For a city in need of healing voices after the horrific events Monday in Boston, one song seemed so appropriate to ring through baseball's gathering places, a melodic name sending a heartfelt message that we're all Bostonians.
Sweeeeet Caroliiine . . .
And, of course, the now familiar refrain that follows Neil Diamond's eponymous expression of adoration, famously vocalized to the heavens at Fenway Park home games by Red Sox fans.
Bah! Bah! Bah!
With ballparks from Yankee Stadium to Safeco Field putting "Sweet Caroline" on the loudspeakers between innings, a unique tribute to Boston and its people went viral through the Major Leagues on Tuesday, one day after two explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon killed three and injured more than 170 spectators and participants in the annual race, an event that -- along with an early Red Sox game -- is a traditional part of Patriots' Day activities in Boston.
A song isn't going to heal the wounded or bring back the victims, but the gesture of love and support for Bostonians rang out -- and with no more passion than in the Bronx, home of their rivals, the Yankees.
"I think it's important that we recognize that we're all behind the people in Boston and everyone that was involved," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You think about that being a song that's a tradition there, it's special to Fenway Park and the people of Boston. We're behind them. Put the baseball teams aside, we want to be there for them."
In response, Diamond went to Twitter and expressed his appreciation to the Yankees for the thought of using his song in such a gesture:
"Thank you NY Yankees for playing 'Sweet Caroline' for the people of Boston. You scored a home run in my heart. With respect, Neil"
Thank you NY Yankees for playing 'Sweet Caroline' for the people of Boston. You scored a home run in my heart. With respect, Neil #OneBoston- Neil Diamond (@NeilDiamond) April 17, 2013
Derrick Hall, the president of the visiting Arizona D-backs who was making his first trip to Yankee Stadium, admired the way the Yankees had embraced the rival Red Sox and their traditional song.
"It was chilling," Hall said. "You felt like you were in Fenway Park. It was classy -- an incredible gesture."
The Yankees were not alone in sending that same message to the people of Boston. The "Sweet Caroline" idea spread throughout the Majors, including in Cleveland before the Red Sox played Tuesday night following a pregame rendition of the familiar tune.
And the gesture didn't go unnoticed by the team with "Boston" across its chest.
"I think it's a touch of class by, not only Cleveland, but every Major League city around baseball that has done something tonight," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "I saw the sign on the front of the facade at Yankee Stadium and I think the fact that they played 'Sweet Caroline' in the third inning there, I think it's a touch of class by all of Major League Baseball to acknowledge this."
The fans at Chicago's Wrigley Field, always known to belt out "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" without equal during the seventh-inning stretch, followed suit by singing "Sweet Caroline" during the eighth inning, as their Boston friends do. "Sweet Caroline" was heard from the crowd at Marlins Park in Miami, where a fan waving an American flag was an image accompanying the voices.
The Cincinnati Reds played the song in the second inning, and it happened to be Bark at the Park night so there were a few extra best friends helping send the message. And West Coast home teams, including the Dodgers, Mariners and A's, had "Sweet Caroline" on their playlist for the eighth inning of their Tuesday night games.
In Milwaukee, a different tune of tribute emerged at Miller Park. After a moment of silence was observed prior to the Giants-Brewers game, the theme from "Cheers," the Boston-based sitcom classic about a bar where everybody knows your name, was accompanied by a message on the scoreboard, reading: "To our friends in Boston, our thoughts are with you tonight."
But nowhere else was the song or the message of support more poignant than in Cleveland, where the Red Sox were in town to play a game that no doubt many Bostonians were watching to gain some respite from Monday's terror. The messages of support were there, in force -- including a road uniform hanging in the Red Sox dugout with Boston area code 617 and "Boston Strong" the message embroidered on it, and third baseman Will Middlebrooks writing the same words on his spikes.
And then, before the first pitch, the song that became an anthem of healing for Boston from baseball fans all over the country.
"It caught me off guard," said Indians pitcher Justin Masterson, who used to play for the Red Sox. "That was a nice gesture for Boston. That song more or less defines the Red Sox."
As did so many across the country, the Indians and their fans delivered the message, loud and clear, that everyone is there with Boston, with the aid of Diamond's heartfelt words to the lady he loves:
And when I hurt,
Hurtin' runs off my shoulders
How can I hurt when I'm holding you?"
On Tuesday, all of America was holding you, Boston, and ballparks around the country showed it in song. Indeed, with the Red Sox taking the field and Boston yearning for friendly voices after such bad times the day before, "Sweet Caroline" and her promise of good times never seemed...
So good! So good! So good!
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. Mark Newman contributed. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less