It was the beginning of Spring training 2012 when I first learned about the Sisterhood of the Traveling Jersey, and I was a fledgling Gaslamp Baller; a longtime lurker who had only just come into the light and begun to comment and participate. I read the initial posts about the Staton Jersey and I was amazed as I saw the jersey pass from bearer to bearer. It seemed like with every post the GLBers managed to up the ante, as soon the jersey was making its way around the world and across the country. Could I be so bold as to ask the stewards of the SotTJ if I, a GLB neophyte, could wear the jersey for one baseball game? Though it had been through incredible experiences already, I knew I could do something wholly unique - I could wear it as I played the organ at a Padres game. As the end of the season approached my chance to be a jersey bearer became a reality, and here below lies the tale.
As my doorbell rang on Monday morning excitement jolted through me. I knew exactly what would be waiting for me on the doorstep. From parts unknown,* the Jersey had come back to San Diego.
My humble collection of Padres organ memorabilia huddled around as I tore into the envelope. These are items I specifically acquired through playing the organ for the Padres including:
-My 2010 David Eckstein bobblehead
-The signed birthday ball given to me by the Friar
-The foul ball I retrieved in 2011.
The Jersey was breathtaking. At this point it was laden with many patches and pins which marked a storied history. And yet the jersey itself was miraculously clean and virtually odorless. Jbox and I would later speculate/wonder if someone hadn't cleaned it along the way. We may never know.
I put the jersey on and, as I've previously stated, the fit was perfect. It wasn't too tight, but it wasn't huge and billowy either. I threw on my 90's cap to go with it. It looked good. So good in fact that I didn't want to take either off. But with a couple days to go, I didn't want to just live in the thing, so for now I shed the cap and jersey and hung them up to be admired.
The next day I headed to San Marcos to practice organ for the game the following day. This is my Hammond A-100, and it's where I work up new material before bringing it to the ballpark. I can work lots of things out on piano at my place, but I always like to give them a run through on an organ with the foot pedals before playing them live at a Padres game. This organ resides at my Mom's place because I don't have room for it where I live.
After running through some things I decided to head west to Lou's Records in Encinitas. Though in recent years it has shrunk from two buildings to one and they now close at 7:00 PM instead of 10:00 or 11:00, Lou's remains one of the great independent music stores in San Diego. Music stores hold a special place for me, and it kills me to see them disappearing. When Tower closed its doors across the country, I was beside myself. Going to get music used to be something folks could do. These days it's getting harder and harder to do so.
Lou's has been significant in my own musical development too, so I thought it a fitting place to bring the Jersey. When I was staying with my sister in North County for a quarter back in 2004, I would often swing by Lou's on my way to and from UCSD and spend more money than I should have on music. I bought all kind of music, mostly Jazz CDs that I studied religiously as at that point I was really deep in my process of becoming a professional player. But I also bought RnB, reggae, classical, hip hop, and pretty much every style of music.
Of course the Jersey has a power of its own, and I had no idea that it had actually chosen Lou's for me because there was a mighty baseball influence at work here. As I talked to the employees about the jersey, they explained to me that Lou was actually a huge Padres fan. Those seats out front that I had passed for all these years, they are no ordinary seats. They are from Jack Murphy Stadium! They look a little worse for the wear because somebody recently backed his car into them. To add insult to injury, some dangerous Encinitas thugs had tagged them up quite a bit. Still, these seats are part of Padres history.
The Jersey's Padres/ Gaslamp Ball connection was at work in another way as well.
For a number of years Lou held season tickets. Guess who he split those season tickets with? None other than the family of GLBer Darklighter, an Encinitas native. Darklighter's dad used to do the books for Lou's. The force is strong with this one. I purchased some vinyl to play on my newly repaired turntable; the seminal jazz album ‘Kind of Blue', which I've never owned on vinyl up until now.
The next day was game day. This would be my final day playing organ for the Padres in 2012. I played 6 Throwback Thursday games in 2010, 7 random games in 2011, and 13 Wednesday games (every home Wednesday) in 2012. My dream is to play at every home game, maybe one day it will be reality. Up until this game, my record for the season stood at 8-4. With the power of the Jersey, I wanted to make it 9-4.
One of my favorite parts of the day is when I head down to the park and am walking up to the Stadium and it looks all gorgeous against the San Diego blue sky. A quick check of the weather showed that the conditions for today's game would be absolute San Diego perfection. Nice given the crazy hot weather we'd been having:
I headed in and on my way to the press elevator I took a detour through the causeway to take a look at the lineup from the 1994 season which gave us the player that gave us the Jersey.
Then I headed to the control room, got my equipment to hook the organ up with and made my way up to the organ. I made a quick detour to the Fox Sport San Diego booth to see what was going on. Since it was still 2 hours before the game, nobody was in there yet.
I hooked up the organ and sound checked it which is all part of my pre game ritual. I also said hi to the folks working in my section (311/313) and some of the regulars that they let in early. The organ sounded good so I headed back down to the Press Dining area to figure out what songs I was going to play and grab lunch. This is the dining area for the press/control room staff. Nothing particularly thrilling about it except the TVs showing all the MLB games in progress.
Sometimes you see dudes that have statues though. Hello, LEGEND.
Not many Gaslamp Ballers have met the elusive Steve Paul aka abara . That's because he actually works in the pressbox, keeping stats for some company. Looks like he's got some SBNation United happening on his laptop too.
On to game time. I headed back up to the organ and took my place to play the Zelda Overworld Theme for the 'Scripps Injury Report' which happens about 15 min before the first pitch (3:19 PM to be exact). I also had just found out 30 min before the game that I was playing the National Anthem that day. No problem. Even though I hadn't prepped it, I knew The Sisterhood of the Travelling Jersey would guide my hands. This pic was snapped probably 10 seconds before I had to play the Anthem.
The game started and Clayton got knocked around a little bit. I tried to help by playing some Tucanes De Tijuana, some Beatles, and Baby Elephant Walk. Later when Darklighter and Jbox came to hangout, I went back into the Zelda theme because it had sounded pretty sweet before, but even that didn't get the job done. The Padres fell that day to Aaron Harang and the Dodgers, and the Jersey continued to show that its will was strong but shrouded in mystery and its power was not for man to wield of his own will. Who could say what the Jersey wanted? The Jersey has an agenda all its own.
Here is a cool overhead view of the organ, a Yamaha Electone D-80 from the late 70s. That 3rd mini top keyboard is actually a sweet little synthesizer (not kidding).
Here is my view of the field from the organ when I stand. While sitting I can't really see home plate through the grates. I like to stand to watch the games anyway. It gets me into it.
The Friar is my homie. He gave me a signed ball for my birthday. He pumps me up and has my back during the 7th inning stretch. He rings the bell when we win and the fans rally to him.
One of my all time favorite phenomena is what I call the ‘Mingling Of The Lights'** and it happens during twilight. My favorite time of day is twilight. Here's what happens at Petco Park that is so cool: The afternoon light of the day fades away but still illuminates downtown in all its glory. Simultaneously the stadium lights have come on and are starting to shine their light on the field and stadium. Both combine to give a breathtakingly beautiful portrait of San Diego and the baseball that the city embraces.
The next day I took the Jersey on one final trip. In keeping with the music/organ theme of my time with the Jersey, we went to see one of the largest outdoor organs in the world, the Spreckels Organ Pavilion at Balboa Park. This beast was installed in 1914 and was restored in 1981. And every Sunday at 2:00, you can go listen to a free pipe organ concert, which is extremely cool. San Diego is pretty awesome in that regard as most places in the country don't have stuff like this. I wonder how ‘Take Me Out To The Ballgame' would sound on that thing. Probably a little weird. Pipe organs and modern electric organs are not the same thing. It would probably sound like you were playing baseball in church.***
I stopped in at the gift shop to find something to commemorate the Jersey's trip to Balboa park and the Spreckels Organ. There were no patches and no pins and I couldn't find anything to do with the organ. I bought this Balboa Park pin instead and attached it next to the Emeralds pin and Leila Rahimi's ‘Friend' pin.
The next day I took the Jersey and with great reluctance shipped it off to Wisconsin, where the Jersey would attend the final series of the 2012 season in Milwaukee. But I will forever after hear the call of this Jersey in my heart, and I will now take my place among the sisters who were once allowed to intersect with this traveling piece of history for a little while.
*Actually Tennessee. The return address label said as much.
** Of course I stole/borrowed this from the Silmarillion and its account of the Mingling of the Lights of the two trees in the land of the Valar early in the First Age. I'm not a nerd. You're a nerd.
***Full confession, I actually have played Take Me Out To The Ballgame on a Pipe Organ and it does sound weird. Weirdly awesome.
Sisterhood of the Traveling Jersey
The Sisterhood is Born
The First Steps
Spring Training Bound
With the Pad Squad
Welcome to Mexico
Braving the Beat Down
On to San Francisco
Going the Distance
All the way to Belgium
Beer and Baseball in Colorado
The California Coast
Makes its way to Cincinnati
In Cincinnati and on TV
Pittsburgh and LA Adventure
Oregon where Padres begin
VIDEO: Padres Organist with the Jersey
Playing The Organ For The Padres