BOSTON – Hundreds of thousands of Red Sox (search) fans jammed streets and the banks of the Charles River on Saturday to watch a parade many had begun to doubt they would ever witness: a toast to a World Series champion team.
The team that suffered an 86-year World Series drought was given a victory procession on land and water, winding from the streets near Fenway Park past Boston Common and City Hall and then onto the Charles aboard 17 of the amphibious vehicles known since World War II as "ducks."
Pedro Martinez (search) was hit in the forehead by a baseball thrown from the banks of the Charles while riding on a boat, but the star pitcher did not appear seriously injured.
Some fans stood on the streets and river banks — in places as many as 10 to 25 people deep — while others stood atop buildings or waved from windows as the team rode past.
World Series MVP Manny Ramirez (search) waved a sign that a fan handed him: "Jeter is playing golf today. This is better!" a reference to Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. Other fans tossed brooms in tribute to the four-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Officials extended the 3-mile parade into the Charles River because of projections that as many as 5 million people would pack the city.
"I've been waiting for this all my life," said Rich Brantley, 47, of Milford, Conn., who traveled through the night to arrive around 7 a.m. "It's one of the biggest days of my life other than when I got married and had my kids."
Police said 10 people were arrested, 12 people were taken to hospitals for treatment of minor injuries and 30 people were treated on the street.
Martinez looked stunned when hit by the ball, putting his hand to his forehead. The ball was later seen floating in the water as the boat continued down the river for the final leg of the parade.
Jim Averill, 42, of Boston, said the ball was thrown at a high speed from the river bank. He said pitcher Derek Lowe tried to catch it before it struck Martinez.
"It hit him and it flew up about 15 feet and fell into the water," he said.
Wild cheers greeted the Red Sox players when they arrived at Fenway Park before the parade. At an impromptu rally on the field, manager Terry Francona said his team always had what it took to win even if his scruffy players — who dubbed themselves "idiots" — didn't always look serious.
"They may not wear their hair normal, they many not dress normal, but they play the game as good as you can," Francona said.
During the parade, several players hoisted signs that said "Idiots Rule!"
That the World Series victory came at the expense of the Yankees, whom the Red Sox beat in a historic comeback in the playoffs, made it that much sweeter.
"Every Red Sox fan from now on can walk into Yankee stadium with their head high," catcher Jason Varitek said.
Because so many fans were expected in Boston to celebrate the team's World Series triumph, the plan for the parade did not include any stops or a staged rally.
"I understand the problem — where do you stick 5 million people?" fan Dave Henry said.
Authorities would not let fans stuff themselves into City Hall Plaza, where the New England Patriots held rallies after they won the Super Bowl twice in the past three years.
"Let's face it, you get a crowd that size and it's very unpredictable," Police Commissioner Kathleen O'Toole told The Associated Press on Friday. "One of the reasons we're not having one particular rally location is that we're concerned that it could be a dangerous situation."
"It's going to be a great parade," O'Toole said. "If they're along a long parade route, they're going to have a better vantage point than being at a rally that's potentially dangerous where they can't see a thing. I think it's a great thing, and I hope tomorrow is an exciting and safe day for everyone."
The theme of the parade was "We kept the faith, now let's keep the peace," in hopes of preventing rowdiness or violence, like the deadly frenzy that erupted after Boston's Game 7 win over the Yankees in the playoffs. An Emerson College student was killed by a pepper-spray pellet fired by police trying to control the crowd of 80,000 revelers.