Wilbur Snapp, 83, the only baseball park organist ever officially ousted from a game by an umpire, died Saturday of natural causes in a South Pasadena, Fla., hospital.
Snapp, a World War II veteran who couldn't read music, taught himself to play the organ when he ran a music store in Springfield, Ohio. When he retired in 1982, he moved to Florida and played the organ at Jack Russell Stadium in Clearwater for the major leagues' spring training and during the summer for minor league teams.
He gained national attention the evening of June 25, 1985, when a 22-year-old umpire called an out against Snapp's beloved Clearwater Phillies in a game against the Osceola Astros. Snapp, agreeing with the crowd's roar of disapproval, struck up a chorus of "Three Blind Mice." The young umpire was not amused and threw his arm up, ordering Snapp removed.
Snapp stepped away from his keyboard, but spent the remainder of the game twisting balloons into mice for the delighted fans, who began singing "Three Blind Mice." The ouster made national headlines and became a topic for NBC's "Today" show and Paul Harvey's syndicated radio program.
Snapp, who continued as a ballpark organist until the stadium switched to recorded music in 1997, forever after signed autographs as "Wilbur Snapp, Three Blind Mice organist."