Amid raining confetti and resurgent sunshine, Red Sox fans roared their thanks Saturday from Fenway Park through Boylston Street’s canyon of high-rises to the banks of the Charles River in a World Series victory celebration that was a poignant mix of rejoicing and remembrance.
The exuberant chants and cheers quieted noticeably as the procession paused in Copley Square at the Boston Marathon finish line, where the bombings nearly seven months ago killed three spectators and injured scores of others.
Sox left fielder Jonny Gomes climbed down from his duck boat with the World Series trophy, set it gently in the center of the finish line, and draped it in a 617 Boston Strong jersey.
Too large to stay silent long, the crowd joined Irish tenor Ronan Tynan in singing “God Bless America” as Gomes and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia remained vigilantly close to the trophy. Soon afterward, World Series MVP David Ortiz stepped off his boat to jog across the Marathon finish line on foot.
Tens of thousands of fans began streaming into Boston at first light to celebrate the resurgence of a team many had written off after two dismal seasons, and the emotional resurrection of a city shaken by the bombings.
“It’s great to see the city back on Boylston Street,” said Brittany Bang, 30, a lifelong Bostonian and Emerson College graduate who lives in the Back Bay and went to the parade with her husband and their 2-year-old son. “It’s a great day for the city.”
Fans traveled from at least as far away as Syracuse, N.Y., and northern New Hampshire on a day when police and medical officials reported no arrests and just minor injuries during the parade. Later in the day, however, several fights near downtown bars left three hospitalized and resulted in two arrests.
John Gorman, 12, and his father, Michael, of Stratham, N.H., had planned to go hiking Saturday, until the Red Sox won the World Series.
“It was an easy choice,” Michael Gorman said as the last of the duck boats passed.
“I get to see all my favorite players up close,” his son added.
Steve Jones, director of transportation and customer service for the MBTA, said at North Station late in the morning that few problems were reported, although some trains arrived late or were so full that fans waiting at some stops watched in frustration as they rolled past without stopping.
“What can you do? When you’re full, you’re full,” said Jones, who added that the MBTA dispatched double-decker trains from South Station to help accommodate the crowds.
Predictably, facial hair was on prominent display along the parade route, where signs proclaimed messages such as “In Beards We Trust.” Women twisted ponytails into makeshift whiskers. Children wore fake beards. Even the duck boats sported a 5 o’clock shadow.
On one corner along the parade route, Hartford resident Miguel Acosta wore a fuzzy black stick-on beard and compared himself to center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury. “I’m like Ellsbury,” said Acosta, who bought his fake beard at Fenway earlier in the season. “Ellsbury can’t grow it too big.”
Acosta, who stayed with a friend Friday night to attend the rolling rally, said the World Series victory was sweeter because of what happened at the Marathon. “I’m happy to share this moment with all my bearded fellows,” he said. “Boston Strong says it all.”
If this year’s Red Sox were less a team of destiny than of dogged determination, the same was true of fans who started out wary of a third consecutive bad season. As the team prospered and beard mania took hold, those who didn’t know certain players’ names without a program in April knew by fall that catcher David Ross had a graying stripe in his beard, while first baseman Mike Napoli’s facial hair was solidly dark
“They earned our trust again,” said Joe Healy of Lenox. “They made us believe that you can bounce back. And they did it after the bombing.”
Throughout Boston, good cheer was in abundance and little grousing could be heard as fans arrived to find long lines were the order of the day.
At Fenway Park shortly after 7:30 a.m., one line of fans waiting to get in stretched from the Yawkey Way gates around the corner and up Brookline Avenue, past Lansdowne Street, and over the Massachusetts Turnpike, where it hooked down Newbury Street.
“Another wait,” Jen Fischer, 41, said as she stood in a ladies room line at North Station with her two daughters, ages 14 and 12. The train they took from Lowell was packed, said Fischer, who wore a red Ortiz jersey. “I love Big Papi,” she said.
Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia jerseys and shirts appeared to be the most popular. At the Salem Station, where hundreds of fans packed into trains, 14-year-old Sean Welch of Marblehead wore a Pedroia T-shirt that he had donned every day during the playoffs.
“My mom washed it on the days they didn’t play,” he explained.
Honoring as many players as he could simultaneously, Brian McPherson, 37, of Salem, wore a plastic Army helmet and goggles in homage to Ortiz and Gomes. McPherson also wore a red Ellsbury T-shirt under a white Pedroia jersey. “I thought the whole team was cool and I wanted to dress like as many of them as I could,” he said.
A California native and former Los Angeles Dodgers fan, McPherson shifted his allegiance upon arriving in Boston in 2003. To attend the parade, he turned down an overtime shift at the Ipswich valve company where he works. “I’m going to lose $400 today, but it’s worth it,” he said.
For some fans, though, Saturday’s celebration and memories of the Boston Marathon were inseparable.
In front of the Marathon Sports store on Boylston Street, Sam Sullivan of Melrose watched the parade with her 14-year-old son, Jack, and his friend, 13-year-old Mike Fennell. They stood just a few steps away from where one of the two bombs detonated April 15, when Sullivan was 25.5 miles into her first marathon. She had always wanted to run a marathon — one marathon. But the improbable success of the Red Sox has prompted her to reconsider.
“I said to my son at the end of the game, ‘I think I’m going to have to run it again.’ After today, I think it’ll inspire me to get at it,” said Sullivan, who was clad in a blue-and-gold Marathon jacket. “I hardly ever wear this,” she said, tugging at the collar. “But I felt like I had to put it on today.”