You whistle the tune she once played each time the Mets took the field, and Jane Jarvis giggles merrily. It is still a great pleasure for her to know that people out there remember. She wrote the song back in 1964, which she called "Let's Go Mets," and it is quite different than the other "Let's Go Mets" ditty the club still uses.
Everything is different, of course. The sound system at Shea Stadium is harsh and relentless, overpowering any attempts at conversation by spectators with tinny heavy metal or rap or silly scoreboard games. Organ music is a great pleasure lost at major league games, along with its expert practitioners. Jarvis, 92, grows very sad when she considers the fate of Shea, where she played the organ for 15 years, until an ownership change following the 1979 season.
"I thought I was leaving on my own volition," says Jarvis, who can still play a mean jazz piano on her better days. "It turns out they would have let me go, because there was no organ anymore. The new owners didn't want it. They made it clear they didn't want the music."
When it comes to music and the Mets, Jarvis once wrote the book. "I made all the decisions," she says. She had a song for when the Mets trotted to their positions, and a song for when they smacked a homer, and then there was the Mexican Hat Dance to get things going when the home team really needed it during the seventh-inning stretch. An entire generation of Met fans came to identify the team's championship run in 1969 with her lilting keyboard work.
By the time she retired from such frivolities at age 63, Jarvis already had established herself long before as a child prodigy and then as a respected recording artist. Baseball and the Mets, however, were her primary passion.
This was not always the case. Jarvis, from Gary, Ind., knew little of the game while hosting a television show in Milwaukee back in the 1950s called "Jivin' with Jarvis." When she took a job playing the organ for the Milwaukee Braves at County Stadium, Jarvis didn't know exactly when an inning began or ended.
But she was a fast learner, and came to love the sport. She came to New York as an arranger for the Muzak Corp. and then was a natural hire by the Mets when their new stadium opened in Flushing.
"I have a history of working for baseball and so they were trying to contact me, and I didn't even know it," Jarvis says. "I went to them to apply for the job. They handed me the music, and I played it real well. They realized I was a person who had the experience and knew the kind of music you play. It was a happy situation."
The job required several talents. An organist needed to have a feel for the flow of the game, and required great durability to survive an 81-game home season. She played through storms and she played through the great blackout of 1977, keeping everyone calm in their seats.
"I played hours and hours through the rain delays," Jarvis says. "But I tell you I loved the job. I had the opportunity to meet the most important people in the world."
She remembers fondly the owners and players she met over the many seasons. She had several favorites, one of them being the Mets' outfield star, Tommy Agee. Jarvis never really became too close to any of the managers, however, as they came and went too quickly.
"There really wasn't a lot of camaraderie with them," she says. "Their jobs were so perilous."
Jarvis faced her own musical crisis, too, when the Mets purchased a new organ that she found to be terribly misfit for the task.
"I knew I had to be very careful what I said," Jarvis says. "I was trying to play the organ that they bought. I was ready to play. I wound up playing it. And then just by chance, I happened to know the senior manager of the Thomas organ company. And he was at the ballpark, and I was waving at him, and I was crying.
"He asked, 'Why are you crying?' And I said, 'Because of this organ.' I explained to him that people had thought they'd bought the best, but he said, 'I know you're the one who is going to have to play it, and I'm going to fight to get our organ in there.'"
Within two days, a new Thomas organ was installed and ready to play. Jarvis would remain content at her keyboard until retirement, and until the Wilpon-Doubleday ownership went in a very different musical direction. When she inquired about the organ after her retirement, she was disappointed to discover it had disappeared without explanation.
Jarvis recently endured a frightening experience when a construction crane collapsed on East 50th St., adjacent to her own apartment building, killing seven people. Jarvis moved out of her place temporarily, before returning after the dust settled. There is still a makeshift memorial and much recovery work going on next door.
"I was shaken by it," Jarvis says. "It was a horrible, horrible thing to have happen, the most terrifying experience you can imagine.
"But when you consider I'm 92, I'm in excellent health. I'm still invited and hired to play."
Never again at Shea, it seems.
"I can't bear to think about it," she says of the stadium's lame-duck status. "People were so nice to me. You caught me on my favorite subject.