and the University of Missouri at Rolla, earning a degree in electrical engineering. He worked at McDonnell Aircraft and Western Electric Co. Until 1977, he worked days as an engineering supervisor at the old Bell System, while also playing at Cardinals games.
He became a full-time musician and teacher. He played for seven teams: the football Cardinals, the Blues, the Steamers and Stars soccer teams, the Spirits of St. Louis basketball team and St. Louis University. At Busch Stadium, he asked players what songs they wanted during their introductions. For Hall-of-Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith, he played tunes from “The Wizard of Oz.” He was known for his trove of jokes, many of which couldn’t be published in a newspaper. He explained that his job was to “play rah-rah stuff for the good guys, raspberries for the bad guys, and pass no judgment on the officials.” However, the most memorable legacy of Hays was his rendition of the classic Budweiser jingle “Here Comes The King”:
Hearing the sound of “Here Comes The King” made a Cardinal game feel like a Cardinal game. This tradition continues under current Blues/Cardinals organist and Hays student Jeremy Boyer. This is him performing the exact same song at Hays’ studio:
Hays was the recipient of the Jack Buck Award for his dedication to the sports landscape in 2010. He died of a heart attack on October 31, 2012 at the age of 77. He leaves behind his wife, three children, Pamela, Roger, Bob, and five grandchildren.