Well over a million people lined the streets of Boston Saturday to celebrate a baseball team that unified a region that still needed healing several months after the most horrific tragedy in its history.
Boston said thank you to the 2013 World Champion Red Sox Saturday and the Red Sox thanked right back.
“Thank you!!!! Thank you!!!!” shouted pitcher Ryan Dempster to a crowd five rows deep on Boylston Street.
The Sox also thanked Boston and their fans symbolically as Jonny Gomes and Jarrod Saltalamacchia placed the World Series trophy on the finish line and draped it in a Red Sox jersey with the numbers “6-1-7” on the back.
David Ortiz was unquestionably the star of the rolling rally, as fans were shouting, “Papi!, Papi!, Papi!” throughout the parade route. Much like he is the anchor of the Boston lineup, Ortiz was the anchor of the parade, riding one of the final duck boats and raising a championship belt above his head in celebration.
Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino and owner John Henry were on board one of the first boats in the parade, holding one of the three recent World Series championship trophies that were on display.
Fans young and old came from near and far to take in the joyous ceremony.
Six-year-old Christopher from East Boston, there to see his favorite player, Dustin Pedroia, came with his brother and parents.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for them,” Chris’ dad said. “He was only an infant the last time they won.”
Cheryl and daughter Lauren, at a championship parade for the first time, came from Dalton, Mass., a town three hours west of Boston to witness history and said they’ll never forget Boston’s October run.
“We’ll always remember the beards and Papi’s home runs,” Cheryl said.
Fans waited in anticipation of seeing their heroes three-to-four hours before the duck boats would roll by in some spots.
In one area, about 100 yards from the finish line, there was a joyous scene a half hour before the parade began. Fans, packed five rows deep, were playing a giant group game of Frisbee, tossing it back-and-forth over the police barricades. Whenever the Frisbee would fall into the middle of the street, a police officer would pick it up and toss it right back into the crowd. Game on.
The parade wrapped up with the duck boats plunging into the Charles River, before heading back to Fenway Park, with fans continuing to cheer them along the banks the entire way.
Follow Metro Boston sports editor Matt Burke on Twitter @BurkeMetroBOS