57 The Songs of the Sox: “Sweet Caroline” and “Tessie”
The ritual of playing “Sweet Caroline” at Fenway at the bottom of the eighth inning has been a Red Sox Nation favorite since 2003. It began in 1998, when a Red Sox employee named his newborn daughter Caroline; the song was played as a tribute to the baby, and a tradition was born as well.
The songwriter, Neil Diamond, told the Associated Press in November 2007 that the inspiration for the 1969 hit song was Caroline Kennedy, John F. Kennedy’s daughter. Diamond made the revelation to Kennedy while singing at her 50th birthday party via satellite. Until then, nobody really knew who “Sweet Caroline” was.
Diamond said, “I had never discussed it with anybody before — intentionally. I thought I would tell it to Caroline when I met her someday.” Diamond said it was the most significant song of his career, jump-starting his life in the music business. He said he wrote the song after seeing a photo of a young Caroline dressed in riding gear next to her pony.
Red Sox fans never really cared about the origins of the song’s title, but knowing that it was about a Kennedy still probably made them smile.
Here are those famous lyrics that Sox fans love to shout:
Where it began
I can’t begin to knowin’.
But then I know it’s growin’ strong.
Was in the spring
And spring became a summer.
Who’d have believed you’d come along.
Hands, touchin’ hands,
Good times never seemed so good.
At that point, fans chant, “So good! So good!”
The song is even played at spring-training games in Fort Myers, Florida. I recall that during one spring-training game in 2006, the song wasn’t played at its normal time at the bottom of the eighth, causing many inquisitive fans to look toward the press box, asking, “What happened to ‘Sweet Caroline’?” The understandably upset Sox management, realizing what had happened, played the song in the ninth inning, much to the delight of the fans on hand.
“Tessie” was the original song of the Royal Rooters fan club, who used to march into the Huntington Avenue Grounds, former home of the Red Sox, and strum up “Tessie” to get the crowd going.
Will R. Anderson wrote the lyrics, which go:
Tessie, you make me feel so badly.
Why don’t you turn around?
Tessie, you know I love you madly.
Babe, my heart weighs about a pound.
Don’t blame me if I ever doubt you,
You know I wouldn’t live without you.
Tessie, you are the only, only, only…