How Did Playing “Sweet Caroline” Become a Red Sox Tradition at Fenway Park?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about music and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.

MUSIC URBAN LEGEND: The Red Sox began playing “Sweet Caroline” in honor of a Red Sox employee who named her newborn daughter “Caroline” in 1998.

One of the coolest baseball musical traditions is the singing of the Neil Diamond hit “Sweet Caroline” during the 8th inning of Boston Red Sox games played at Fenway Park.

WHY the song is played during the 8th inning of Boston Red Sox games played at Fenway Park is a whole other story.

The song has nothing to do with Boston, so why the connection?

The most common “official” explanation is that an unnamed Red Sox employee had the song played in honor of his newborn daughter, Caroline. That was the one offered up by Megan Kaiser, the game day music programmer at Fenway from 2004-2007. Honestly, that might very well be true. It would not surprise me at all to learn that a guy got them to play the song that day. However, there is “playing the song one day” and there is “the song becoming special.”

And Amy Tobey, the woman who had Kaiser’s job from 1998-2004, is pretty clear in the song’s origin at Fenway, and I could see where you’d want to invent a story, since the actual one is fairly mundane.

You see, the song has long been popular at sporting events because of its infectious positive vibe (and its extreme sing-along-ability) and when Tobey began using it, that was her inspiration. She saw it used at other games and she thought it would work well for the Red Sox, as well. She would play in some time in the later innings (7th or later) if the Red Sox were ahead. She told the Boston Globe, “‘I actually considered it like a good luck charm. Even if they were just one run [ahead], I might still do it. It was just a feel.”

When new ownership took over, they had Tobey make the song a regular occurrence, because it was so popular with the fans. When Kaiser took over, she added the twist of cutting the volume on the song to allow the fans to sing parts of the song, a very popular Fenway tradition to this day.

So while “other teams seemed to like using it” is perhaps not the most attractive of answers, it also appears to be the correct one.

The legend is…

STATUS: Basically False

Thanks to the Boston Globe’s Stephanie Vosk and Tobey for their side of the tale, and thanks to MLB’s Alyson Footer and Kaiser for their information.

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One Response to “How Did Playing “Sweet Caroline” Become a Red Sox Tradition at Fenway Park?”

  1. If by “coolest baseball traditions” you mean “most annoying, overhyped bits of ridiculous self-indulgence” then yeah it’s cool. As a “tradition” it’s barely 15 years old but people revere it as if they’ve been doing it since the 70s. TV broadcasts wax poetic about it like it stands alongside Ted Williams and the Curse of the Bambino in the annals of Red Sox lore.

    It’d be far less annoying if they just admitted it’s something new and fun instead of forcing the “tradition” part before it’s even gotten there.

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