Boston’s beloved baseball team and a 1969 single by Neil Diamond might not seem to have much in common, aside from leagues of loyal fans. Combine them together, however, and you have a tradition that is just as representative of Fenway Park as the Green Monster. “Sweet Caroline” is currently played during the eighth inning of every Red Sox home game, a practice that gets fans on their feet singing and cheering–particularly if the Sox are winning that day.
The legend of Ed Brickley
Some fans believe that this practice goes back to former Red Sox public address announcer Ed Brickley. Legend has it that he requested the song to be played in tribute to the newborn daughter of a Fenway Park employee named Ed Fitzpatrick, who worked in the control room for 20 years. The daughter was appropriately named “Caroline”. While this is a sweet story, the true origin of playing Sweet Caroline during Sox games is not quite as sentimental.
Music director Amy Tobey
In reality, the practice of playing the song can be attributed to former Fenway Park music director Amy Tobey. From 1998 to 2004, she was responsible for choosing the music that was played between innings, and chose to introduce this song to the line-up because she had heard it during other sporting events.
Originally, Tobey played the song at some point between the seventh and ninth innings, and only if the Red Sox were winning. It became thought of as a good luck charm, and many fans looked forward to hearing the tune in the latter part of the game.
The eighth inning rule
By the time John Henry’s group purchased the Red Sox in 2002, Sweet Caroline was already frequently played during games. After the purchase, however, the new ownership made a request that the song should be played during the eighth inning of every game, regardless of who was winning or losing. Thus, Sweet Caroline became an official Fenway Park tradition.
Today, Megan Kaiser serves as the music director for the stadium, and chooses the music played between innings, aside from the middle of the eighth, of course. The only change she has made to the iconic song is that she turns off the sound during some of the most popular parts, during which the crowd is singing so loudly that you might not even notice. After all, it is pretty much required that all Sox fans know the lyrics at this point.
It is hard to discern why this catchy tune became such a phenomenon in Fenway Park, but it has truly become a favorite piece of Red Sox Nation culture. Even the songwriter himself, Neil Diamond, is mystified by its success, saying “No way to explain it. That’s one of the mysteries of songwriting,” when asked about the hit song, one of his 38 songs to hit the Top 40.