The question for today is, what does a Broadway play, which ran in 1902, have to do with Fenway Park? Ah, the threads of history and why we love it so!
The Silver Slipper opened on Broadway October 27, 1902. It played 168 performances closing March 14, 1903. Yeah so, that’s 10 years before Fenway Park was even an idea. Hold on there, we’re getting there. This musical comedy featured a song which became very popular in its time and thanks to dear old Mr. Edison (and a few other folks), you can hear it now, have a listen.
How cool was that? Pleasant little tune, and for some of you it may have a familiar little melody, but still what’s it got to do with Fenway Park?
Enter this man, Michael T. “Nuf Ced” McGreevey. Michael, you see, owned a lovely little establishment called The Third Base Saloon, named as such because, like third base, it was the last stop before home. It was located close to the Huntington Avenue Playing Grounds where the new Boston Americans baseball team played their home games. He settled disputes, usually about the National League Boston Braves and the American League Boston Americans (Red Sox), by simply pounding his fist on his bar and shouting, “Nuf said”! Quite a compelling figure I would say. Michael took a shine to the new American League team and cultivated a band of followers and called them the Royal Rooters. Included among them was this very prominent man. He is John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald and he was the Mayor of Boston. The lovely lady he is with is his daughter Rose, she married Joseph P Kennedy (who looked into buying the Red Sox in 1916). They had a son named John Fitzgerald Kennedy and I understand he did quite well for himself. Sorry, I digress.
Back to the tune. The brand spanking new Boston Americans battled the well established Pittsburgh Pirates in the first ever World Series which took place in 1903. It was a nine game series and the Americans were losing three games to one when they traveled to Pittsburgh. “Nuf Ced” organized the Royal Rooters who made the trek to the Steeltown. They brought with them a band which played the song “Tessie“. The Royal Rooters changed the lyrics to ire and distract the Pittsburgh players. They took special aim at the Pirates great shortstop Honus Wagner. It seemed to work as Wagner had an abysmal series and the Boston team battled back and won the first ever World Series. Ok, but still, what does this have to do with Fenway Park? We’re getting there.
The Rooters led by good old “Nuf Ced” followed the team, now called the Red Sox, to their new home in Fenway Park for its inaugural season of 1912 and Tessie, was now their widely accepted rally cry. The Rooters had taken a liking to the seats in front of the left field wall known as “Duffy’s Cliff”. Well, the 1912 season was one of exceptional greatness for the Red Sox and they battled the New York Giants in the World Series.
The seventh game of the series was set for Fenway Park. The Red Sox held a three games to two lead in the seven game series (game two was a tie called by darkness) and the Royal Rooters arrived ready to take their customary seats in left field. But noooooo, the seats had been sold. Needless to say old “Nuf Ced” and gang were not very happy and a near riot ensued which required the assistance of Boston’s gendarmes to quell. The altercation caused a delay in the start of the game which led to Red Sox starter Joe Wood’s arm stiffening. The Rooters were relegated to the standing room section and Wood got trounced forcing the deciding game the next day. In protest, the Rooters called for a boycott of the championship game. Only 17,034 fans showed up to watch the Red Sox clinch their second World Series, about half of what the crowds had been. Red Sox owner James McAleer made peace with “Nuf Ced”, “Honey Fitz” and the Rooters before the following season and Tessie reverberated throughout Fenway Park for many more successful years. But wait! There is more!
In early 2004, a Boston-based Irish rock band called The Dropkick Murphy’s did a cover of the 1902 song Tessie. They said it was to recapture the spirit of the Royal Rooters and restore the glory of the early Red Sox to the current team. In October of 2004, the Boston Red Sox won their first World Series since the days of “Nuf Ced”, “Honey Fitz” and the Royal Rooters. Oh and one more thing, in 2008 Dropkick Murphy bassist Ken Casey reopened the tavern and called it McGreevey’s, it is replete with memorabilia, some which once belonged to “Nuf Ced” himself.
“Tessie you are the only, only, only”…..Ah the threads of history and why we love it so!
And so it was, at that time in Fenway Park history, 1903 to 1912, to 2004…..