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The salesman at the other store was much friendlier. He let me play The Star-Spangled Banner with the rhythm section rat-tat-tatting away inside like bombs bursting in air, and I didn't have to use headphones, so strollers could hear. No one seemed particularly moved by my rendition, although the salesman did cry out, "Play ball!" at the end. And he didn't even know what I was up to.
Large stacks of towels loomed to our left at the entrance of J.C. Penney's. The scent of hair spray wafted in from a nearby beauty parlor, and across the hall bleary-eyed folks at Dental World slouched down in chairs awaiting the drill. But I played on: Take Me Out to the Ball Game and a few rags, and Rose and Rachael Beth danced in the center aisle near the fountain where you can throw in pennies. Rachael Beth grinned and waved her buttered bun and after 20 minutes of playing I felt ready for the major leagues, even Pittsburgh, where Lascheid is a legend.
"Sure, Stargell was a factor in '79," says Jack Schrom, the Pirates' vice-president for public relations and marketing, "but Lascheid was even more of a factor. The fans were clamoring for him."
"He plays so bea-uu-tiful," says Mary Scarmate, a Coke vendor at Three Rivers Stadium. "It's really soothing. I can't explain."
If Lascheid wants to make a noise like a chicken on his Hammond B-3 organ, the best he can do is to play G G G G E-C. "Bok, bok. bok, bok, bau-ok," he cackles. "They won't trust me with a synthesizer. I'd have so much fun with one. Oh, the sounds that would come out of this room—the birdies that would tweet, the phones that would ring."
Lascheid's approach to playing the organ is more literary than musical. Because he can't produce a wide range of sounds with his instrument ("A plain ol' regular type organ—no gadgets, no drums, no nothin' "), he makes points with songs whose lyrics must be recognized by the fans.
"I understand everything he plays," boasts Francis Crytzer, a fan from Butler, Pa., who points to her head when talking about Lascheid.
"I try to make a pun out of a player's name," says Lascheid. "For Bob Dernier I'll play Nearer, my God, to Thee, or 'Denearer I Get the Closer I Feel.' If I can't do that then I'll try to play for a number. I'll play You're Sixteen for Steve Nicosia, who wears No. 16; 'course I stop there and leave out the 'You're beautiful and you're mine.' If that doesn't work I'll look for an ethnic connection; for Pat Rooney, Does Your Mother Come from Ireland?"
"I don't think we knew what we were in for when we hired Vince," says Dan Galbreath, one of the team owners. "He can really get fans cranked up. Some baseball purists don't go for the parrot [the Pirate mascot], the organ, all the fanfare. But there are also some real loyal fans who look forward to games just to try to figure out why Vince is playing what he's playing."
"When I'm sitting in the dugout," says Relief Pitcher Kent Tekulve (for whom Lascheid plays "Plop plop fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is" or Rubberband Man), "it's fun to try to figure out what he's doing. Sometimes it hits me after a couple of days; there are some songs I still haven't figured out."