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Rest in peace, Ernie Hays

The Cardinals announced Thursday that the team's longtime organist Ernie Hays has died at 77 years old.

Things haven't quite been the same at the ballpark since Hays retired at the end of the 2010 season. His playing added a great deal of atmosphere at the ballpark from his pre-game rendition of "Meet Me in St. Louis" to the snip of "We're off to See the Wizard" he played when Ozzie Smith came to bat in the days before canned walk-up songs and his peppy version of Budweiser theme song "Here Comes the King."

During the last few games I attended at Busch Stadium this year it struck me how different things are at the ballpark without Hays on the organ. Fortunately, the Cardinals have continued the tradition of organ music at the ballpark. But Hays' signature style was a St. Louis tradition that is difficult to replace.

"We are deeply saddened by the passing of Ernie Hays," Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said in a release. "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."