Ed Alstrom, Yankee Stadium’s organist, keeps a tradition alive

Yankee Stadium's organist Ed Alstrom.

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NEW YORK — Surprisingly, the vibrant sounds of organ music are absent in over half of Major League Baseball stadiums. This once deeply rooted tradition, akin to peanuts and hot dogs, has faded from many ballparks. However, Yankee Stadium stands proudly against this trend.

Within its confines, the essence of baseball’s greats is preserved through the melodies of a skilled musician apart from Yankee Stadium’s vaunted Monument Park. Here, the organist’s music pays homage to the game’s storied past.

“Baseball brings me immense joy,” remarked Ed Alstrom, the Yankee stadium’s organist. “Enhancing the atmosphere with music is incredibly rewarding.”

For sixty years, the powerful organ at Yankee Stadium has remained a constant presence, providing the soundtrack to countless games. Now, Ed Alstrom is at the helm, occupying the seat once graced by the legendary Eddie Layton.

“This is truly a dream come true,” beams Alstrom, reflecting on a childhood ignited by a visit to the ballpark with his father. “Seeing the organ there, surrounded by the energy of the game… I knew that’s what I wanted to do someday: merge music with baseball.”

Before immersing himself in the electric atmosphere of a Yankee Stadium weekend, Alstrom finds solace in the tranquil melodies he performs at a church in Montclair, New Jersey. There, he sheds the role of the Yankees‘ organist and simply embraces being a devoted musician.

CBS New York’s Steve Overmyer quoted Ed Alstrom expressing gratitude for the diversity in his musical career. Alstrom shared that he appreciates the challenge of transitioning between different musical settings, noting the striking difference between his morning performances at a church and his afternoon gigs at Yankee Stadium. Overmyer emphasized this duality by referring to Yankee Stadium as the “cathedral of baseball,” a term Alstrom found amusing, adding, “There’s nothing wrong with that.”

Yankee Stadium's screens features organist Ed Alstrom

Organist Ed Alstrom adds to Yankee Stadium’s baseball ambiance

Steve Overmyer covered Ed Alstrom’s musical journey, which began with a pivotal decision in his youth. Alstrom recounted how his father presented him with a choice between learning the organ or the accordion, and he instinctively chose the organ. Overmyer jokingly suggested that Alstrom could have become a polka king with the accordion, prompting laughter from Alstrom, who acknowledged the potential for future regret in a light-hearted manner.

Alstrom then elaborated on the significant differences between pianos and organs, despite their similar keyboard layout. He explained that organs feature multiple manuals (ranging from two to four) along with pedals. This unique setup allows the organist to play bass notes with their feet while simultaneously producing various sounds with both hands.

Steve Overmyer’s report highlighted Ed Alstrom’s distinctive playing technique, which involves performing without shoes. Alstrom explained that he finds shoes restrictive and prefers the tactile precision of playing barefoot. He also underscored the physical demands of organ playing, noting that it engages all four limbs and is akin to a rigorous workout.

The report continued to depict Alstrom’s skill in enhancing the ambiance of both church services and Yankee Stadium. Overmyer characterized him not merely as a traditionalist, but as a musician who uses his keyboard mastery to weave narratives.

Finally, Alstrom described his lively approach to celebrating strikeouts by Yankee pitchers, showcasing his energetic engagement with the game’s rhythm.

Steve Overmyer’s report delved into how Ed Alstrom‘s music complements the on-field action, providing a thematic backdrop to the game’s drama. Alstrom’s music was portrayed as metaphorically intertwined with the sounds of the game, likening the crack of the bat to an “amen” and the roar of the crowd to a “hallelujah.”

Overmyer also relayed Alstrom’s perspective on the unifying and inspiring power of his music. Alstrom cited legendary Yankee organist Eddie Layton, who believed in using music to lead cheers, as a source of inspiration. Alstrom expressed his own desire to achieve this effect, believing that his musical encouragement benefits both himself and the fans.

The report concluded by highlighting the unifying purpose of Alstrom’s music in both his church and Yankee Stadium settings, emphasizing its ability to connect with audiences regardless of the setting—whether for a religious congregation or cheering on the home team.

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

(Source: CBS)

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