Old time sports fans in Pittsburgh couldn't imagine going to a ball game - or for that matter, a hockey night in Pittsburgh - without hearing the organ of Vince Lascheid extorting the team or blasting out a player intro.
Vince died late Thursday at the age of 85, ending an era in Pittsburgh sports. He was much more than a house organist; he played for big bands like Tex Benecke and Glenn Miller before deciding life on the road wasn't for him and returning to the Pittsburgh club scene. But stadium and arena rock would make his reputation.
Lascheid was the first to tie a player and song snippet together, and some were classics. He played "Brian's Song" for Brian Giles, snake-charmer music for Dave "The Cobra" Parker, "My Favorite Martian" for Al Martin, "Elmer's Song" for Elmer Dessens, and "Jesus Christ, Superstar" for the Great One, Roberto Clemente.
Opposing players were fair game, too. Mark "Big Mac" McGwire was greeted by the McDonald's ad theme "You Deserve A Break Today," Mark Grace was introduced with "Amazing Grace," and Old Mon's favorite was for Oriole Benny Ayala who played against the Bucs in the '79 World Series to the strains of "Tie Ayala (A Yellow) Ribbon 'Round The Old Oak Tree."
When the opposing manager would go to the bullpen, the yanked pitcher would head to the dugout accompanied by Vince gleefully pounding out Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" or the Beatle's "Fool on the Hill."
He was just as rascally at the Arena. Lascheid would welcome the refs with "Three Blind Mice" until the NHL made him stop. He tickled the keys into "Let There Be Peace On Earth" whenever a brawl broke out on the ice.
And hey, the Igloo still plays "Let's Go Pens," the long-time rallying cry of the Penguin faithful. His taped "Let's Go Bucs" rings out in the North Shore during every Pirate rally to this day.
We'll miss Vince, as we have over the years when his witty (or corny; take your pick) organ interludes were replaced by three-chord rock anthems. But the Pirates stuck with tradition long enough to record him playing "Take Me Out To The Ball Game," and at least that lives on, played during every PNC seventh-inning stretch.
Lasheid was born in 1923 in Cleveland, where his Pittsburgh-native dad had landed for work, but soon returned to his family roots (Lascheid Bottling in Southside, which bottled, among other things, turn-of-the-20th century St. Vincent's Beer, was operated by his kin) in the City. His folk moved to Mt. Lebanon when he was five, where he lived until pitching tent in Scott a few years ago.
He began gigging in high school, and his career was launched when he joined the Navy while in college. He played for Tex Benecke, and joined the Glenn Miller band for the Chesterfield tour, doing live broadcasts across the country.
Lascheid tired of the Greyhound trips, and came back home after nine months of non-stop touring. His replacement wasn't exactly chopped liver - his seat at the piano was taken by Henry Mancini.
Vince ran a record shop for a decade, he gave keyboard lessons throughout his life, and played the St. Bernard church pipes every Sunday. Locally, he was a regular at Lenny Litman's old Downtown jazz club, the Midway Lounge, where he met his bride of 61 years, Linda, and later at the Colony in Scott Township. He even recorded an LP, "Vince Lascheid at the Colony" and in 1996 released a CD titled "Double Play" (Alanna ACD5564).
The Colony is where he scored his long-time Pirate gig, opening up Three Rivers Stadium in 1970 after playing some requests for Pittsburgh Pirates' then-GM Joe Brown, who was at the lounge and was impressed by his keyboard work. That eventually led to the Arena job.
Lascheid never went national, but by some estimates, his work was heard live by over 50,000,000 listeners during his 35-year career, and countless more heard his organ on radio and television. His taped snippets are still played today by the Pirates and Penguins, and he's even in the Pen's Hall of Fame. And that sounds like a big-time career to us.