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Baseball organist opens the playbook12/08/2008 12:21 PM ET
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
She's been playing for the Dodgers for far longer than anyone on the current roster, and she's proud to go to Dodger Stadium for every home game, plug in and let the good times roll.
She's Nancy Bea Hefley, the team's organist, and she's part of a dying breed in baseball as more and more stadiums turn away from old-time music and embrace the booming stereo systems that blast out today's hits.
"It's kind of sad," says Hefley, who joined the Dodgers in 1987. "It's sad to see that the era is winding down. When it first started happening, it really bothered me, and it bothered my husband, who's a huge baseball fan, so much so that I finally had to say to him, 'Look, knock it off.'
"I either had to make a decision that I would pull out of baseball or go with the flow. I'm tolerating it more than I did. And it helps that I really love what I do. It's fun, fun, fun."
Part of the fun is the fact that she knows over 2,000 songs and has an incredible ability to attach the music to the game situation.
Sometimes, the fact that fans can't hear singing or lyrics obscures the theme of the piece. And sometimes the song is a show tune or a non-radio hit that the fans simply have never heard. Either way, you can be sure Nancy Bea is in the press box smiling as she plays.
"You have to know your music to know what I'm up to," she says. "For example, for a while one year when the team wasn't doing well I played 'Killing Me Softly,' but the press caught on to it, so when that happens I'll lay off it and then throw it in there another time.
"I've always enjoyed doing my thing subtly. When I used to play a song for the departing opposing pitcher, I would use Roger Whittaker's 'The Last Farewell,' but that title is so subdued in the song that I had to call a DJ to find out if that's the name of the song."
Hefley says she's somehow managed to please astute Dodgers players while annoying others.
"Kevin Brown got very offended by me playing 'Pirates of the Caribbean' while the Pirates were in town, but he was easily offended," Hefley says with a laugh.
"And he wasn't even the one pitching. Darren Dreifort was the one on the mound that day. But the Pirates had gotten several runs, and Kevin felt I was playing their theme song and helping them along, as if the music helps the players."
But maybe she did help some of the Dodgers.
She says she'd play "Master of the House" for former Dodgers pitching great Orel Hershiser, "Candy Man" for veteran knuckleballer Tom Candiotti, and anything Dreifort wanted.
"Darren was one of my biggest fans," she says. "He'd call up and say, 'Tell Nancy Bea I really liked that song.'"
Hefley also uses clever word associations that strangely match players' names.
Consider the former journeyman pitcher Barry Manuel, whose name resembles that of famed crooner Barry Manilow just enough to warrant "I Write the Songs" every time he strode to the Dodger Stadium mound.
Or how about former hurler and pitching coach Bob Apodaca, whom Hefley would serenade with a song from a Debbie Reynolds movie called "Aba Daba Honeymoon?"
And then there was Phillies manager Dallas Green, who could either be greeted with the theme song from the 1980s nighttime TV soap "Dallas" or the Kermit the Frog classic, "It's Not Easy Being Green."
Hefley also had an arrangement with former Dodgers coach Joe Amalfitano, a huge Neil Diamond fan. Every time Diamond would arrive at the ballpark incognito, Amalfitano would signal up to Nancy Bea, who would slyly play "America," "Solitary Man" or some other Diamond classic.
Little touches like that are a Nancy Bea Hefley trademark, something that makes a night at Chavez Ravine like no other in the Major Leagues.
"If it weren't fun, I'd have been outta there in a heartbeat," she says. "I originally was a bit hesitant to take the job, thinking, 'I don't want to sit at a baseball game all the time. That'd be boring.'
"Well, I found out that I meet great people every night, and every game is a different adventure. They'll have to drag me out of there when I leave."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.