Chicago Cubs Pay Tribute To Retiring, Long-Time Organist Gary Pressy

Lisa Fielding
September 23, 2019 - 7:55 am
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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- It's the Saturday of the last regular season home stand and Gary Pressy goes through some of his sheet music, some torn, worn and tattered, some more than 50-years old.

"Here at Wrigley Field, you got kids and you also have older people, so you can't forget the Big Band era, you can't forget Lady Gaga, Phil Collins, you know, newer music. My favorite is Billy Joel. I love Billy Joel," he said.

It's the Saturday of the last regular season home stand and Gary Pressy goes through some of his sheet music, some torn, worn and tattered, some more than 50-years old.
WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

As he prepares to play his 2,687th consecutive game, he has mixed feelings about stepping away after 33 years.

"You feel a little down and then you feel, you know what, nothing last's forever, a third of a century, 33 years is a long time to do anything and I'm blessed to do it. Middle of the season I started kicking things around. I wanted to spend more time with my family, especially my 95-year-old mother, Virginia," Pressy said.

Pressy learned the piano when he was 5 and in second grade he already knew his destiny.

"I played piano for 6 months and then my parents bought me a little organ from Lion & Healey. When I was in second grade, the teacher asked us what we wanted to do when we grow up. Most kids said a fireman, a policeman, a lawyer. I said I wanted to play the organ for a professional baseball team. She said go for it and I did," he said.

Soon enough, he was playing at the old Chicago Sting games, he played for Loyola and DePaul basketball games, then the Chicago Cubs finally came calling in 1987.

"I got the job when I was 29-years old. It's unbelievable to be here for a third of century and it's incredible," Pressy said.

Chicago Cubs organist Gary Pressy
Photo courtesy of the Chicago Cubs

Over the years, Pressy's music has become synonymous with summer and baseball.

"I couldn't have picked a better venue than to play at than Wrigley Field. We were the first team to have an organ in 1941. It wasn't me," he laughed. "The vines, the scoreboard, the grass. I remember as a kid smelling the grass, and looking at the vines. Wrigley Field is a cathedral."

He's played thousands of renditions of the 7th inning stretch, and with different singers each game, he works with them individually on their tune and their pace.

"Obviously, the Mike Ditka rendition put the song on the map," he laughed. "Da Coach was late that day so we didn't get to rehearse. He was going too fast. I think he was a 33 record going on 45. I caught up with him halfway. It was so fun."

Chicago Cubs organist Gary Pressy
Photo courtesy of the Chicago Cubs

Pressy has seen a lot in his time. When he thinks about his his favorite moments, he said there are too many to count.

"My opening day in 1987, we played our friends to the south in St. Louis. Winning the division in '89, the 1990 All-Star Game, the win against the Dodgers when we were going to the series in 2016, so many great moments," he said, but playing the organ at the World Series rally in Grant Park that sunny day in November is etched into his memory.

"Getting off the bus and going to Grant Park, and having a police escort me to the stage at the rally to play the organ for millions of people, it don't get better than that."

Gary Pressy at Cubs Rally
Photo courtesy of the Chicago Cubs

Since he made the announcement of his retirement, he said, the attention has been unexpected, but the love accepted.

"I did not think it would be to this level. I'm appreciating it and I'm soaking it all in," he smiled.

Now onto his new chapter, he said, he doesn't have any big plans, other than spending time with his 95-year-old mother, who proceeded him on the mound with a first pitch of her own three years ago.

Cubs organist, Gary Pressy's mother Virginia throws out first pitch
Photo courtesy of the Chicago Cubs

"She told Justin Grimm who caught the ball, with God's help, the Cubs are going to win the World Series. She threw a pretty good pitch. It was an arthritis split ball," he laughed. "But she brought us good luck that year. I have big shoes to fill."

He always hoped to play his last note on his terms and that's exactly what he's doing, but he promises to be back next season, but this time as a fan.

"If the doors are open, I'm coming in and I think they will be," Pressy laughed.

Chicago Cubs organist Gary Pressy
Photo courtesy of the Chicago Cubs