BOSTON — From the Green Monster to the Charles River, the bearded champions celebrated their improbable journey with another familiar sight in Boston.
The World Series trophy.
For the third time in 10 years, the Red Sox carried the prize through their city in a rolling rally of amphibious boats as thousands of fans lined the streets and the banks of the waterway that separates Boston from Cambridge.
The most poignant moment occurred early in Saturday’s trip when the vehicles stopped at the Boston Marathon finish line, near where two explosions killed three spectators at the race on April 15.
Outfielder Jonny Gomes placed the trophy on the line, and he and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia held Red Sox jerseys with the words “BOSTON STRONG” and the number 617, the city’s area code. A jersey with that message hung in the Red Sox dugout throughout the season after the bombings.
Noted tenor Ronan Tynan sang “God Bless America” and the crowd joined in.
“That was an emotional moment,” Gomes said. “To bring the World Series trophy to the finish line, I don’t think that the story was written that way, but I was glad to be a part of it and put the exclamation point on it.”
Before the rally began at Fenway Park, Manager John Farrell recalled that the Red Sox had left after their 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays the day of the Marathon for Logan Airport. Along the way, they saw emergency vehicles responding to the explosions.
“Knowing that we were heading out of town, that’s going to bring back a lot, and a lot of uncertainty at that moment,” Farrell said, “because no one knew where to turn next. So we were fortunate to be part of maybe a little bit of a healing process.”
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia said: “We played for the whole city, what the city went through.”
Boston’s climb from last place in the AL East in 2012 to the top of the baseball world was stunning.
But not to Pedroia, a gritty leader of a closely knit team that won the title with a 6-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 6 on Wednesday night.
“The way we started spring training, it seemed like everybody counted us out,” he said. “We always said, `One day closer to a parade.’ It’s here.”
The line score from the clinching game was still on the scoreboard on the left-field wall as season-ticket holders gathered for a pre-rally ceremony.
“We just wanted this group to win so badly,” General Manager Ben Cherington told the crowd, “because we know they wanted it so badly.”
Then the team boarded 25 duck boats normally used for tourist trips.
Some boats even had light brown carpeting cut into the shape of beards attached on the front.
Players still had their beards, which some had grown all season.
“Hopefully we can all get together and shave them for a good cause,” third baseman Will Middlebrooks said.
“This may be the best parade yet,” said Charles Butler, 48, of Boston, who also attended the 2004 and 2007 celebrations. “It is the best thing that could have happened to Boston right now. The bombing was a sad time, and now we have a reason to come together and celebrate.”
Anna Mitkevicius of Medford, Mass., watched from the finish line she never reached on April 15 because of the bombings.
“It is still a very emotional experience to come down here,” she said. “I didn’t know if it would be too hard to be at the finish line but I’m happy I came. It felt really good to be here when everyone is celebrating and the mood is good.”
There was a very heavy police presence. Crowds were deep near the finish line on Boylston Street. Many wore Red Sox gear, some with foam beards and holding signs “Papi for Mayor,” a vote for World Series MVP David Ortiz.
Farrell said if Ortiz hadn’t hit a tying grand slam in the eighth inning of Game 2 of the AL Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers “we might not be standing here today.”
Steve Horgan, the police officer who raised his arms in a “V” when Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter tumbled over the bullpen wall in pursuit of that homer, rode in the lead vehicle with John Henry and other team owners.
“A thrill of a lifetime,” Horgan said.
When the vehicles slid into the river – another big splash for the Red Sox – spectators cheered.
The departure from Fenway was delayed when a flatbed truck carrying Dropkick Murphys, a band which had played at the ceremony, became stuck along the first-base line.
A duck boat drove up in front of it and, with a tow rope between the vehicles, pulled the flatbed out of the ruts.
Less than three hours later, the rally was over.
“We were ready to go another lap,” Gomes said. “We didn’t want it to end. It was pretty fun.”