Over the year, organists at baseball games have become a dying breed. More and more, it's the sound of whatever music is hot at the time that entertains fans between innings.
It wasn't always that way though.
There was a time when the Phanatic didn't dance to the recorded version of "Tequila". No, he danced to the organ music version and it was Paul Richardson playing it. It was Richardson who would sometimes play "The Elephant Walk" when an opposing manager would walk to the mound and of course, it was Richardson who played "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" during the seventh inning stretch.
Nearly eight years ago, Richardson was diagnosed with prostate cancer and has undergone chemotherapy and radiation treatments for the disease. While he's doing relatively well, the treatments and disease have ravaged his body to the point where he has trouble walking. It has also, cruely, made it impossible for him to operate the foot pedals that organ playing demands. While he knows he's doing the right thing, it doesn't make it easy. "Thirty-five years is a long time and I've loved every day of it," said Richardson lately.
It was 1970 when Richardson accepted an offer from Bill Giles to take over the job at Connie Mack Stadium. After playing nightclubs for almost 20 years, Richardson figured it would be a nice change and jumped at the chance. Soon, he was moving into Veterans Stadium with the Phillies and went along into Citizens Bank Park, too. Over the years though, his role has changed. Recorded music took the place of many of his opportunities to play and slowly, many fans didn't even realize that Richardson's role had diminished to a barely recognizeable job.
Among Richardson's shining moments were these:
- Without missing a beat - pardon the pun - playing "Is That All There Is?" when a streaker brought the craze of running naked to Veterans Stadium in 1972.
- A few years ago, he and his daughter played the National Anthem together prior to a game at The Vet. Richardson lists that as the highlight of his career.
Richardson played on the concourse at Citizens Bank Park and admitted that not being to see the game and be a part of it put a damper on the job, but it didn't kill the joy of entertaining.
Oh, and if you're wondering whatever happened to the old organ that Richardson played at Veterans Stadium. That's what he's leaning on in the picture accompanying this story. It was given to him by the Phillies when the Vet was closed.