Neil Diamond wrote his catchy little diddy, Sweet Caroline in a Memphis hotel room back in the 1960s. It took him less than an hour. Diamond claims that the song has no special meaning to him whatsoever and that its success is “one of the great mysteries of songwriting.”
The music icon and creator of 38 Top 40 hits also has no idea why the Red Sox adopted this particular tune as their 8th inning anthem – although he’s glad they did! Do you know how the tradition began?
The legend begins with a Fenway employee named Billy Fitzpatrick. The control room worker’s wife had just given birth to a baby girl named -you guessed it- Caroline. Former Red Sox public address announcer Ed Brickley requested the song to be played in tribute to Fitzpatrick and his family.
While this part of the story is believed to be true, it is not what started Sweet Caroline on the road to Fenway infamy. In fact, the real story is quite mundane. Amy Tobey became Fenway’s music director in 1998. She had heard the catchy tune played at other parks and thought it would make a fun sing-along-song for Boston fans.
She began by playing the song only between the 7th and 9th innings, and only if the Sox were winning. Fans came to view the tune as a good luck charm and anticipate its joyful notes. Noticing the fan response, the Sox’s 2002 group of new owners requested that Tobey begin playing the song during the eight inning of every home game.
Megan Kaiser is Fenway’s newest music director and she has free reign over what is played during Sox games – except in the 8th inning, of course! Kaiser did add her own little twist to the Sweet Caroline tradition. Since the fans know the words by heart and love to sing along, she mutes the volume at key moments, allowing game goers to shout out the lyrics.
Who hasn’t joined their bleacher-mates in screaming out “SO GOOD! SO GOOD! SO GOOD!”? It’s as much a part of the game day experience as Wally and Fenway Franks.
So the next time you’re taking in a ballgame and The Standell’s Dirty Water turns to Sweet Caroline, you can explain to your seat neighbors just how the tradition began!