Play-by-Playlist

Red Sox music director TJ Connelly has the best off-field gig on Yawkey Way: He’s Fenway Park’s official DJ, dropping the needle on every song you hear before, during, and after the games. Here, he explains his favorite musical moments from the team’s magical season.

By | Boston Magazine |
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Photo via AP

April 1, 2013: Opening Day
Queen, “We Are the Champions”

At this year’s Opening Day ceremonies, celebrating 60 years of the Jimmy Fund and the Red Sox working together to support cancer research and care, we introduced a group of Jimmy Fund patients on the field. The natural choice? “We Are the Champions,” honoring their ongoing battles. After a dismal 2012, no one could have imagined we’d be playing Queen again six months later.

April 20, 2013: Pregame
Jeff Buckley, “Hallelujah”

For the first game at Fenway after the marathon bombings, the pregame ceremonies opened with a video set to this song. Jen Baglio, of Red Sox Productions, created a montage of images: joyful runners making early finishes, the now-iconic imagery of the bombings and the manhunt, right up to scenes—just hours old—of people emerging from their homes and cheering first responders. The clip, shown at the park and broadcast on NESN, offered a much-needed catharsis for all who watched.

April 20, 2013: Daniel Nava’s Comeback Home Run
Dropkick Murphys, “For Boston”

That emotional ceremony was followed by a tense game against the visiting Kansas City Royals. In the bottom of the eighth inning, with Mike Napoli and Jonny Gomes on base, Daniel Nava hit a towering home run into the bullpen, putting the Red Sox up 4–2. The crowd screamed as one, and for the first time ever at Fenway, we played the Dropkicks’ rendition of the Boston College fight song, “For Boston.” It was a quick double cue, first building with the instrumental intro, then, as Nava came around, kicking in hard with drums, guitars, and the band singing, “For Boston, for Boston, we sing our proud refrain!”

September 4, 2013: David Ortiz’s Milestone Hits
Prince, “1999”; Randy Newman, “The Natural”; the National Philharmonic Orchestra, “Theme from 2001 (Also Sprach Zarathustra)”

Big Papi struck his 1,999th, 2,000th, and 2,001st career hits in a single September game. The 1,999th was a home run in the fourth inning, accompanied by—what else?—Prince’s “1999.” In the sixth he hit an RBI double, and as he stood on second base we played the theme from “The Natural” for the first time in-game since he’d broken the single-season Sox home-run record in 2006. Incredibly, just one inning later, his 2,001st hit was a two-run homer, and Ortiz rounded the bases to the fittingly legendary booming brass fanfare of the theme to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

October 13, 2013: ALCS Game 2
“The Impossible Dream,” as performed by Josh Kantor

Fenway organist Josh Kantor first played “The Impossible Dream” at Fenway during the 2007 season—the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Impossible Dream—as the Sox wound their way to another World Series victory. As the 2013 team worked toward their own dream, Josh’s rendition slowly returned as a daily staple, connecting the magic of the past to the hopes of today. Kantor is a secret weapon: When the Sox beat the Toronto Blue Jays on September 20 to clinch the American League East title, he played the Phil Collins classic “Against All Odds.”

October 19, 2013: Shane Victorino Walks to the Plate
Bob Marley, “Three Little Birds”

On July 4, Shane Victorino changed his walk-up song from Bob Marley’s “Buffalo Soldier” to “Three Little Birds.” At first, fans rarely sang along. The singing built slowly over time, from third at-bats to first at-bats, sometimes relaxed when the team was ahead, and sometimes tinged with desperation if the Sox were down a run or two. In the seventh inning of ALCS Game 6, “Three Little Birds” started a bit late after Ellsbury reached base, and so only the words “don’t worry” played over the Fenway PA before Victorino stepped in the box. But given their cue, the fans sang all the way through: “Every little thing gonna be all right!” Three pitches later, Victorino hit a curveball out of the park for a comeback grand slam that sent the Sox to the World Series.

October 23, 2013: World Series Game 1
Mike Oldfield, “Tubular Bells”

Before each postseason game at Fenway, we show a video chronicling the history of the Red Sox. The soundtrack is Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells”—best known as the theme from The Exorcist. In 2004, it had the pleasant double meaning of exorcising the would-be curse on the team, and the eerie melody now set the stage as the park filled for postseason play. Honorable mention here to the World Series–only pregame track “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins: The words are spot on, and there’s a certain delight in seeing thousands of people riff on air drums as one.

October 24, 2013: World Series Game 2
Drake, “Started from the Bottom (RSP Remix)”

This house-made mash-up—Red Sox Productions’ Tim Heintzleman mixed Drake’s “Started from the Bottom” into Eminem’s “‘Till I Collapse”—became the theme to the postseason. Typically reserved for tense in-game moments, it also became the last track played each day as the team finished batting practice, and served as the backing for a pregame video as the team prepared to take the field in postseason games. The simple lyrics said it all: “Started from the bottom, now we here.”

October 30, 2013: Red Sox Win the World Series
The Standells, “Dirty Water”

The first song played after every Red Sox win at Fenway, “Dirty Water” has become a Boston anthem. In a departure from tradition, we played it as the team took the field for the April 20 game—in that a return to baseball was itself a victory for the city. When the Red Sox won Game 6, you could probably hear it in Brookline.

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