Why An Organist For A Baseball Team Was Ejected By The Umpire

Nothing hits a sports fan in the part of the brain that's responsible for feelings of nostalgia than hearing a live organist pumping out tunes at a baseball game. There's just something about hearing the crowd come together while the organist leads everyone to a deafening crescendo of yelling the word "Charge!" Charge at what? The visiting team? The concession stand? Anything, just charge at anything.

That's the job of the sports organist: to provide a soundtrack that captures the emotional energy of the game. Maybe build suspense when the team's biggest hitter comes to the plate with runners in scoring position and the game on the line. Or celebrate a victory with a some big, heroic sounding chords. "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh-inning stretch.

Of course, there's room to have some fun, which is what organist Wilbur Snapp did during a minor league game in 1985. His spur-of-the-moment decision to troll the umpire for what he perceived as a missed call didn't go exactly as planned, and it wound up getting the him ejected from the game; a baseball first, per Bleacher Report.

Wilbur Snapp goes rogue

The Clearwater Phillies — now known as the Clearwater Threshers — are a minor league that plays in Clearwater, Florida. In 1985, the Clearwater Phillies played their inaugural season at Jack Russell Memorial Stadium (via Minor League Baseball). Clearwater is the spring training home of the Philadelphia Phillies, and the big league spends the spring playing in the same stadium that the Single-A club plays in for the rest of the year.

That season Wilbur Snapp was manning the organ, something he continued to do until the stadium switched to prerecorded music in 1997, per The New York Times. Snapp was an Air Force veteran who taught himself to play organ at 35 years old, despite not being able to read music.

One night that season, Snapp saw what he perceived to be a bad call, so he did what any disgruntled fan wishes they could do to show their displeasure toward the umpire: He blasted "Three Blind Mice" through the stadium's PA system. Unfortunately, the umpire didn't find this as funny as everyone else in attendance that night probably did, and he pointed up at Snapp and tossed him from the game. In the years that followed, fans would ask him for autographs and he always signed, "Wilbur Snapp, Three Blind Mice organist."

History repeats itself

According to The New York Times, Snapp died in 2003 at the age of 83. He became known in the annals of baseball history for being the first organist thrown out of a game. However, nearly 30 years later, something very similar happened again. It happened in 2012 across the state of Florida from where Snapp had performed his infamous troll job.

That day, the Daytona Cubs were hosting the Fort Myers Miracle. With organs more or less a vestige of the past by the early 2010s, the Cubs put an intern in charge of handling music duties. A close play at first base that went against the Cubs brought the team's manager Brian Harper onto the field to argue with umpire Ramon Hernandez. The Cubs intern, Derek Dye, decided to play their part, and queued up — you guessed it — a recording of "Three Blind Mice." Upon hearing this, home plate umpire Mario Seneca gave the Cubs intern the boot, and even made the team turn off the PA system, according to Bleacher Report.

It's fair to wonder if umpires even wield this kind of power. The rules often cited for why they can include Rule 4.06(a) of the Official Baseball Rules Book, which prevents managers, players, trainers, and even bat boys from inciting a demonstration from spectators. Of course, organist isn't specifically mentioned, but Rule 9.01(c) fills in that gap by stating, "Each umpire has authority to rule on any point not specifically covered in these rules."