I got an e-mail from the Phillies this week reminding me of their annual Holiday Sale event, and it made me think of their former organist, Paul Richardson. (It's funny how the mind works.)
The festivities this weekend featured an appearance from Phanta Claus, a book signing by announcer Chris Wheeler and the tree lighting in front of the ballpark. We haven't been to this event for a few years, but it has been decidedly different since the Phillies vacated Veterans Stadium and moved across the street to Citizens Bank Park.
Back in the day, the Holiday Fair at the Vet was a mandatory annual pilgrimage for my Dad and me (and later Jenna.) The old Holiday Fair had a more festive feel to it, and members of the Phillies front office went out of their way to greet fans and thank them for their support. The concession stands around the Vet sold the game-day giveaways from the prior season at a deep discount, and free hot chocolate and Tastykakes were available. The old Holiday Fair also featured Q&A sessions with the front office, coaches, scouts and/or a variety of players.
One of the constants at the old Holiday Fair was Paul Richardson. Paul was the Phillies' organist from 1970 until 2005 and he was always at the holiday fair playing his heart out and smiling from ear to ear. You couldn't help but smile yourself when you passed by Paul as he played a variety of Christmas favorites. I'm fairly certain Paul was never featured on a baseball card, even though he owns a 1980 World Series ring and he witnessed over 3,000 Phillies games. I'd like to correct that oversight here.
Paul retired prior to the 2006 season and sadly, he passed away later that year. For further reading, please check out the wonderful tribute to Paul on the Phillies website.