Music plays part in Fenway's tradition
'Sweet Caroline,' 'Tessie' are staples of Boston baseball
BOSTON -- When Megan Kaiser first started playing Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" at Fenway Park five years ago, she thought it would be a nice extra touch if she turned down the volume during the part where the crowd sings "So good, so good, so good" following Diamond's line, "Good times never seemed so good."
The only problem was, very few fans knew about that extra part.
Kaiser, the Red Sox's advertising manager and gameday music programmer, figured the "So good" part of the routine was universal. She didn't realize that although the Fenway crowd had grown accustomed to singing "Sweet Caroline" on a semi-regular basis, the extra stuff wasn't exactly included in the package.
"A couple of people sang along," Kaiser said. "I was always fan of the movie 'Beautiful Girls,' and they did it in that movie. I thought maybe they'd do it at the park, too. Maybe that was just in my head. I [turned the music down] and you could hear a couple people go, 'So good, so good, so good.' I felt sick. The guy sitting next to me yelled, 'What happened?'"
Eventually, the "So good" part of the song caught on among Red Sox Nation, and instead of a few hundred fans following along, the entire ballpark sings the extra line -- a capella, of course.
"You just keep doing something and things catch on eventually," Kaiser said.
Kaiser wasn't the first music programmer to play "Sweet Caroline" at Fenway Park, but she was the first to make it an everyday occurrence. The tradition began some 10 years ago, when a former worker in the control room played the Diamond hit as a show of affection for his newborn daughter, Caroline.
When Kaiser's predecessor, Amy Tobey, was running the ship, she played the song more often, and by the time Kaiser took over the control room, "Sweet Caroline" was well on its way to becoming a standard eighth-inning tradition.
"In the beginning, we didn't play it every game," Kaiser said. "We played it often, but not every game. Then you could hear people start to sing along with it. It started slowly building momentum and snowballing."
"Sweet Caroline" is far from the only musical tradition at Fenway Park. When the Red Sox win, Kaiser's crew plays three songs -- "Tessie" by the Dropkick Murphys, "Dirty Water" by The Standells and "Joy to the World" by Three Dog Night.
Why "Dirty Water"?
"It's all about the Charles River and Boston," Kaiser said. "'Love that dirty water, Boston, you're my home.'"
The club's attachment to "Tessie" is a bit more complicated. It's become arguably the most famous of all of the Red Sox's good luck charms, especially as the season progresses toward the playoffs.
First, a little background information. The broadway tune "Tessie" was originally used as a rally song during the 1903 World Series. Boston was losing that year to the Pirates in the best-of-nine series, 3-1, and a group of self-proclaimed baseball fanatics called the Royal Rooters attempted to rally their team with every song that came to mind.
Ultimately, "Tessie" proved to be the most irritating to the Pirates, and with that knowledge, the Rooters stuck exclusively with that one tune. Boston went on to win Games 5, 6, 7 and 8 to win the series.
The Royal Rooters stopped singing in 1918, the last time the Red Sox won a World Series for the next 86 years. Fast forward to 2004. "Tessie" made a musical reappearance, and perhaps not so coincidentally, the Red Sox also won the World Series.
This time, the local band Dropkick Murphys remade the song, with the help of Red Sox players Johnny Damon, Bronson Arroyo and Lenny DiNardo, and Red Sox vice president of public affairs Charles Steinberg. Boston Herald sportswriter Jeff Horrigan co-wrote the new lyrics with the Murphys.
During the '04 season, the Murphys were invited to sing "Tessie" live at Fenway Park. Incredibly, the Red Sox are 5-0 with four final at-bat wins when the band appears.
Don't think the Red Sox brass isn't aware of the Dropkick Murphys' magic. With the Red Sox seeking their second American League pennant in three years this season, they invited the band to perform their famous song prior to Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.
Once the Red Sox secured the win, chaos ensued. Closer Jonathan Papelbon broke out in an Irish dance and gathered members of the Murphys, who were already on the field. Papelbon was dancing to the band's song, "I'm Shipping Up To Boston," a frantic Irish punk tune.
"The best part for me was when we were on the field with the players when they won," said bass player and singer Ken Casey. "The reaction of the players made everything worthwhile. They thanked us for the good luck, thanked us for pumping them up. It almost seemed like it sunk in with players."
So what happens if the World Series between the Red Sox and Rockies moves back to Boston for Games 6 and 7? Will the Murphys be called upon one more time?
If so, there may be a conflict. The band starts a tour in Los Angeles the day after Game 7, and all of the equipment will already have been shipped out to California long before the band arrives.
But not to worry, Sox fans. Casey has no plans to desert the club in its most desperate hour.
"I'm sure that if we were needed, if the Red Sox want us bad enough, we could make it work," Casey said. "I like to take it one game at a time. I'd rather have the problem be that we win quick and they want us to play at a parade instead of Game 7."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.