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Ah one, ah two...Pressy plays 2,300 straight Cubs games

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

 

When the presidential election reaches a boiling point and if Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the two who are fighting it out for the nation’s top position, there is a good chance they won’t have much in common.

But if you look hard enough, there is at least one common connection between the two and it involves  a Palos Hills musician.

Cubs organist Gary Pressy, who has been playing music at Wrigley Field for 29 seasons, is the guy who accompanies celebrities when they sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretches.

In 2000, Trump performed the iconic song and even though no one knew that 15 years later he would be making a bid for the presidency, he was booed heavily.

In 2012, Secretary of State Clinton also joined Pressy for the tune.

“Does it get any better than that?” Pressy said. “I played with two people who could be the top two combatants going for the White House.”

Pressy won’t reveal who he would vote for. Heck, he won’t even give an opinion on who the better singer was.

“I’ll stay away from that,” he said. “And I wouldn’t want The Donald to say ‘you’re fired’ to me.’’

Pressy has never been told “you’re fired” by the Cubs. He has had 29 one-year contracts with the team and on July 4, played his 2,300th consecutive game.

He’s been there for the good and the bad and has played numerous songs but one he has been itching to play is Queen’s “We Are the Champions” after the Cubs win a World Series.

The 2015 version of the Cubs is young, talented, likeable and has a knack for thrilling come-from-behind victories. They just went through a scorching month of August where they beefed up their record rather than faded. It’s likely they will earn a wild-card playoff berth.

Meanwhile Pressy is there to entertain the crowd through historic wins and blowout losses.

The St. Laurence graduate has a great streak going and said he never came close to not making it to work.

“Knock on wood, everything had gone pretty well,” he said. “I got the job on April Fool’s Day in 1987 after doing a few games in 1986. It’s been great.”

Pressy said there are only a handful of club employees who have been there longer than he has and that roughly 50 percent of Major League Baseball teams use an organist.

Wrigley Field went through a fancy facelift and a left-field video board has taken his job of providing the Cub’s walkup music away. But he’s still busy.

“I think there is more organ music playing at Wrigley Field than any other ballpark,” he said. “For pregame music, I’m banging away for an hour or an hour and 10 minutes straight. During the game, I’m going little ditties for the crowd. I’ll play walkup music for the other team’s players.’’

And of course, there is the seventh-inning stretch…

Celebrities took over after legendary announcer Harry Caray died in 1998. Caray used to open the song bellowing “Let me hear ya! Ah one…ah two…ah three… and then sing an off key rendition of the song.

It’s been awhile since the stretch made news but early on Pressy accompanied Mike Ditka when he went into his whirling dervish version, Jeff Gordon when he sang off key and called Wrigley Field “Wrigley Stadium,” Steve McMichael when he got thrown out of the game for addressing umpire Angel Hernandez before singing and Ozzy Osbourne for his mumbling, bumbling rendition.

Those were some of the more colorful renditions that made national news.

Pressy was able to meet everyone from politicians to astronauts to entertainers.

He said the Duran Duran singer Simon Le Bon and international star Gloria Estefan were the nicest to him but his favorite celebrity  was former Boston Celtics basketball great Dave Cowens.

“I am a Celtics nut and it was a great chance to sit with him and talk for 10 or 15 minutes about the great Celtic teams of the past,’’ he said.

Pressy’s family moved to the Palos Hills in 1991 and his 91-year-old mother, Virginia lives with him.

She is able to get to an occasional game at Wrigley Field and she is one of his biggest fans. Pressy, a huge fan of the old TV show, “The Honeymooners,” joked that his mom is like Ralph Kramden during an episode in which Kramden bought a television set and prepared to watch a show with a bag of snacks.

“She has the popcorn and all the chips spread out all over the place and watches all of the games,” he said.

And the Cubs have been watchable all year.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen in September but right now, the team is having fun and that’s a reflection of the manager – Joe Maddon,” Pressy said. “It’s great that we will have some meaningful games in September.’’