BOSTON -- The sights and sounds from the Red Sox's World Series championship parade on Saturday morning ranged from delirious to chilling.
First, there was pure comedy and joy in the air as David Ortiz nearly drove one of the duck boats right out of Fenway Park.
"I actually didn't drive it," said the Most Valuable Player of the World Series. "I tried, but that was when it wasn't moving."
Jonny Gomes sang backup for the Dropkick Murphys, who were again set up on stage at the old ballpark.
And then, the 25 duck boats -- one of which was decorated with a beard -- exited Fenway and headed through the streets of Boston to be showered with love for the next couple of hours.
It wasn't hard to pick the most emotion-packed and poignant moment of the day.
Not too far into the start of the parade, the duck boats stopped for a few minutes at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
The last time there was such a crowd at the historic site was April 15, when tragic bombings killed three and injured many others.
Gomes stepped off his duck boat with the World Series trophy and placed it at the finish line. The trophy was covered with a Red Sox uniform that said "Boston 617 Strong" on the back of it.
"That was something kind of unexpected on my end, but I was glad to be a part of it," said Gomes. "It was somewhat of a tear-jerker there for a minute, but it's something that had to be done.
"That's real life right there. We've been playing this game for a long time and we've been fortunate enough to wrap it up with this. One thing Red Sox Nation and the Red Sox have done is not let what happened out of sight and out of mind. We're still doing what we can to keep them honored as they should be."
Then, "God Bless America" was piped in over the loudspeakers. Jarrod Saltalamacchia also came out to join Gomes on the street for the chilling moment.
"I think we all stopped in that moment when 'God Bless America' was sung, and rightfully so," said manager John Farrell. "It took us back to the day in which we departed here on April 15. And again, in some ways, to bring a little bit of closure to it in terms of how the baseball season related to the tragedy, it was kind of a unique moment."
| "It's important the way the Red Sox play the game, but this year we were playing for other things, and it was pretty special the way we ended it. Hopefully we made a lot of people happy." |
|-- Dustin Pedroia |
Back in April, it was Gomes and Saltalamacchia who came up with the idea for that Boston Strong uniform that was present in the dugout for every Red Sox game the rest of the season -- all the way through the World Series clincher against the Cardinals on Wednesday night.
"We played for a lot more this year, obviously," said second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "It's important the way the Red Sox play the game, but this year we were playing for other things, and it was pretty special the way we ended it. Hopefully we made a lot of people happy."
The Red Sox themselves were quite happy on Saturday, and it was well deserved.
The unpredictable New England weather even cooperated, with a mild, sunny day.
"What a day," said right-hander Ryan Dempster. "This is November 2. I feel like we're in San Diego right now with this weather. It's like the skies opened up and said, 'Enjoy this day, all of you guys, everybody in Boston enjoy this, because you deserve it.' It's so cool."
By 8 a.m. ET, Fenway -- not to mention all the neighboring streets along the parade route -- was already packed with fans.
"It's unbelievable," Saltalamacchia said. "This is what you dream of. It's kind of a whirlwind and a dream, basically. This is unbelievable. I haven't gotten any rest. I don't want any right now. I'll rest when I get home."
To not get home until November? That was the sweetest thing of all for the Red Sox.
"Well, we certainly weren't scripting it late last October, but you know what, so much credit to [general manager] Ben Cherington," said Farrell. "All the guys that he brought in here, they fit like a glove, with no pun intended. The returning players were eager and determined to do something different and re-write their story."
By the time the duck boats departed the ballpark, hundreds of fans milled around the field at Fenway, making it resemble the day the Red Sox clinched the Impossible Dream pennant in 1967.
"It was just a gorgeous day in every respect," said Red Sox executive vice president Charles Steinberg. "The weather, how the city looked and the faces of the people. You just saw so much appreciation in their faces. It was very evident and very real."
Much like what the Red Sox accomplished in 2004, winning their first title in 86 years, this last-place-to-World-Series-championship odyssey will be hard to match in the coming years.
"It's pretty amazing," said first baseman Mike Napoli. "It's been great. I can't even explain the feeling. Great time, just partying with the people. I won't sleep for another, I don't know, couple of days. I'm going to enjoy it and have fun. It's been a great time."
| "This is not about us. It's about the city. Boston Strong. We all embraced each other. We all showed resilience." |
|-- Shane Victorino |
The last stop on the tour was in the water, as the amphibious duck boats all hit the Charles River.
Then it was back to Fenway, where players were still blown away by all they had seen and felt in the previous couple of hours.
"This was amazing," said Dempster. "You go ahead and write or say whatever you want. This was breathtaking. I dreamed of winning a World Series as a little kid and it's nothing compared to that parade right there. You can't even imagine what that was like. Absolutely just incredible."
While most championship parades take on a sense of community -- particularly in a city like Boston -- this one was probably at an even higher level.
"It was great," said right fielder Shane Victorino. "It was everything I wanted and expected -- what I pictured. This is not about us. It's about the city. Boston Strong. We all embraced each other. We all showed resilience. Hey, we're the 2013 world champions. So I can't sit here and complain at all, and neither can the fans. We all did this together. We did it as one group -- one team, one city."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne.