Last season many column inches and tweets were dedicated to deriding ‘Sweet Caroline’ as a song for the pink hats.
However in the wake of the marathon tragedy teams all over baseball played the 1969 Neil Diamond hit as a sign of their solidarity with the people of Boston.
For 40 years Diamond had stayed intentionally quiet about his inspiration for the song but he finally revealed in 2007 that it was borne from a photo of a 9 year old Caroline Kennedy, daughter of president John F. Kennedy. Caroline Kennedy, who would throw out the first pitch on the 100th Anniversary of Fenway Park, 100 years after her great grandfather John Francis “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald had done the same at the opening of the ballpark, had been unaware of this until then.
But in truth, the song’s popularity in Boston had been on the decline in recent times and doubly so last year, as it was often being played while the Red Sox were behind in games, but now it’s found new relevance. Long seen as an anthem to lift spirits, it’s now become a signal of unity every night in the middle of the 8th inning.
The Red Sox as a team and an organisation have also become a unifying entity, they’ve always worked closely with the Boston community but their ability to provide distraction and respite, a return to some kind of normalcy, has been invaluable in this moment. Their first game back at Fenway provided a public platform for thanks to be given to law enforcement, the fire department and members of the public for their outstanding efforts. The Red Sox wore special home uniforms, proudly emblazoned with ‘Boston’, in place of the traditional Red Sox lettering, which would be auctioned off with all proceeds donated to the One Fund, the charity set up by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Tom Menino. To date the One Fund has raised close to $30m dollars.
Ben Cherington may have spent significant time in the off season considering which free agents to sign based on character, but Boston already had one player who fit the model Cherington was working from. David Ortiz.
Big Papi spoke passionately and succinctly at the end of the pre game events in that first game back and in five short words said everything that needed to be said.
Fenway park has witnessed many displays of power during it’s long and storied history, with Ortiz providing more than his fair share, however this time it was with words not wood that Ortiz made his biggest impact on the city.
Now every single, every double, every triple or home run is celebrated with the ‘Boston Strong’ pose, this signature strongman stance is both a moment of remembrance and a resolute display that, as Papi said, “nobody gonna dictate our freedom. Stay strong.”