PASSINGS: Lambert Bartak, Chana Mlotek

 PASSINGS: Lambert Bartak, Chana Mlotek
Organist Lambert Bartak in his booth during the College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha. He began as organist in 1955 and retired in 2010. (Nati Harnik, Associated Press)

Lambert Bartak

Organist for Omaha


baseball stadium

Lambert Bartak, 94, the organist who entertained baseball fans at Omaha's Rosenblatt Stadium for more than half a century during the College World Series, died Sunday at an assisted living facility in San Diego after a brief illness, according to his son, Jim.

Starting in 1955, Bartak played such standards as "Hello Dolly," "Sweet Georgia Brown," "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" and various college fight songs on his 1940s-era Hammond organ stationed at the far end of the press box in Omaha during the annual series. He retired in 2010.

Bartak also played the organ for minor league baseball's Omaha Royals from 1973 to 2002. In 1988, he was ejected from a game when he played the theme song from "The Mickey Mouse Club" during an on-field argument between the Royals' manager and an umpire over a call.

Bartak was born April 8, 1919, on a farm outside Clarkson, about 85 miles northwest of Omaha. His father, a Czech immigrant, played the accordion for parties. The father sold 20 pigs one year to buy his son an accordion of his own.

When the U.S. entered World War II, Bartak joined the Army and played in a military band that entertained troops in Europe.

After returning, he became known as an accomplished accordionist who had his own radio and TV shows in the 1940s and '50s.

Chana Mlotek

Longtime collector of

Yiddish folk music

Chana Mlotek, 91, a noted archivist of Yiddish folk music and an impassioned collector of Yiddish songs from the shtetls of Europe, died of cancer Monday at her Bronx home, said her son Zalmen, the artistic director of the National Yiddish Theater-Folksbiene.

Nobel laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer once called Mlotek and her husband, Joseph, "the Sherlock Holmeses of Yiddish folk songs."

In her job as music archivist at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, people would come to Mlotek and say, "I only remember one Yiddish song from my mother, and of that song I only remember one line. And, unfortunately, from that one line I only remember two or three words," according to Itzik Gottesman of the Forward newspaper, who recalled working with Mlotek at YIVO.

Mlotek almost always found a copy of the song the person was seeking, Gottesman wrote in a blog post on the Forward's website.

The Mloteks wrote a newspaper column called "Pearls of Yiddish Poetry" for the Yiddish edition of the Forward for more than 43 years, and she worked at YIVO for 65 years, almost to her death.

Mlotek was born Eleanor Chana Gordon in Brooklyn on April 9, 1922, and was a native Yiddish speaker. Her Russian immigrant parents worked in the garment industry.

She studied piano with Jacob Hellman, a student of Liszt, and in the late 1940s studied Yiddish folklore under Max Weinreich at UCLA. She met her husband there and, after marrying in 1949, they settled in New York.

Times staff and wire reports