'Sweet Caroline': Why is it a Boston Red Sox song?

Neil Diamond sings 'Sweet Caroline' during the eighth inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game, on Tuesday, July 16, in New York.

'Sweet Caroline' has become a Fenway Park tradition, but now the song is being bellowed at other parks as well. It was even played at the MLB All-Star Game Tuesday night.

Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline," always a hit when played in Boston's Fenway Park, was not as appreciated by some New York Yankee fans at the 2013 MLB All-Star Game at Citi Field in New York Tuesday night. Some Yankee fans booed the song that was sung live by Neil Diamond. But others, including some Boston Red Sox fans, appreciated the gesture.

Earlier this year, the Yankees and their fans set aside their historic rivalry with the Red Sox and honored Boston by playing the Sox anthem in Yankee stadium shortly after the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings. 

Diamond, who wrote and performed the song for the first time in 1969, tweeted his thanks, saying: "Thank you NY Yankees for playing 'Sweet Caroline' for the people of Boston. You scored a home run in my heart. With respect, Neil."

The Yankees weren't the only ones paying tribute to the victims of the Boston Marathon twin bombings — their idea caught on and very soon "Sweet Caroline" was played by several MLB teams, including the Cleveland Indians, who played it when the Sox came up to bat in the first inning on a night shortly after the bombings.


Why is "Sweet Caroline" such a staple at Fenway Park during the eighth inning of every Red Sox home game?


Yankees pay tribute to Boston by playing 'Sweet Caroline'

Yankees pay tribute to Boston by playing 'Sweet Caroline'
Duration: 0:49 Views: 4k MSN News/Newsy

After all, the lyrics have nothing to do with baseball, but somehow the song has become quintessentially Boston.

Boston Globe correspondent Stephanie Vosk set off on a mission in 2005 to find out how exactly the song was related to Fenway Park and the Red Sox:

Some Red Sox fans suggested that one of the player's wives was named Caroline, while others attributed it to former Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez, who broke into a jig every time the song was played. But then Vosk met someone who had another answer.

Amy Tobey, whose job from 1998 to 2004 was to decide which music would be played at Fenway Park, told the Globe that she had noticed the song at other sports events and decided to try it over Fenway's speakers.


Charles Steinberg, senior advisor to Boston Red Sox President and CEO Larry Lucchino, told MSN News that Tobey played it for the first time when a family in the stadium's control room had a baby named Caroline.

"That was as early as 1997 —and she played it through 2001," Steinberg said. "When new ownership took over in 2002, we were hearing how the crowd responded to it."

Steinberg said the song was only played on "Sweet Caroline" nights — that is "when the team is ahead and the atmosphere is festive."

Tobey said she became superstitious about playing it, and used it like "a good luck charm."

"Even if they were just one run (ahead), I might still do it. It was just a feel," she told the Globe.

"I believe the song has transformative powers," Steinberg said. "It would take a melancholy crowd and lift its spirits. We started playing it each day and the crowd responded beautifully. No one had asked the crowd to sing along, they just did. We played it in the middle of the eighth inning because the home team usually comes to bat at the end of the inning."

Steinberg reminisced about the day Caroline Kennedy visited Fenway as a guest of the ball club.

Sweet Caroline: Neil Diamond thanks the New York YankeesNeil Diamond: Twitter screen shot

"When 'Sweet Caroline' came on, I asked her, 'is this song about you? She looked at me bewildered and said 'no, I don't think so.'"

In 2007, Diamond revealed that the inspiration for the song had in fact come from President John F. Kennedy's then 9-year-old daughter, Caroline, after he saw a magazine photograph of her standing next to her pony.

"The irony was that Boston chose to sing along to a song daily which, unbeknownst to Boston, was about one of its daughters — and the great granddaughter of its first mayor, Honey Fitz," Steinberg said.

Caroline Kennedy threw out the first pitch at the 100th anniversary game at Fenway Park — the oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball — on April 20, 2012, a hundred years after Fitz threw out the ceremonial pitch of the first-ever baseball game at Fenway.

"She was shown on the board singing 'Sweet Caroline' as 'Sweet Caroline' played," Steinberg said. "The song had come full circle."


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