WRIGLEY FIELD — As they belt out "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" or hum along to the organ music that fills Wrigley Field, Chicago Cubs fans might not realize just how Gary Pressy has touched their lives.
Pressy, 59, has presided over every home game at the Friendly Confines since 1987 as the sole organist. He was there playing the Lowrey organ when the lights lit up the first night game at Wrigley Field, and he was there for the 2016 World Series.
And as Pressy cued up his tunes and tickled the ivories Monday, it was another special game: his 2,500th in a row as Wrigley Field's sole organist.
"It was my life's dream to be an organist for a team," Pressy said Tuesday. "And it was such a memorable night for me."
The Cubs Snapchat celebrates Gary Pressy's 2,500th consecutive game as the Wrigley Field organist. For the second time in his 31 years at the ballpark, Pressy sang the national anthem on Monday to mark the milestone. [Screenshots/Snapchat]
He's had quite a few memorable nights in recent years, including an "unbelievable" Game 3 of the World Series last October.
"I've never seen so many people in my life," Pressy said of the crowds outside Wrigley. "It was a dream come true."
Pressy has played far more games than any other Wrigley Field organist — the runner-up for his record lasted around five years, Pressy recalled.
Over his 31 years at the ballpark, he's found new ways to enjoy his role, like with his Twitter account, @GaryPressy, where he plays demos of his songs and thanks his fans. He's sung for the seventh-inning stretch twice (the second time being Monday) and his 93-year-old mother threw the first pitch at a game last year.
"Gary Pressy playing the organ at Wrigley Field stands as one of the many great traditions that make this ballpark so special," said Cubs spokesman Julian Green. "Much like the ivy on the outfield walls, the famous red marquee or the hand-operated scoreboard, millions of fans travel each season to enjoy these iconic sights and sounds."
Last year, the Cubs even created a bobblehead of Pressy at his organ to celebrate his 30 seasons at the ballpark. Occasionally, he gives them away to fans who answer his trivia questions on Twitter.
Pressy started playing the organ when he was 5 years old, growing up near St. Thomas More Church in the Ashburn neighborhood.
He'd come home from school and eagerly watch the Cubs play on TV, the voice of famed sportscaster Jack Brickhouse ringing in his ears.
"I'd be in the backyard humming the national anthem or pretending to be the broadcaster myself," he said.
And even as organs are replaced by canned rock and pop songs blasting through ballpark, he trusts there will always be live organ music at Wrigley Field.
"I don't think it's a dying art, especially at Wrigley Field," Pressy said. The team, he said, respects tradition, whether it be with its iconic marquee or the ivy-covered outfield walls.
In fact, Wrigley Field was the first Major League ballpark to have organ music back in April 1941. Ray Nelson was the ballpark's first organist, and Pressy estimates there have been only six or seven before Pressy himself took over.
"You try to develop your own style, if you can," Pressy said. "Especially with the [electric] organ. It's made of so many different variations of sound — piano, guitar, country, all different rhythms — and that's the fun part of it."
Until four years ago, it was up to Pressy to select the walkup music for each player. Although the team members get to pick their own songs now, Pressy said it was fun to choose songs based on a player's number, their names or their hometowns.
Lollapalooza starts on Thursday, Cubs are "rocking" so far tonight too! -GP pic.twitter.com/dyXTQ7VeXS— Gary Pressy (@GaryPressy) August 2, 2017
Perhaps the stands are a little fuller now that the Cubs are World Series champions, but other than that, not much has changed over the years (save for his music selection), Pressy said.
"Whether there's 10,000 people here or the full 40,000, it's still Major League Baseball at Wrigley Field and the vines," Pressy said.
So will he pass the mantle soon? After 31 years, surely he's tired of plucking out the notes to "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" 2,500 times?
Not a chance, Pressy insisted.
"Driving up to the ballpark, you see the lights there, the marquee, and you walk in and you still get excited about walking into that ballpark," Pressy said. "It does not get any better than that."
The Cubs and Wrigley Field are 95 percent owned by an entity controlled by a trust established for the benefit of the family of Joe Ricketts, owner and CEO of DNAinfo.com. Joe Ricketts has no direct involvement in the management of the iconic team.