ST. LOUIS — Longtime St. Louis Cardinals organist Ernie Hays died Wednesday night.
Hays, 77, retired after the 2010 season.
"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."
A St. Louis native, Hays began playing piano at the age 7. He finished high school in Houston, Mo., and majored in music at Drury College and Southwest Missouri State University, now Missouri State, in Springfield.
Hays served four years of active military service with the United States Navy before returning to St. Louis and earning an engineering degree from Washington University.
Hays' sports music career began in 1971 when the Cardinals installed an organ in Busch Stadium II, and he quickly became a fixture at major St. Louis sporting events.
Hays soon started playing for the St. Louis football Cardinals, the St. Louis Blues, and the St. Louis Stars and Steamers soccer teams in addition to area college teams.
"On behalf of the St. Louis Blues, I would like to express how saddened we are to learn of the passing of Ernie Hays," said Blues Chief Operating Officer Bruce Affleck in a release. "The excitement that Ernie brought at Blues games will forever be remembered by our fans. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Loreta, and to their family."
It was at a Steamers game where Hays first played "Here Comes The King," the popular Budweiser beer advertising jingle, and a now staple at every Cardinals game.
Hays is credited in St. Louis with popularizing batter "walk-up" songs, as well as the intro music for relief pitchers. Hays spent 40 years with the Cardinals before his retirement two years ago.