How 'Sweet Caroline' became a Fenway hit

January 21st, 2021

For Red Sox fans, good times never seem so good as when Neil Diamond’s recording of “Sweet Caroline” is belting out of the Fenway Park sound system just prior to the bottom of the eighth inning of every home game.

The fans turn it into their own singalong and manage to sound equally enthusiastic whether the home team is winning or losing.

They take extra pleasure in the, “So good, so good, so good!” portion of the song.

So how did this somewhat goofy tradition start?

During a 1997 game at Fenway, Amy Tobey, an employee in charge of ballpark music during the season, played "Sweet Caroline" because someone she knew had just had a baby named Caroline. For the next few years, the song would be played on select occasions at the ballpark.

But that all changed when Dr. Charles Steinberg came to the Red Sox as executive vice president of public affairs in 2002.

Allow Steinberg -- who is currently the president of the Triple-A Worcester Red Sox -- to explain how "Sweet Caroline" became a nightly thing at Fenway.

"The Red Sox would play it once in a while. They would play it from time to time," Steinberg said. "It wasn't an anthem. In 2002, they were still doing that. I could hear that the fans were singing responsively.

"So I said to Danny Kischel, who was working the control room at the time, I said, 'Are you going to play "Sweet Caroline" today?' He said, 'Oh no, we can't play it. It's not a "Sweet Caroline" day.' I said, 'What's a "Sweet Caroline" day?' He said, 'We only play "Sweet Caroline" when the team is ahead and the crowd is festive and the atmosphere is already very upbeat.'"

But that's when Steinberg suggested it become tradition.

"I said, 'I think the song may have transformative powers and it may be able to lift the melancholy crowd and lift the spirits to being positive.' We were talking about change in an organization that didn't have any change," Steinberg recalled. "I said, 'Let's do it.' Sometimes they were playing at the end of seven. Sometimes they were playing at the end of eight. Sometimes they were playing at the middle of the eighth. I wanted it to be the middle of the eighth, because you want your more festive songs to occur when the home team is coming up to bat. So we started playing it each day in 2002."

Here we are, 19 years later. It is a tradition that shows no signs of ending anytime soon.

"When you heard the crowd sing so responsively to it, that's the sign of a song the crowd is connecting to," Steinberg said. "This was not the club saying it's time for a singalong. This was organic. This was from the crowd singing it. They sang it with such participation, audible participation, why not play it for them if they want to sing it?"

On April 20, 2013, in the emotional first game back at Fenway Park after the Boston Marathon bombings, Diamond came out to the diamond to play his song live.