ONLY IN THE WORLD-HERALD
The music will have an old familiar sound when College World Series fans stretch in the seventh inning at Omaha's new ballpark downtown.
TD Ameritrade Park will not only have live organ music for “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” An organist will play that classic and other music on the same old organ that has provided the soundtrack for NCAA championships and minor league baseball games at Rosenblatt Stadium for more than 60 years.
Workers are repairing the timeworn 1940s-era Hammond CV electric church organ down to its bones. They'll have it put back together and installed at TD Ameritrade Park in time for the 2011 College World Series.
“They said they wanted to see it put back to better than the original,” said Richard Walker, the job's lead technician.
Event organizers thought about buying a new organ. They considered finding a used one.
“There were some used ones out there that were similar, but similar isn't the same,” said Jack Diesing Jr., president of College World Series Inc. “We wanted the original. We wanted the real deal. ... We want to carry on as many traditions as we can.”
His wife, Terri, suggested saving and refurbishing the old Hammond.
It had been maintained but was showing its age. Chipping yellow paint coated its cabinet and spotted its keys. Dirt and rust had begun to invade its innards — no wonder, given that it spent several years in an open-air booth beneath a leaky roof.
The Diesings contacted an old family friend in the piano business, Johnny Adams of Adams Piano Service. He jumped at the chance to preserve a piece of Omaha history.
“You can't really move the sod,” Adams said. “You can't move the seats. But the organ is one thing that they could transfer. In a way, you're kind of moving the spirit of the old ballpark to the new one.”
Adams connected Diesing with Walker, furniture craftsman Joseph Privitera and chrome specialist Randye Chickinell of Industrial Plating Inc.
Walker and semiretired repairman Charlie Stoll took the old Hammond apart from the keyboard down to the pedals. They replaced worn metallic parts, repaired wiring, cleaned paint off keys and grime off electric contact points and replaced balky volume controls. They replaced cracking pedals and worn felt pads beneath them.
Walker fished a couple of things from deep inside the organ, including a 1977 Omaha Royals schedule. He added an electronic percussion feature. But for the most part, the organ's sound will remain original.
Privitera stripped and scraped the yellow paint off the old cabinet. He applied a walnut finish. He built wood pieces to replace missing molding.
Workers at Industrial Plating refinished metal parts that show to a shiny brass.
When it's done, Walker said, it will look showroom good.
College World Series Inc. is paying the expected cost of $7,500 to $8,500, Diesing said. “Nothing's too good for the grand old lady,” he said.
It remains to be decided whose hands will tickle the keys. They will not likely be the long fingers of Rosenblatt maestro Lambert Bartak, whose hands danced across the keyboard from the 1950s until 2010, when he vowed the last College World Series at Rosenblatt would also be his last College World Series at the keys.
“Lambert's obviously not going to play it the whole time,” Diesing said. “There are going to be auditions for people to play it regularly. But we've gotta get him down there to play it at least once. Our goal is to do everything we can to convince him to come down and play once, at least.”
Bartak was surprised and pleased Friday to learn the old organ is being refurbished.
“I thought they were going to go all electronic down there,” he said. “It's a nice organ. I don't plan to do it, though.”
Bartak was reminded that he has said annually for years that he was retired, only to be sweet-talked into coming back by Kathryn Morrissey, chief operating officer of CWS Inc.
“I know,” he said. “But I think this year I mean it.”
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