An MMO Flashback remembering the passing of beloved and iconic Mets organist, Jane Jarvis, who passed away on this day in 2010. Enjoy…
When one thinks back to the Mets of the 1960’s and 70’s, certain images come to mind: Casey Stengel, Tom Seaver, Tug McGraw pounding his glove on his leg, black cats, Miracles, fans ripping up the field and so forth.
Off the field, however, there were others who were just as much a part of Shea Stadium folklore. One such Mets icon was organist Jane Jarvis. Miss Jarvis died on January 25, 2010 in Englewood, NJ. She was 94.
Just as the performing of The National Anthem or singing ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’ is a deep seeded Baseball tradition, so was Jane playing ‘Meet The Mets’ on her organ for us Mets fans. As those first few notes filled the air in Flushing and the Mets took the field we all knew it was time to ‘Play Ball.’
At just 5 years old Jane was considered a piano prodigy. Her family relocated to Gary, Indiana and at 12 she was playing the piano at radio station WKJS. However, just one year later, she was orphaned when both her parents were killed when their car was struck by a train.
In 1954 Jane was given her own TV show in Milwaukee entitled ‘Jivin’ With Jarvis’ where she was allowed to create and pursue her first love: Jazz Music. It was at this time when the Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee. They were looking for an organist and hired Jane. She was reluctant to take the position due to the fact that she knew absolutely nothing about sports, especially Baseball. During her interview she asked the Braves executive, ‘When do I get to play?’ The Braves employee replied, ‘Whenever a team gets three outs.’ Jane looked at the man with a quizzical expression and asked, ‘When is that?’
She stayed with the Braves for eight years before moving to New York in 1962 where she took a position with the Muzak corporation as a staff composer and arranger. She would quickly ascend the corporate ladder and become Vice President.
As the Mets prepared to debut their new home in 1964, they decided to draw on yet another tradition of NY’s baseball past. The Dodgers organist, Gladys Gooding, developed a fan following and became a huge part of Ebbets Field history. The Mets wanted to do the same and brought Jane on board.
Although she remained working at Muzak until 1978 during her stint as Mets organist, she became an integral and unforgettable part of our club. She was as much a part of the Shea Experience as the Sign Man Karl Ehrhardt and even Mr. Met himself. She worked for us almost as long as our original broadcast team of Bob Murphy, Lindsey Nelson and Ralph Kiner.
On June 13th, 1977, during the 6th inning of a game against the Cubs, the city was besieged by a massive blackout. Shea was suddenly thrust into darkness. Total blackness stretched as far as one could see in all directions. However, as strange as it was, Jane’s vintage Thomas’ Organ was not affected. Sitting in total darkness, blinded by blackness, Jane began playing upbeat tunes in a attempt to calm the nerves of frightened fans.
Jane came full circle with the Mets. In 1964, we were in last place. She was there for the Miracle in ’69 and the pennant in ’73. But by 1979 the Mets were once again in the cellar. Nelson Doubleday bought the Mets in 1980 and GM Frank Cashen was determined to make serious changes to the team. One such change was to start playing pre-recorded music rather than sticking with the traditional organ playing. After 16 seasons Jane was uneventfully let go. Organ music would never again be heard at Shea.
She remained in the city performing Jazz at various nightclubs. She is credited with having written or co-written over 300 compositions as well as recording several albums. Her final jazz album was entitled ‘Atlantic/Pacific’ which was released in 2000. She was 85 years old at the time.
In 2003, now living in Cocoa Beach, FL, she was given a ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ by the Space Coast Jazz Society. But she missed the culture and excitement of The Big Apple. She decided to forego the warm Florida weather and moved back. In 2008, however, Jane was forced to vacate her home on E 50th St when a construction crane collapsed and damaged her apt. She spent the last months of her life residing at the Lillian Booth Actors Home in Englewood, NJ. She passed away on January 25th, 2010 at 94 years old. She leaves behind 1 son, 1 daughter, several grandchildren and great grandchildren. And also memories to millions of fans who can still hearken back to the days of their youth and hear Miss Jarvis playing ‘Meet The Mets.’
“I cant even bear to think about it,” stated Jane in 2008 as sadness came over her. Her voice cracked. Her eyes watered up. Her beloved Shea would soon be torn down. She hoped that perhaps the Wilpons would welcome her back to Shea for one final visit. Mets management spent much of that season bringing back historical figures from our past. But the phone call never came. However, she harbored no hard feelings towards the Wilpons since she never really worked for them. “I’m 93 years old,” she stated and then added with a smile, “And no matter what, I’ve had an amazin’ life.”
Rest in Peace, Jane. And Thanks for the Memories.