So much at Sox games is decidedly local, from Kayem's Fenway franks to Hood's Green Monster Mint ice cream. But not always the rally cries, some of which have been suspect at best. In the late 1930s, composer Moe Jaffe scored with "Root for the Red Sox" — that despite his being a New Jersey–raised Lithuanian ex-pat, and having also written "We're the Boys from Brooklyn" for the Dodgers. In 1979, a virtually unknown band named The Paid Attendance enjoyed mild success with "Be a Believer in Red Sox Fever" — even though the song's writer also penned a number for the Yankees. Considering the current game-day staples, not much has changed in the regional music department, though there are some exceptions to the tradition of outsourcing Red Sox theme songs.
In the early 1900s, supporters of the Boston Americans (as the franchise was unofficially known then) tortured visiting teams at the Huntington Avenue Grounds with en masse renditions of "Tessie." A completely random Broadway number, the irksome song had no Boston relevance whatsoever; nonetheless, according to legend, the ditty pushed the Americans ahead of Pittsburgh in the 1903 World Series, as the Royal Rooters pep squad taunted the opposition with "Tessie" all throughout that showdown and in subsequent successful pennant runs.
Dropkick Murphys reclaimed the bitch on Boston terms in 2004, when their nostalgic interpolation dovetailed with the first Sox World Series win in 86 years. Considering that and the band's kingly status in this town, the popularity of their "Tessie" makes perfect sense, as does the pandemonium that ensues when reliever Jonathan Papelbon crashes through the bullpen to "I'm Shipping Up to Boston." I'm just surprised that a fan base so obsessed with hometown identity doesn't demand more local flavor. "We definitely play a lot of older Boston music," says Connelly, "but the most important thing is that a song has to be familiar. People have to bop their heads."
There's no better testament to the bizarre taste of Sox fans than "Dirty Water." As Hub media legends Chuck Burgess and Bill Nowlin detail in their 2007 book, Love That Dirty Water, when the Standells dropped their catchy and ambiguous pre-punk jam in the '60s, it barely cracked the Top 40 around here, and certainly didn't resonate with Boston baseball fans. Perhaps it was because none of the Standells had ever been to Beantown, let alone called the Hub home or actually hung down by the Charles River.
The fate of "Dirty Water" flipped in 1998, when a Connelly predecessor, Fenway DJ Kevin Friend, played the song on Opening Day. It's widely believed that the leathery guitar riffs helped the team come back against the Mariners, and, as such, ever since that day Sox victories have been blessed with "Dirty Water." In their role, the Standells were even made honorary Bostonians, and were invited to perform during the storied 2004 World Series and for the following season's home opener. "The Standells' connection to the team," says Burgess, "was forever linked in history." I suppose I'll score that one in the better-late-than-never column.