Soundtrack To The Game: Gary Pressy On 33 Years As Wrigley Field's Organist
Wrigley Field is full of sounds. The shouts of the beer vendors, the roar of the crowd, the crack of the bat — and for the last 33 years, Gary Pressy playing the organ.
But Pressy recently announced this would be his last year in the booth.
WBEZ’s sports contributor Cheryl Raye Stout has known Pressy since he played his very first rendition of “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” at Wrigley Field. She sat down with him to discuss his career at The Friendly Confines.
On his pregame routine
Pressy: Say it’s an afternoon game at 1:20 p.m., I’ll probably leave the house in Palos Hills around 8 a.m. to try to beat the traffic. I get [to Wrigley Field] around 10 a.m., and I just have my music sheet ready to go, and I’ll just play by ear and I’ll converse with the people in the lunch room. … The gates open at 11:20 a.m., and I’ll be playing until at 12:30 p.m.
On the ambiance of Wrigley Field
Pressy: I could not be any luckier to pick a ballpark and an organization like the Cubs to represent to have organ music at Wrigley Field. It doesn’t get any better than that. It’s a cathedral. I say this to everybody — everybody of different ages: kids, grandkids, grandparents — they all come to the ballgame and they all enjoy the diversity of the music I play.
On what an organist brings to the ballpark
Pressy: I think it brings levity. I think it brings a kindness — a very natural sound. We’re not blasting it and it’s so nice that people can talk to each other while the organ is being played during batting practice. It just fills the air with, what I think, is the love of the game.
On accompanying conductors for the 7th inning stretch
Pressy: It really has erupted into a spectacle … It’s been so many different people from so many walks of life. Be it athletes, politicians, even Donald Trump our president sang. Hillary Clinton sang. And of course, Mike Ditka in July of ‘98 …
I always say one of the greatest sounding singers was one of the greatest sounding voices in baseball — Vin Sculley. He did it so respectful, just like the way he announces.
On the walk-up music now being done by a DJ
Pressy: We’re in a different era and age in sports, and the Cubs have done a great job of presenting music for all ages. And the DJ does a great job here. He plays the music when the Cubs taking batting practice and I’ll take over when the visitors take batting practice.
On calling it quits
Pressy: It’s been 33 years, which is a third of a century ... and I just want to spend some quality time with family. That’s the main thing. I love the ballpark, I love [the media], which I’ll miss deeply, but it’s time.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.