A few weeks ago, we wrote about Jane Jarvis and her experience with the horrible March 15 crane accident here in New York.
At the time, we asked folks to send a note to the Mets asking them to remember Jane this year as they plan Shea Stadium tributes. In case you missed it, Loge13 reader Eli actually got a response. Here ‘tis:
Thanks, we appreciate the suggestion. Ms. Jarvis may not be up to
playing, but I am sure we will invite her back as part of the final
season at Shea. Jane Jarvis is a great part of the team's history, and
the subject of many fond fan memories.
New York Mets
Thanks for sending along, Eli. And nice job by the Mets in getting back to the fans (even though they didn’t reply to me).
Newsday had a piece about Jarvis over the weekend. Definitely worth a read, just to get a taste of her tragic background.A good time to cherish Shea's queen of melody
Even when Jane Jarvis speaks, she makes music. It sounds like a lyric when she describes being back in her East 50th Street apartment after having been displaced by the March 15 crane collapse: "You are talking to one of the happiest people who ever lived."
And on the 1964-79 baseball seasons, when she became a household name for her renditions of "Meet the Mets" and "Let's Go, Mets" on Shea Stadium's Thomas organ, her phrase could fit a melody: "It was too wonderful for words."
Don't put it past this 92-year-old accomplished jazz musician, who still plays the piano every day, to someday write a song titled "Safe at Home."
Friends say she was exhausted and drained by the ghastly experience of witnessing the accident, getting whisked out of her home in her pajamas and a fur coat, and being bounced from place to place. But you couldn't tell it from her voice on the phone the other day.
"Everything I have ever wanted in this life fits in a one-room apartment," she said from that apartment, which she was able to re-enter March 22. "I have a couple of pieces of furniture I was able to save from my parents, I have all kinds of books."
And she has that upright piano, which makes her feel as if she is in heaven.
"If that crane had hit a little higher, it would have taken her right out of her bed," said her longtime friend Ann Ruckert, a studio musician/teacher/impresario.
Ruckert told the details that Jarvis couldn't or didn't want to remember: Jarvis sitting on a hardwood chair for four hours once, sitting in a hotel lobby for four hours another time, Jarvis being fed and dressed by a caretaker who didn't leave her side for five days.
The caretaker is needed because of Jarvis' health situation. "She is very, very tired. She has got 35 years on me," Ruckert said, "and I know I would have been tired."
But one blessing that came of it is that it gives all of New York - especially Mets fans - another chance to step right up and greet someone who had a hand (two hands) in good times. Here's to you, Jane Jarvis.
"She had a different lilt to everything she played, including 'The Star-Spangled Banner,"" said Mets radio broadcaster Howie Rose, who grew up going to Shea and later launched a "Bring Back Jane Jarvis" campaign. "There are certain things unique to that ballpark, and she was one of them."
Rose said Jarvis was kind enough to record some songs for his talk show in the 1990s. Once he brought the recording to the park and played her sprightly composition, "Let's Go, Mets" for Bud Harrelson, who burst into tears.
Any of us would well up if we knew Jarvis' life story the way her friends do. She was orphaned at 13 in Indiana when both of her parents were hit and killed by a train.
"I didn't have brothers or sisters," Jarvis said. "I had lots of relatives, but they were in no position to assist me, and even if they could, they were the wrong kind of people."
So as Ruckert put it, "She was pushed from pillar to post."
The prodigy found refuge in her music. She played at department stores and on radio shows throughout the Midwest. She was the first organist hired by the Milwaukee Braves (she counted the late third baseman Eddie Mathews, a Hall of Famer, as a friend for life).
She came to New York in the 1960s for a job with Muzak. Jarvis got the Mets gig, taking the subway home to Manhattan after the game and getting to the office bright and early. She raised two children and rose to vice president at a time when few women did, producing the equivalent of 300 albums a year.
"She kept all the jazz musicians employed," Ruckert said. Author/historian Lee Lowenfish, another friend, said, "Jazz musicians flocked to hear her."
Long after she was replaced by canned music at Shea, she was doing shows at Zinno's in Greenwich Village and other clubs. She recorded with, among others, the late saxophonist Tommy Newsom of "The Tonight Show."
Thus Jarvis wasn't just the nice lady who played ditties such as "Felix the Cat" for Felix Millan. Ruckert remembers the time jazz pianist Junior Manse called and said: "Oh, did you hear, when they were arguing with the umpires? That Jane Jarvis was playing 'Scrapple from the Apple."'
She developed the soul of a baseball fan, too. "The night Tug McGraw died," Lowenfish said, "she called me at about midnight because she just wanted to talk."
We sure miss her now. I know, I know. Here's where modern fans groan about some dinosaur pining about the good old days. Save your breath. I like a lot of the music they play now. But it's too darned loud, and it doesn't have Jarvis' light heart.
Say what you will, but we'll never forget Jane. Thirty years from now, let's see if anyone can name the person who put on the recording of "Everybody Clap Your Hands."