- The Washington Times - Friday, October 6, 2006

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Paul Richardson, organist for the Philadelphia Phillies for 35 seasons, died following a long illness.

Mr. Richardson died Monday at his home in Wilmington, Del., the team said in a statement. His exact age is not known.

In an interview with the Associated Press earlier this year, Mr. Richardson would not divulge his age, other than to say he was in his 70s.

“Paul was a character who was more than just a gifted organist,” said Phillies Chairman Bill Giles, who hired Mr. Richardson in 1969 after he had performed at the team’s Christmas party. “He was an entertainer extraordinaire.”

Mr. Richardson began playing at Phillies games at Connie Mack Stadium in 1970 and was with the club until after the 2005 season at Citizens Bank Park, when he stepped away because of health problems. He was also the weekend organist at Yankees Stadium from 1978 through 1982 when the Phillies were on the road.

In his final years with the team, Mr. Richardson was slowly being replaced by thunderous rock songs, canned sound effects and elaborate advertisements.

“I was the entire musical background for the first 20 years,” he said in February. “But we found I was playing less and less. I didn’t influence the game anymore.”

Many of Mr. Richardson’s songs were recorded, and his rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” was played at the ballpark this season and will continue to be played.

His time with the Phillies included 33 seasons at Veterans Stadium, where he worked in a small booth adjacent to the scoreboard operator and public address announcer. In his seasons at the Vet, Mr. Richardson endured losing seasons but saw the Phillies win the World Series in 1980.

“Paul had a great sense of timing and a feel for the game of baseball,” team President David Montgomery said. “He was a big part of our in-game entertainment.”

When the Phillies moved out of Veterans Stadium a few years ago, the team scrapped the organ booth. Instead of a spot along the first-base line, Mr. Richardson was relegated to the concourse, where he played about an hour before every game.

He also performed during the team’s winter caravans and was a fixture at the annual banquet for the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association. Mr. Richardson also performed in nightclubs in the Wilmington area.

The Phillies said a photographic montage of Mr. Richardson’s career will be on display at Citizens Bank Park starting next season.

Funeral arrangements were pending.

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