Organ music has been a staple at Wrigley Field for decades. The longest-serving organist was Gary Pressy, who played the Lowrey organ from 1987 through his retirement in 2019, a total of 2,687 consecutive games.
It was on this date 80 years ago, April 26, 1941, that organ music was first heard at Wrigley Field. Ray Nelson (some sources say “Roy Nelson”) played the organ while fans arrived for that afternoon’s game against the Cardinals, which the Cubs lost 6-2. The Tribune reported:
Mr. Nelson was obliged to still his bellows at 2:30 because his repertoire includes many restricted ASCAP arias, which would have been picked up by radio microphones hooked up half an hour before game time.
The organist, it is promised, will sort his album before the Cubs return home on May 13 and will be ready to peal BMI selections exclusively. Also in prospect is a Cubs theme song entitled, “When The Midnight Choo Choo Leaves For T-U-L-S-A.”
Something tells me that “theme song” never happened. But the organ tunes were a first for any MLB team.
In any case, after a short time the organ, and organist, vanished. There was no further organ music at Wrigley Field until 1967, when the first Lowery organ was installed and Jack Kearney began to entertain fans pre-game and eventually during games. Other organists who played Wrigley before Pressy: Frank Pellico (who still plays the organ at Blackhawks games to this day), Vance Fothergill, John Henzl, Ed Vodlicka and Bruce Miles (no relation to the Daily Herald Cubs scribe).
Today, John Benedeck and Josh Langhoff share Cubs organist duties, and so this 80-year tradition continues. But it all began 80 years ago today.