Fans Rock While Red Sox Roll

Fans rock while Red Sox roll

By Bob Stern, Enterprise staff writer

Major League Baseball games used to be peaceful affairs. An organist would play relaxing music between innings, maybe a little ditty when a player came to bat.

The most rousing moment at a home Red Sox game would come during the seventh-inning stretch, when he’d play “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.”

Well, those days are over.

Today’s baseball experience is high-tech sound systems, videos on the scoreboard and plenty of pop music to enhance the Fenway Park experience.

There’s ?Sweet Caroline? during the eighth inning, “Wild Thing” whenever Jonathan Papelbon strides to the mound, ?Dirty Water? when the Red Sox win, among other tunes.Dirty Water? when the Red Sox win, among other tunes.

Coordinating all the tunes is Megan Kaiser, the Red Sox’s music programmer.

“The thought process is constant,” said Kaiser.

It seems music blares every moment Fenway Park is open. There’s music for batting practice, music for the groundskeepers preparing the field, music between innings, music for relief pitchers coming in and batters coming up. And there’s music after the game.

“Baseball is ever changing, so I go with the flow of the games,” said Kaiser.

At any moment at Fenway, you can hear “Magic To Do” from the Broadway show “Pippin,” “Center Field” by John Fogarty and “Play Ball” by J. Bristol.

And, of course, before the Red Sox bat in the bottom of the eighth inning, there’s Neil Diamond’s ?Sweet Caroline.?

“That’s the signature song of the park, and you sense the fans would be disappointed if that wasn’t played,” said Kaiser. “I’m delightfully surprised that caught on. It has nothing to do with baseball, but it’s fantastic fun and people get into it. Even when we’re losing, it’s a good day at Fenway Park in the mid-eighth.”

The tradition started around 2000. A man in the control booth just had a daughter named Caroline. To honor her, he played the song over the sound system. It blossomed from there.

“In my first year, 2003, I didn’t play it all the time,” said Kaiser. “I remember a game I didn’t play it and we didn’t do well, so I started to play it and we did a lot better.”

Kaiser turns the sound down at points during the chorus for fans to shout their own bit of lyrics: “Oh, Sweet Caroline! (bah, bah, bah!), Good times never seemed so good (So good! so good! so good!).”

Kaiser believes some fans hang around the ballpark just for “Sweet Caroline,” seldom leaving before the Red Sox bat in the eight.

“I got a call from my boyfriend in the stands the other night,” said Kaiser. “He was sitting next to some Red Sox fans from Texas and that’s what they talked about.

“We can’t win every game, but it doesn’t matter,” she added. “Whenever the song comes on, Red Sox Nation is in prime form. They’re singing, they’re into it. I know they wait. They love it.”

As popular as “Sweet Caroline” is, it’s not the song Kaiser wants to play the most. That’s because only after a win does she immediately play “Dirty Water” by the Standells, during which fans leaving the park like to shout the lyrics, “Oh, Boston, you’re my home.”

Then she plays “Tessie” by the Dropkick Murphys and vJoy to the World” by Three Dog Night.

“We needed something else to elongate the celebration because fans are staying longer after the game,” Kaiser said. “We needed something with a good beginning, and what’s better than ‘Jeremiah was a bullfrog,'” the opening lyric to the Three Dog Night favorite.

Then there are the tunes played each time certain players enter the game.

Mike Timlin comes in from the bullpen to “Black Betty” by Ram Jam. Mike Lowell walks up to bat to “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath, and Papelbon heads for the mound to “Wild Thing” by the Trogs.

Other parks have their own favorites.

Yankee Stadium, for instance, plays “Cotton-Eyed Joe” during the game, and the grounds crew does a shtick to “YMCA” by the Village People.

The park also plays “New York, New York” after every game ? the Frank Sinatra version when they win, the Liza Minnelli version when they lose. (Sox fans hope for lots of Liza this season).

Red Sox regulars who might tire of the repeated musical interludes know they are special for folks who make the trek to Fenway maybe once a year ? or once in a lifetime.

“There are 81 (home) games a year, and one of those games might be the only game this season or ever that a parent might bring his kid,” said Kaiser. “I want to make it the best experience I can make it for them.”

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