It wasn’t like Tobey had a choice. The orders came from the top. It was in 2002 when Dr. Charles Steinberg became vice president of public affairs at Fenway. He was convinced that the classic show tune contained “transformative powers” and would become a team rally song.
His inkling was correct, and the rest is history. It’s now the fan anthem he hoped it would be and central to the Fenway Park experience.
Diamond Saw the Photo Five Years Before Writing the Song
Back in the early ‘60s, when Diamond was a struggling artist staying at a hotel, he noticed little Caroline on the cover of "Life" magazine. She was as cute as could be, dressed to the tee in riding gear astride her pony. He said he knew there was a song in that image as soon as he saw it.
Five years later, the song came to him. By then, he was married to his first wife, Marcia, so, according to Diamond in 2014, it was also inspired by her. The only thing was that he could not find a rhyme for Marcia.
The Very First Time ‘Sweet Caroline’ Played at Fenway Park
It was a fluke. Amy Tobey, the stadium DJ, played Diamond’s catchy song as a shout-out to her friend who just had a baby. The infant’s name was, you guessed it, Caroline. The crowd loved it. Tobey responded by playing “Sweet Caroline” whenever the Red Sox had some momentum, but only between the seventh and ninth innings and only when they were winning.
She considered it a good luck charm, but she couldn’t help feeling superstitious when Fenway Park management demanded it plays going into the eighth inning of each game.
‘Sweet Caroline’ Brought its Singer to Fenway Stadium
Neil Diamond embraced the love of Red Sox fans and gradually became a part of Boston himself. Though he’s a New Yorker by birth, he is just as loyal to Bostonians, and they accept him as one of them. At the first home game following the tragic Boston Marathon bombings, Diamond performed his song live to a packed Fenway Park.
Standing on the field, mic in hand, and belting out the crowd-favorite tune, fans sang along in joyous abandon, forgetting the attacks, at least for a few minutes.
The “Sweet Caroline” tradition at Fenway has caught on. It’s spread to sporting events nationwide, piping up at college and pro football games, making its way as a stadium anthem.
But at Fenway, some fans think it’s time for it to go. It’s getting old, like a routine, so much so that it’s jokingly referred to as the eighth-inning bathroom break. Some local sports media voices in Boston outwardly decry the tradition, saying they hate it and calling it a national disgrace.