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"Tessie" and the Dropkick Murphys, a Red Sox History

Red Sox mascots Wally and Tessie, PawSox mascot Paws, and Railers mascot Trax join Smiley Ball at the WooSox' first-ever game at Polar Park on May 11, 2021.
December 21, 2022

In a masterful blend of history and rock & roll, the Dropkick Murphys modernized an old Boston anthem and propelled the 2004 Boston Red Sox to their first World Series championship in nearly a hundred years. At first, the original song “Tessie” was featured in the 1902 Broadway musical, The

In a masterful blend of history and rock & roll, the Dropkick Murphys modernized an old Boston anthem and propelled the 2004 Boston Red Sox to their first World Series championship in nearly a hundred years.

At first, the original song “Tessie” was featured in the 1902 Broadway musical, The Silver Slipper. However, the story of how the song was completely reinvented to appear on a Boston-based punk-rock album begins one year later in 1903, the year the city won the first-ever World Series.

In 1903, there existed a loyal following of Boston baseball fans called the Royal Rooters. Cheering for the Boston Americans (because the team did not adopt the Red Sox title until years later), the collection of fans would often frequent 3rd Base Saloon, the local tavern owned by Royal Rooters leader, Michael “Nuff Ced” McGreevy.

Like Boston sports fans of today, the Royal Rooters were dedicated, boisterous, and took wins and losses personally. When the Boston Americans were set to face the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first World Series, McGreevy came up with the idea to taunt the opposing team through song. With the help of his fellow Royal Rooters, McGreevy changed the lyrics of “Tessie” so it was full of insults, including jabs at Pirates star player Honus Wagner. With a humorously unifying song to rally their fans, the Boston Americans came out victorious over the “Champions of the West” Pittsburgh Pirates and won the first World Series in history, five games to three in a nine-game series.

Now fast forward a hundred years later to 2004. The Boston Red Sox have not won a World Series since 1918, and “Tessie” has faded deep into Red Sox history. Current President of the Worcester Red Sox Dr. Charles Steinberg was the Boston Red Sox executive vice president of public affairs at the time, and he came upon “Tessie” while studying Red Sox history prior to joining the club.

“In reading the history books and really studying them aggressively, I kept reading about how this song ‘Tessie’ in the early part of the 20th century was associated with Red Sox championships,” Steinberg said. “I wondered, what was this song?”

According to Steinberg, the plan was to bring back “Tessie” once he realized that 2003 was the 100-year anniversary of the first World Series. However, the vintage quality of the song from a hundred years ago was not quite up to par for Fenway Park, and the Red Sox were halted from the 2003 World Series by Aaron Boone’s walk-off home run to seal the series for the New York Yankees.

“I thought, alright, at least I found the song, but it’s not a song that can be considered hip in any way,” Steinberg said, “It’s not a song I’m going to be able to play at Fenway Park, being so old, so antiquated, and so scratchy.”

According to Steinberg, in January 2004 he met with Jeff Horrigan—a sportswriter for the Boston Herald—who said he was with the Dropkick Murphys at the Hot Stove Cool Music fundraiser, and the band wanted to do something with the Red Sox. The opportunity was ripe for the taking.

“I understand that they take old, Irish traditional songs and give them a modern kick,” Steinberg said. “Maybe they could remake ‘Tessie.’”

After the Dropkick Murphys listened to the original recording of the song, it was clear to the band members that some changes needed to be made in order for “Tessie” to fit their repertoire. Taking the history of “Tessie” into consideration, Horrigan adjusted the lyrics to revolve around the Royal Rooters and their impact on the 1903 World Series; he used some of the verses from the original song and applied new meaning, revitalizing the old rally song and crafting it specifically for the Dropkick Murphys' unique musical style.

The Dropkicks first played the new-and-improved “Tessie” live at Fenway Park on July 24, 2004. That also happened to be the same day Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek and New York Yankees star Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez brawled in front of home plate. It was the same game that the Red Sox' Bill Mueller hit a game-winning walk-off home run to spoil Mariano Rivera’s perfect save streak, as well.

“To this day, the Red Sox have never won a World Series without ‘Tessie,'” Steinberg said. “The Red Sox had it in their first five world championships from 1903 to 1918, and we brought it back in 2004. It’s been part of Fenway Park’s musical culture.”

The Dropkick Murphys were the opening act at the Big E in West Springfield on Sept. 16, 2022. Several WooSox representatives attended. Katie Siegle