BOSTON - On Saturday morning at Fenway Park, Boston Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster recalled a story from spring training.
On the first day that position players and pitchers were together, Dempster approached outfielder Jonny Gomes in the clubhouse.
"I said 'How are you doing today, Jonny?' He said, 'It's just another day closer to the parade.'"
The day finally came for Gomes as he and the rest of the Red Sox celebrated the 2013 World Series title Saturday with a parade in front of an estimated 2 million fans through downtown Boston. Following a rally at Fenway Park, the Red Sox boarded duck boats and traveled down Boylston Street, eventually landing in the Charles River, where the "rolling rally" came to a close.
"It's special," said second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "The way we started in spring training, it seemed like everyone counted us out from day one. When the guys got together, we all believed in each other and believed we could do this, and here we are."
The Red Sox defeated the Cardinals four games to two and clinched the title at Fenway Park with a 6-1 win on Wednesday night. It was the first time in 95 years that the Red Sox had clinched a World Series championship at home. The 2013 crown was the franchise's eighth title, fourth most in Major League Baseball. A year after finishing in last place, the Red Sox surprised many, winning the American League East division crown, AL pennant and World Series.
"This team exceeded expectations because they played as a team," said Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.
The message that the players who took the stage at Fenway drove home was that this title didn't come as a surprise to those in the clubhouse.
"A lot of people wrote us off early because of last year," said third baseman Will Middlebrooks. "But this group of guys the front office put together and the staff that they put together, it was a perfect combination."
"This group just became different," said general manager Ben Cherington. "The more you were around them during the season, the more you recognized this was a special group."
More than six months have passed since the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15, but the parade was a collective catharsis for Bostonians. The fans cheered Boston police officers like they were Red Sox players. Speakers attached to trucks and duck boats blasted "Sweet Caroline," "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" and "Three Little Birds," songs that have become team anthems. As World Series MVP David Ortiz rode past spectators, he held up three fingers to symbolize the three titles won since 2004, and fans greeted him with chants of "MVP."
On April 18, three days after the attack, President Barack Obama spoke at an interfaith service in Boston and said, ".when the Sox and Celtics and Patriots or Bruins are champions again, to the chagrin of New York and Chicago fans, the crowds will gather and watch a parade go down Boylston Street."
Boston resident Kent Xie, 24, remembers that day and didn't expect a championship parade this soon.
"It's amazing," Xie said. "No one expected them to win a championship . to actually win the World Series brought everyone in Boston, New England and Massachusetts together. The fact that they're going down the same path to the Marathon makes it even more special."
Xie has been to all three parades, as the Red Sox have won three World Series titles in the past 10 seasons. Prior to this decade, Boston went 86 years without winning a world championship. Xie said he understands how lucky his generation is.
"I actually have never been to a Fenway game before, this gives me a chance to actually see the players," Xie said. "I feel like I shouldn't take this for granted. The next time they win could be next year or it could be never."
Steve Pelosi, Dave Burnsworth and his daughter Avery Burnsworth drove from upstate Norwich, N.Y., to go to their first Red Sox parade.
"I remember driving in my car and hearing about the bombings," Dave Burnsworth said. "My nieces go to school in Boston. . One niece was just down the street from the finish line. It's been an emotional year. I feel like I've been here the whole time even though I don't live here."
"Boston Strong," a rallying cry adopted by the team and city in the aftermath of the bombings, was on full display Saturday. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said that the World Series championship brought pride and healing to the city.
"It is also kind of a poetic end to a season that began with tragedy," he said. "We are 'Boston Strong.'"
The parade paused at the finish line on Boylston Street in tribute to the victims of the Marathon bombings.
"We played for the whole city and what the city went through," Pedroia said. "Hopefully, we put a smile on everybody's face."
"The city came together and the team came together, it's an unbelievable feeling," said shortstop Stephen Drew.
Some of the duck boats had fake beards hanging from the front of them, an ode to Mike Napoli, David Ross and Gomes, among other Red Sox players, who grew long beards during the season.
"Whatever you guys think," Pedroia said when asked if he would shave his beard now that the season was over. "I think mine's pretty terrible. My wife doesn't like it so I'll probably shave it."
2013 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)
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