"Tessie" is both the longtime anthem of the Boston Red Sox and a 2004 song by the punk rock group Dropkick Murphys. The original "Tessie" was from the 1902 Broadway musical The Silver Slipper. The newer song, written in 2004, recounts how the singing of the original "Tessie" by the Royal Rooters fan club helped the Boston Americans win the first World Series in 1903. The name Tessie itself is a diminutive form used with several names, including Esther, Tess, and Theresa/Teresa.
Broadway & Royal Rooters version
The original version of "Tessie (You Are the Only, Only, Only)" was written by Will R. Anderson and was featured in the Broadway musical The Silver Slipper, which ran for 160 performances between October 27, 1902 and March 14, 1903. The song was about a woman singing to her beloved parakeet "Tessie".
While a popular tune, the song gained greater notoriety when it was adopted as a rallying cry by the Royal Rooters, a collection of loyal fans led by Michael T. McGreevy, informally known as "Nuf Ced" McGreevy, owner of the 3rd Base saloon. McGreevy earned his nickname "Nuf Ced" due to the way he kept peace in his bar: when he grew frustrated with arguments over the Boston Americans (who would later be renamed the Red Sox) and the Boston Braves (who would later move to Milwaukee and, eventually, Atlanta), he would pound his hand on the bar and declare "'Nuff [enough] said!". Boston mayor John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, grandfather of President John F. Kennedy, was a member of the Royal Rooters.
After the first four games of the 1903 World Series, Boston was down 1-3 to the Pittsburgh Pirates. (It was a best-of-nine series; five wins were needed to win the series.) The Royal Rooters began rallying their team with every song they could think of; ultimately "Tessie" helped win the day. There are stories that the Royal Rooters actually traveled to Pittsburgh and hired a band to play "Tessie" to annoy the Pirates on their home field. Pittsburgh outfielder Tommy Leach credited at least part of Boston's win to "that damn 'Tessie' song." He continued: "It was a real hum-dinger of a song, but it sort of got on your nerves after a while."
Boston won Game 5 and went on to win Games 6, 7, and 8 to win the Series. The Boston fans remembered "Tessie" fondly through the years; Burt Mustin, who decades later became a prolific "old man" character actor in movies and television, was still regaling audiences with "Tessie" stories while in his nineties.
The chorus to the original "Tessie" goes:
- Tessie, you make me feel so badly.
- Why don't you turn around?
- Tessie, you know I love you madly.
- Babe, my heart weighs about a pound.
- Don't blame me if I ever doubt you,
- You know I wouldn't live without you.
- Tessie, you are the only, only, only.
The fans began inventing their own lyrics to taunt the Pittsburgh players, such as:
- Honus, why do you hit so badly?
- Take a back seat and sit down
- Honus, at bat you look so sadly.
- Hey, why don't you get out of town?
The Rooters stopped singing in 1918. The Red Sox won the World Series in 1918 but then endured an 86-year drought before winning again in 2004, the same year a re-release of "Tessie" was issued by the Dropkick Murphys.
Dropkick Murphys version
In 2004, the Boston-area celtic punk group Dropkick Murphys recorded a cover of "Tessie", released on an EP of the same name. The Murphys said it was their intent to "bring back the spirit of the Rooters and to put the Red Sox back on top." The goal of the Murphys was realized when later that year the Boston Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years. The song is also featured as the bonus track on their June, 2005 release, "The Warrior's Code" with a lead-in from the WEEI broadcast of the final play in the 2004 World Series: "Swing and a ground ball, stabbed by Foulke. He has it. He underhands to first. And the Boston Red Sox are the World Champions. For the first time in 86 years, the Red Sox have won baseball's world championship. Can you believe it?" -Joe Castiglione
The second "Tessie" — which featured backing vocals from Red Sox players Johnny Damon, Bronson Arroyo, and Lenny DiNardo, Red Sox Vice President of Public Affairs Dr. Charles Steinberg; and Boston Herald sportswriter Jeff Horrigan (who co-wrote the new lyrics with the Dropkick Murphys) — has become a theme song for the Red Sox and tells the story of the Royal Rooters singing the original "Tessie".
The song is featured in the soundtrack to the 2005 movie, Fever Pitch, and is the song used in the closing credits to the VHS and DVD review of the 2004 World Series, a video that was produced by Major League Baseball Productions. The video game MVP Baseball 2005 features the song.
In addition to "Tessie", the EP includes "Fields of Athenry", "Nut Rocker" (an instrumental rock version of The Nutcracker overture), "The Burden" as performed live on WBCN, "Tessie (Old Timey Baseball Version)" in which the song is accompanied primarily by a ballpark organ, as well as a music video for "Tessie." Proceeds from the sale of the EP went to benefit the Red Sox Foundation. ("Nut Rocker" inspired "Nutty" by the Ventures, which was long associated with the Boston Bruins hockey team, as it was the theme song for Bruins telecasts on WSBK-TV.)
Trot Nixon used "Tessie" as his at-bat intro music when he played for the Red Sox.
A synthesized version of "Tessie" is used by Red Sox ticketing, as the signal a customer has been selected from the team's virtual waiting room to purchase tickets during busy periods.
We recorded this song in June 2004 and after giving it to the Red Sox told anyone that would listen that this song would guarantee a World Series victory. Obviously no one listened to us or took us seriously. We were three outs away from elimination in game 4 at the hands of the Yankees and receiving death threats from friends, family, & strangers telling us to stay away from the Red Sox and any other Boston sports team and get out of town. Luckily for us things turned around for the Red Sox and the rest is history.
- "The Silver Slipper". IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information. www.ibdb.com. Retrieved 2010-09-24.
- Stout, Glenn; Richard A. Johnson (2004). Red Sox century: the definitive history of baseball's most storied franchise. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-618-42319-4.
- "Fever Pitch (2005) - Soundtracks". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2010-09-24.
- "MVP Baseball 2005 Soundtrack". Music News at IGN. IGN Entertainment. February 24, 2005. Retrieved 2010-09-24.
- Harry MacDonough "Tessie" (.mp3) Recorded on October 5, 1903 in Camden, NJ by Victor Talking Machine at the Wayback Machine (archived April 23, 2005)
- The McGreevy Collection
- on YouTube