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 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.
| Harry MacDonough "Tessie" (.mp3) Recorded on October 5th, 1903 in Camden, NJ by Victor Talking Machine
The fans began inventing their own lyrics to taunt the Pittsburgh players, such as
Honus, why do you hit so badly?
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.
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 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 the straight version of "Tessie," the EP includes "The Fields of Athenry," "Nut Rocker" (the very first instrumental rock version of The Nutcracker's overture, which later inspired The Ventures' similar work named 'Nutty', which itself is closely identified with the Boston Bruins pro ice hockey team, which is the second oldest major pro sports franchise in Boston, behind the Red Sox), "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
Trot Nixon used "Tessie" as his at-bat intro music when he played for the Red Sox.
The Dropkicks tell this version of the story in the liner notes for The Warrior's Code:
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.