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FENWAY

Another mystery of the Diamond, explained at last

The lyrics have nothing to do with baseball.

The composer has no connection to the Red Sox.

The song hit the charts more than 30 years ago.

So why does ''Sweet Caroline" pump from the speakers at Fenway Park in the middle of the eighth inning of every single Red Sox game?

Like all the Sox fans questioned at one of this month's rare sunny home games, Paul Sundeen has no idea. And he attends 10 to 15 games a season.

''It's just one of those things," says Sundeen, 24, of West Roxbury. ''Everybody seems to sing it."

''Maybe one of the player's wives is Caroline," offers Michael McCarthy, 25, a Back Bay resident.

''I think it was all Pedro Martinez's fault," says Marc Schwalb, 32, of Revere, shaking his arms to imitate the way the former Red Sox ace would dance for the crowd when the song was played.

Schwalb says he makes a point to sing along, despite the fact he finds ''Caroline" ''one of the worst songs ever written."

Dennis Doherty, 28, of Hyde Park, also disses the song.

'' 'Sweet Caroline' has nothing to do with Boston," Doherty says. ''I think they should end it; I don't like it."

As April McGann, 30, a FleetCenter employee from Randolph, explains the song has ''something to do with the Red Sox," her friend jumps in with a more detailed answer.

''Boston's supposed to be 'Sweet Caroline,' " says Mairead Finn, 30, of Weymouth, with the voice of authority.

As the question spreads among nearby fans, Lauren Manforde, 21, of Naugatuck, Conn., jumps in, voicing frustration.

''Nobody knows," she says, ''I've been trying to find out for years."

Even Sherrie Levy, press agent for songwriter and singer Neil Diamond, has no clue.

''I'm not sure how it started, but we're very pleased that it happened," Levy says.

Diamond is on tour and not available to comment on the question, according to Levy.

Scheduled to perform at the FleetCenter Aug. 15, Diamond has been asked by the Red Sox to sing at their Aug. 14 home game against the Chicago White Sox. It is not yet known whether he will, Levy says.

Amy Tobey knows the answer to the ''Sweet Caroline" question.

Tobey began working for the Red Sox through her job at BCN Productions, a film and video communications company, having interned for the Boston Bruins.

Her assignment was to decide what music would be played at the park from 1998 to 2004.

She had noticed ''Sweet Caroline" was used at other sporting events, and she decided to send the sweetness over the Fenway speakers.

The song was picked up by fans, and the more it caught on, the more superstitious Tobey became about playing it.

Tobey would play the song somewhere between the seventh and ninth innings if the team was ahead, depending on whether she felt the team was going to win.

She didn't go by any specific margin of runs, but rather who the opponent was, and her gut instincts.

''I actually considered it like a good luck charm," Tobey says. ''Even if they were just one run [ahead], I might still do it. It was just a feel."

In 2002, when new management took over at the park, they requested that Tobey play the song during the eighth inning of every game.

''They liked it and they just loved the crowd reaction with it and stuff," she says.

Though Tobey says she was nervous the change would be bad luck for the team, its appeal to fans ultimately ruled.

And under the song's spell, the Red Sox last season won their first World Series in 86 years.

It was even included in the recent film ''Fever Pitch," starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore, that appropriates scenes from 2004's winning season.

To Lauren Rochon, 23, of Quincy, ''Caroline," is the ''epitome of Boston."

''It's just in every bar you go to, it's one of those songs," Rochon says. ''It's Boston's theme song."

''It's just a catchy tune, the words are easy . . . it gets the whole field in one rhythm," says Jackie Davidson, 52, a Taunton resident, standing outside the park on Patriots Day.

''You don't sing 'Sweet Caroline' . . . you didn't go to a game."

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