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Fans line streets of Boston to toast Red Sox

City has experienced quite a few parades recently, but this one feels different

BOSTON -- It wasn't quite a sellout at Fenway Park on Saturday morning, as fans crowded the lower areas of the ballpark for a prime view of the stage where the Red Sox players appeared one by one. Outside the ballpark, though, an estimated 2 million people were waiting.

They lined the streets of Boston in waves 10 rows deep. They held signs, wore fake beards, sported painted faces, cheered at unprompted moments and produced MVP chants whenever David Ortiz made a gesture.

Celebratory parades might be old hat for Boston fans, who watched the Sox win in 2013, 2007 and '04, the Patriots in '05, '04 and '02, the Celtics in '08 and the Bruins in '11. But this one felt different.

"It's almost like we fell off the map in 2012," said Steve Mayer, who drove his family from their Maine home on Friday night. "I think that's why this one feels so rewarding. We were embarrassed last year -- my mother swore she'd never watch another game.

"I'm not sure she missed one all season [in 2013]."

With temperatures in the low 60s, the November air had a September feel, which boded well for the fans from southern parts of the country.

"I didn't even pack a coat," said Mary Boldato, a Woburn, Mass., native and Red Sox fan who moved to Georgia in the '80s. "I figured there would be enough people here to keep me warm. I came up with my ex-husband in 2004 and just remember so many people crowding together, yelling, cheering -- nobody gets cold at these things. We're all too happy."

Red Sox fans were let into Fenway about two hours before the duck boats' engines were running. They applauded each player who grabbed the microphone, sung along to the Dropkick Murphys and then cheered again when the band's truck got stuck in the infield.

Minutes after the first duck boats began leaving the park, a tow truck carrying the band's portable stage created a traffic jam when its back tires lodged themselves deep into the wet grass. A duck boat carrying Red Sox front-office employees had to retreat back to the infield to tow the tow truck out of the hole. The stadium erupted upon sight.

"That was symbolic," said Mayer. "It's just like we've been saying about this Red Sox team. They can clear the rough patches. Never lost more than three games in a row all year -- they were warriors."

Connecticut was well-represented in the crowd. While residents there are often split between the Yankees and Red Sox, they had something else pulling them toward the Red Sox this season: Yale.

Reliever Craig Breslow and third-string catcher Ryan Lavarnway are both Yale alums. Breslow's charity, the Strike 3 Foundation, has been donating to Yale New Haven Hospital for years.

"It seems to be an intimate community and there's this very embodied relationship with the school and the town," said Tim West, a lifelong Red Sox fan who grew up in New Haven, Conn. "What Breslow is doing is exceptional. He's been one of those guys who fell under the radar for so long, but you look at his career numbers and they're as good as anyone's. [His charity] isn't the most well-known, but there's a lot of positive effects he's had on the hospital. We know he had a rough World Series, but he was such an integral player on this team. And we've been rooting for him, absolutely."

Players signed autographs from their positions on the boats and threw them out to fans waiting behind the ropes. The duck boats made their away around the city before coming to a stop at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, where deadly explosions reshaped the city's spirit back in April.

One duck boat crossed the finish line and another stopped behind it. Jonny Gomes got out and brought the World Series trophy with him. He set it down on the finish line and draped the Boston Strong 617 jersey over it.

"What this city has been through this year, it's brought so many people together," said Elizabeth Stevens, who runs her own stationary company out of Boston. "There was this feeling of camaraderie that everyone took upon themselves to keep going.

"Today is a special day -- for the Red Sox, and for the whole city."

Jason Mastrodonato is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @jmastrodonato.
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