SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5 / AP / BCN) ― Hundreds of thousands of elated Giants fans from all over the Bay Area flocked to downtown San Francisco Wednesday to toast the World Series championship and see their hometown heroes take a victory lap in a ticker-tape parade reminiscent of the one held when the team moved west from New York 52 years ago.
City officials did not have a specific estimate of the crowd size. But Tony Winnicker, spokesman for San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, said officials “believe it is the largest parade and civic event turnout in the city’s history.”
Police called the parade “very successful” and said they only handled a few minor incidents despite the record turnout.
“This is Christmas, New Year’s and your first-born all rolled into one,” proclaimed Steve Williams, 51, an usher at AT&T Park who gathered with other Giants employees at the start of the parade route at Montgomery and Washington streets in the city’s financial district. “I’m on cloud nine.”
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Fans crowded the sidewalks and flooded Civic Center plaza at the end of the parade route too, creating a sea of black and orange, to salute a team of self-described misfits and castoffs.
Among them was R.D. Sam of Pacifica, who said it was well worth the trip and praised the Giants’ teamwork.
“That was good this year, it’s not one single player,” he said.
KCBS’ Doug Sovern Reports from the Civic Center:
Some die-hard fans even showed up before dawn to stake out spots ahead of the festivity.
“I wanted to see all the hometown heroes and share the smiles of all the fans who’ve been waiting their entire lives for this,” said Teddy Hutcherson, 31, who found a prime viewing spot for the festivities behind a barricade.
Many in Wednesday’s crowd skipped work and pulled their children out of school so they could catch what they said was a once-in-a-lifetime celebration.
KCBS’ Mark Seelig Talks To Some Young Giants Fans:
“This is a huge thing. The rally is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Scott Minty, an employee of the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office whose son Miles skipped school to join his dad along the parade route. “I definitely wanted my son to be here to see and experience the Giants’ victory.”
Belmont resident Bob Warfield, 54, brought his family to the Civic Center and was asked by his daughter, Carson, a first-grader: ‘Why are you crying, Daddy?'”
“You’ll be a grandmother before this happens again,” Warfield responded.
Exuberant fans spent hours commuting from as far as Salinas and Concord to snag a spot along the parade route, including Monterey County resident Monica Carnero, 40, who said “it was worth paying 50 bucks” for a cab ride to the celebration.
KCBS’ Chris Filippi Talks To Fans From Far Away:
“This is definitely the biggest public event I’ve ever seen in the city, even bigger than Gay Pride,” said Karen Edwards, a fan who trekked for more than two hours from Palo Alto to wind up crammed against fellow Giants lovers in all directions.
“It’s like being on an elevator for a few hours,” she said of the impassable crowds.
Some fans in those crowds donned panda costumes commemorating infielder Pablo Sandoval and showing off shaggy beards grown in honor of quirky relief pitcher Brian Wilson.
Under one fuzzy panda head, which spanned about 3 feet, was 57-year-old Daly City resident Larry Kitagawa, who sported the bear costume regularly to games at AT&T Park.
“It was really crowded and hot, but I kept (the costume) on for Pablo Sandoval,” the dedicated fan said as temperatures reached the upper 70s among the impenetrable human wall where Kitagawa was standing at Fifth and Market streets.
“They love The Panda,” Kitagawa said of fan reactions to his outfit, alluding to Sandoval by the player’s nickname. “I really enjoy when people see me out of the blue, and the smile that comes over their faces and the love they have for The Panda.”
Under a sunny sky, confetti rained on team members and civic dignitaries as they rode down the parade route in convertibles and cable cars on wheels. Street lamps were festooned with orange and black — the team’s colors. Large banners proclaimed the Giants as this year’s World Series champions, as if the crowd needed to be reminded the team had won baseball’s highest honor.
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Marching bands, floats and costumed mascots added to the street party. Chants of “Let’s go Giants” filled the air as the crowd waited patiently for the players to pass by.
“I’ve never seen anything like this is my life,” center-fielder Andres Torres said as he greeted fans behind a barricade. “The parade has been amazing.”
Fans of Wilson, the quirky reliever whose facial hair has become a local obsession, paid tribute to him by painting beards on their faces and wearing T-shirts that read, “Fear the Beard.” He stoked the crowd by jumping up and down and giving people high-fives.
Slugger Aubrey Huff, who threatened to unveil his lucky red thong at the parade, made good on his words by waving it at fans. They roared with deafening approval. He later threw the crowd into a frenzy by pulling the “rally thong” out of his pants while addressing raucous fans at Civic Center.
Fans climbed onto trees, streetlights and bus shelters to get a better view of the parade and the victory rally stage, the police unable to reach most of them over the crush of bodies.
“I guess the main thing to do is climb on something,” said 31-year-old Fremont resident Maurice Somarriba, referring to the viewing strategy of the crowds.
Still more people cheered from rooftops as high as 10 stories above Market Street, or otherwise pressed against apartment windows or scaled the outside of buildings trying to reach even the most miniscule outcroppings to perch on.
“This is nothing like anything I’ve ever witnessed before,” said 22-year-old Academy of Art student Francisco Page, who was fortunate enough to be able to walk to the parade after class. “The people, the team, everybody. It’s a great fan base here in this city. The best city ever.”
The scent of marijuana wafted in the air even though a ballot measure aimed at legalizing pot was defeated on Election Day.
Wilson acknowledged the odor when he joked about having a heart attack. “I’m not sure where it’s coming from, maybe from the electricity of the crowd or maybe from the smell of Prop. 19,” he said, referring to the failed proposition.
The parade had moved from the financial district up Montgomery Street to Market Street and then down Market to the Civic Center where Mayor Newsom presented the team a key to the city.
Newsom, who wore an orange tie, was giddy on stage as he described growing up a “fanatical Giants fan” and dreaming about playing for the team one day.
“I thought I’d see (a World Series championship) in my lifetime, but never thought I’d see it as mayor,” Newsom said. “It’s incomprehensible that this happened. The torture is over.”
He even swept aside talk of politics when asked about his victory in the state’s lieutenant governor’s race on Tuesday.
“Nobody here cares about that, this puts it all in perspective,” he said, leaving open the question of who will take over the mayor’s seat.
Newsom’s nomination was Wilson, known for his signature dyed-black beard.
“This town is gonna need another mayor soon, and I have three words: Fear the beard,” Newsom said.
When Wilson later took the stage, however, sporting a Mohawk and what appeared to be oversized silver high-top sneakers, he said he wasn’t interested.
“I don’t think I am up for that job. But I think I know a man who is…Where’s the Machine?” he asked, to an explosion of cheers and laughter.
Wilson was referring to a leather-clad character who made a cameo in the background while Wilson was being interviewed remotely by Fox Sports’ Chris Rose on his “Cheap Seats” show in August.
Even Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was greeted by some “boos,” turned the crowd in his favor by making a reference to the mysterious character.
“I thought I was the only Machine in the world,” the “Terminator” star said.
Most of the players who spoke kept it short and sweet, including beloved pitcher Tim Lincecum, who made a few remarks then closed with, “All I can say is thank you, and go San Francisco!”
There were repeated references to Wilson’s artificially dark beard, including by Giants manager Bruce Bochy.
“We do apologize for the torture,” Bochy said. “If you did get a little gray hair, I can bring in my closer, I think he can help you with that.”
General manager Brian Sabean congratulated his team on their tenacity.
“They were like junkyard dogs on a bone; they wouldn’t let go,” he said. “It took a village mentality to raise this team.”
He said the Giants’ culture this year was based on the attitude that there’s “no difference between the batboy and the owner.”
Giants greats Willie Mays and Willie McCovey were also on hand for the ceremony.
Former Journey singer Steve Perry, a Giants devotee whose hit song “Don’t Stop Believin'” has become the team’s anthem, waved from the stand as the song blared from speakers and the crowd sang along during the ceremony.
Thousands of raucous fans had gathered at the same spot beneath City Hall’s orange-lit dome on Monday night to watch an outdoor big screen television that captured the team’s Game 5 win over the Texas Rangers. The Giants finally achieved World Series domination that eluded the team in 1962, 1989 and 2002.
Giants President Larry Baer captured the fans’ long anticipation for a victory after decades of game attendance at Candlestick Park and at the new home stadium, AT&T Park. “The triumph of this team allows us to flash back and connect to our past, to experience the beauty of our memories and shared experiences with unbridled joy,” Baer said.
“This day is a blessed reminder of a dream fulfilled for all of us,” he said.
A small crowd waited in a restricted area for the Giants to exit City Hall after the festivities had ended, including 17-year-old Alex Levesque, of Martinez.
Levesque watched from his wheelchair, surrounded by family members, as the heroes strode past. Third baseman Sandoval spotted Levesque and stopped.
“Panda” hugged Levesque and paused for a photo.
Levesque, who said he has been a Giants fan his whole life, was thrilled.
“It was so exciting,” he said with a grin.
People continued to roam along Market Street and surrounding corridors for much of the afternoon following the celebration. Police officers weren’t able to reopen all the streets until the evening rush hour was already underway.
“All in all, we thought it was a very successful day considering how many people were out there,” SFPD Sgt. Michael Andraychak said.
He indicated that there were some isolated fights and a few arrests for public intoxication.
The San Francisco Fire Department also handled several medical calls, but officials said none seemed to be too serious.
In one case, a fan fell 15 or 20 feet from a ledge while trying to watch the parade, but the individual’s injuries did not appear to be life threatening, Andraychak said.
(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press and Bay City News contributed to this report.)