Eddie Layton - The Vital Organ of Yankee Stadium for 31 Years
Through his Hammond B-3, organist Eddie Layton led millions of Yankees fans in rounds of “Charge” and “You’ve Got to Have Heart”, leading them through both bad seasons (think Billy Martin and Horace Clarke ) and world championships (think Billy Martin and Mariano Rivera).
It’s hard to imagine, then, that in 1967 when Mike Burke, who ran the Yankees for CBS, offered the organist’s job to Layton, he turned the Yankees' first job offer down, stating that he thought “a sacrifice fly was an insect.” His experience lay in Radio City Music Hall and providing the melodramatic backdrops for classic soap operas “The Secret Storm” and “The Love of Life.”
"I don’t know anything about baseball," he told them. "And besides, I live in Queens and I don’t drive." But the team made him an offer he couldn’t refuse: "They told me that a limo would pick me up in front of my apartment in Forest Hills before every game," he told a reporter. "And when the game ended, the limo would take me home."
Layton went on to play for the Yankees for more than three decades, with a break from 1971-1977 while he pursued other musical commitments. In addition to playing for the Yankees, he was the organist for the New York Knicks and the New York Rangers for 18 years, earning him membership in the New York Sports Hall of Fame.
He also performed concerts in more than 200 cities for the Hammond Organ company and released 26 albums, selling over 3 million copies. In addition, Layton played the organ at Radio City Music Hall for Pace University commencements held there. The student union at Pace University's New York City campus was named in his honor. Proceeds from the sale of Layton’s World Series rings will go to Pace University as requested in Layton’s will.
When Layton retired on September 28, 2003, his last performance was to play "Take Me Out to the Ball Game", with fans chanting "Eddie! Eddie!", a tribute to a longtime member of the Yankees’ club.