On Thursday morning, longtime Dodger Stadium organist Nancy Bea Hefley appeared to vent on Facebook that she would not return next season: "I don't fit in." [Noted: There's some question if that was actually her.] The team has cut her playing time to about five minutes a game, told her a bunch of things not to do, and last weekend used Kings organist as a fill-in Dieter Ruehle and gave him more time. On the last homestand, she could no longer play during the visiting team's introductions and stopped showing her face on the scoreboard while she plays "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." So Hefley got the hint and decided it was time to go.
Well, her news took off among Dodgers fans on social media. The Times' Bill Plashcke started asking questions of the marketing folks at the stadium, and by the end of the day she was back in the family. She'll get a lifetime contract to stay. From Bill's column:
In some ways, the Dodgers are in a tough spot with Hefley. Like all teams in a sport with an aging fan base, they are trying to attract a younger demographic, and thus are filling most of the game's dead space with popular music ranging from rap to hip-hop to dance. As even Hefley would admit, there are times her classic favorites would slow the vibe, and she can't easily change her tune. She acknowledged that a couple of years ago, officials requested she learn 20 newer songs, but she said they weren't her style. The Dodgers' taste seem to lean more toward the thump of Dieter Ruehle, the celebrated Kings organist, who was given more playing time when he filled in for Hefley last weekend.
Yet in another way, this should have been easy for the Dodgers. She's Nancy Bea, for Pete's sake. She's beloved, she's respected, she's adored by Vin Scully, she still plays the heck out of Rodgers and Hammerstein, and why can't you throw her a few more songs, a couple of more innings? There are few more trendy parks in baseball than the new Yankee Stadium, and yet organ music still fills the Bronx. There is still a small but valuable place in the modern baseball experience for "The Surrey With the Fringe on Top.'' Why can't the Dodgers find that place for Hefley and the many traditional fans who still love her?
And, just wondering, if Hefley is so important to them, shouldn't the Dodgers have been in closer communication with her? At least close enough her frustration would never reach a level that she would publicly retire without telling them?
"I'm so humbled by all this," said Hefley. "So overwhelmed."
To all my faithful fans. I WILL be coming back next year. Thank you for your support. The Dodgers have stated I have a job as long as i want— Nancy Bea Hefley (@NancyBea) June 11, 2015