There probably isn't a musician in town who can command the weekly live audience that Bobby Freeman can -- during the summer, at least. You've heard him yourself if you've ever been to an Arizona Diamondbacks home game, pounding out the Mexican Hat Dance, the Hungarian czardas, or the opening riff from The Addams Family (or, more recently, "Way Down Yonder in New Orleans"). Freeman wears a jersey with the number 88 -- chosen for the number of keys on a piano -- and he's been the team's organist since its inaugural season. "Win or lose, what a job," Freeman exults from his roost overlooking the field at Bank One Ballpark. "But it's not enough just to know music. You have to know the game." Once there's a hitter in the box, Freeman must fall silent or face a chilly gaze from the home-plate ump. "You don't want to get that call," he says.
A Cleveland native and self-taught musician, Freeman fell in love with organ music when his parents took him roller-skating as a child. "I'd always wait for the organist to come down, and I'd say, 'Can you play Mickey Mouse?' I can remember skating with my parents to 'M-I-C, K-E-Y . . .'"
As an adult, Freeman played in rinks along the Lake Erie coast before deciding to try his luck with the Sun City ballroom-dancing market. He stumbled into sports music in 1989, when his wife mentioned what he did to a group-sales rep for the late Phoenix Firebirds.
In the off-season, Freeman and D-Backs mascot D. Baxter the Bobcat tirelessly work the Arizona school circuit with community programs, including an anti-bullying message that's particularly close to his heart: "I used to take an accordion to school. I found every bully we had."
Bobby Freeman mans the organ as the Arizona Diamondbacks close out their home schedule against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday, September 22; and versus the San Diego Padres Friday, September 23, through Sunday, September 25. Call 602-514-8400 or visit www.azdiamondbacks.com. -- M.V. Moorhead
River of no return
"Yangtze Remembered: The River Beneath the Lake" captures the ecstasy and the agony of China's Yangtze River before and after it was tamed by the Three Gorges Dam. Photographer Linda Butler made eight trips to rural China between 2000 and 2003 to record the area and its people before the Yangtze's river valley was forever dammed. The exhibition, which features 55 of Butler's stark, unyielding photographs, opens Saturday, September 24, and continues through January 1 at the Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 North Central. Admission ranges from $3 to $9. Call 602-257-1222 or visit www.phxart.org. -- Kanupriya Vashisht
To the Moon, Alice!
And away he goes
He hated rehearsing, rubbed his stomach when he forgot words, and was obsessed with UFOs. No, not Michael Jackson. We're talking about comedic genius Jackie Gleason, who tells all from the afterlife in And Away We Go!, debuting at 8 p.m. Friday, September 23, and continuing through October 2 at Playhouse on the Park, 1850 North Central. "It's a lot of work," says Gleason impersonator Gene Ganssle of the one-man show. "It's like birthing a baby . . . with all the pain." Ganssle's admiration for the Honeymooners star is second only to the actor's big heart. Proceeds from the show benefit Alzheimer's research, Crisis Nursery and Kiwanis clubs. Gene, baby -- you're the greatest. Tickets cost $20. Call 602-791-3521. -- Wynter Holden
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A Night With Drew's Crew
Time to get into Dodge
FRI 9/23Sometimes in show business, it's not which pothole-riddled road you walk down, but who you meet when you're down in the hole. Drew Carey's various bios usually state something like he "got his big break on Star Search." But if you caught Carey's "run" on the talent competition in '88, you'd be rare, since the comic only made two appearances. Judges gave him a perfect score his first night, then dumped him the next for a comedian whose name cannot be found today, even in cyberspace. But the slighted funnyman impressed Johnny Carson with his quick-witted banter, and now the Star Search reject is one of America's top comics. Touché. On Friday, September 23, the successful loser brings his "Drew Carey & the Improv All*Stars" show to Dodge Theatre, 400 West Washington. The show combines animation with improv games (à la Whose Line Is It Anyway?), and features crackups Kathy Kinney (Mimi on The Drew Carey Show), Jeff B. Davis, Jonathan Mangum, and Sean Masterson, as well as WLIIA vets Chip Esten, Greg Proops, and Brad Sherwood. Tickets range from $52.75 to $55.75. Call 480-784-4444. -- Niki D'Andrea
Walk into a wicked wonderland on Friday, September 23, when the .anti_space gallery hosts a DVD release party for industrial band Skinny Puppy's latest visual assault, The Greater Wrong of the Right. In addition to the midnight DVD viewing and giveaways, DJs Squalor, Dr. F., ///she///, Osiris, and Funktron will mix up some digital doom on the turntables, and the first 300 people through the door will receive postcards for a chance to win the tour mask of Skinny Puppy singer Ogre. The audio orgy starts at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $6.66 per person, or $13 "for fuckers." .anti_space is located at 815 West Madison. Call 480-710-0973. -- Niki D'Andrea