CHICAGO -- Cubs organist Gary Pressy knows he’s among the last of an endangered species.
With more and more ballparks opting for canned pop music to entertain the masses instead of the old-fashioned organs that once sufficed as a stadium’s soundtrack, the man tickling the ivories at Wrigley Field says his ability to stay on top of the latest tunes is key to keeping the game-day experience fun and fresh for fans of all ages.
That's why he’s adapted tunes by mainstream artists such as Lady Gaga for his giant Lowery organ.
“You have to because in Wrigley Field, there are different generations that come to these games,” Pressy said. “You have to brush up on all the new stuff and also play a lot of the oldies and goodies.”
Since taking the job 25 years ago, Pressy’s tunes have celebrated playoff berths and helped soothe in thousands of agonizing losses, the most agonizing of which he remembers as though it happened just yesterday.
“2003 was exciting up until all hell broke loose,” he said. “We were five outs away.”
His most popular performance came on the Fourth of July in 1998.
Legendary Bears coach Mike Ditka was the guest conductor for the seventh-inning stretch that day. With two outs in the top of the seventh, though, Da Coach was nowhere to be found.
Ask Pressy about it and he’ll start laughing at the memory.
“So he’s charging up the stairs with his artificial hip. He took the microphone and he sang a polka rendition. A one, a two, a three, real fast,” he said. “I just caught up to him about halfway through. It turned into a comedy where I just kept going because if I would’ve stopped, that wouldn’t have been good.”
Unlike at other ballparks, where players request their at-bat music, Pressy says none of the Cubs has asked him to play a specific tune. This enables him to be creative.
For former pitcher Tom Gorzelanny, a graduate of Marist High School on Chicago’s southwest side, Pressy chose the school’s fight song whenever he entered the game -- a local touch for a local guy.
“The people maybe appreciate and they can tune into what I’m playing and why I’m playing it,” he said. “Not that I’m trying to stump people while I’m doing it, but it’s nice every once in awhile.”
Of course, ballpark organist is a job title that’s going the way of the milkman and the dial-up Internet provider, but the Cubs’ longtime organist says he isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It’s also why he took on an additional role a while back -- scoreboard trivia researcher. Pressy spends the offseason researching baseball history to come up with the questions displayed on Wrigley’s center-field LED board.
Cubs public address announcer and Pressy’s boothmate, Andrew Belleson, says it was a natural role for the affable Pressy.
“I’ve never met anyone who has as much baseball knowledge in his head that can be spit out at the drop of a coin,” he said.