Rays pay tribute to beloved sax player

April 6, 2019
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In this June 26, 2018 photo, Max Pierre, 59, plays the saxophone outside Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. Pierre plays the same tunes repeatedly, choosing from six to seven simple songs like the theme songs to Pink Panther or Sanford and Sons. He considers it hard, but says he does it for the fans. "I'm a jazz musician," he said. (Martha Asencio Rhine/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — For almost two decades, Max Pierre played his sax outside sporting events in Tampa Bay, serenading fans attending Rays, Lightning or Bucs games with tunes like Tequila, and the themes to The Pink Panther and The Flintstones. “Bust a move,” Pierre would say in between notes, earning tips that most would drop into the open saxophone case at his feet and the inevitable attention of those who heard his music, sometimes dancing or singing along, always smiling.

Sunday, the Rays held a moment of silence to pay tribute to several people connected to the organization who passed away during the offseason, including Max, who died Jan. 5

“The Rays have been incredible,” said Dennis Pierre, Max’s cousin.

The Rays reached out to the Pierre family, inviting them to the game and making sure they had as many tickets as they needed. Dennis Pierre came down from Atlanta with Max’s 85-year-old mother, Elsie Pierre, and his childhood friend, Queen Jones. Several of Max’s local friends also attended the game in his honor.

Dennis is not sure why Max moved down to Tampa Bay, but he remembers him playing his sax outside Reds games in his hometown of Cincinnati. Dennis thinks the move to Florida had a lot to do with the weather, because he recalls Max saying he needed to “do this year-round.”

After Max’s death, Dennis says Elsie was flooded with condolences from the many friends and fans in Tampa Bay who sent photos, videos and even CDs he’d recorded.

“We were humbled and taken aback by how the community loved him,” said Dennis, adding that it was no surprise considering Max’s personality, which he described as “genuine, authentic.”

When Dennis saw the Tampa Bay Times story about Max’s death posted to Facebook, he read the many comments and was touched.

“I sent my family to that (post), to see that,” Dennis said. “I’m glad (Elsie) is able to see it.”

The Rays hosted the Houston Astros on Sunday. But before the first pitch, before the national anthem, the faces of the deceased flashed on the jumbotron, and among them was Max’s. Fans stood during the slideshow and after it finished, many bowed their heads and were silent. A still, quiet remembering for Max, who liked to “bust a move.”


Information from: Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Fla.), http://www.tampabay.com.