PHILADELPHIA -- This is what they waited more than a quarter-century for:
Anywhere from one million to 2.5 million Phillies fans, depending on city estimates, jam-packed into every possible viewing area, hanging off trees and light poles while making the loudest continuous noise you will hear this side of a jet engine.
Pat Burrell perched up high in the seat behind the Budweiser Clydesdales, along with his wife and English Bulldog, like a grand marshal, with adoring fans who shouted "Pat the Bat!" and "Stay, Pat, Stay!"
Chase Utley, a man of few words, saying what others beyond the PG-13 limitation seemed to be thinking. "World champions!" he began in his state-of-disbelief remarks to fans at Citizens Bank Park. Then he inserted a word in the chill of the moment, between world and champions, and we'll just say it started with an eph sound. Instantly, a day of delirium had a bleep-button moment of color that was fittingly forgivable.
This is the City of Brotherly Love, after all. Four miles of love. The World Champions started their parade at 20th and Market, and it turned right at City Hall amid a mighty red throng that filled in every possible nook and cranny of space. It was a chance for fans to see their heroes up close as the parade stopped frequently along its long crawl on Broad Street"What amazed me was how many people you would see in all the empty spaces and in trees and things," said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. "You can put all those people in the Shenandoah Valley. I think today told the magnitude of how much people wanted to win. I never believed I'd see that many fans."
A police officer at Broad and Snyder, thrusting his fist into the air triumphantly as Manuel's float passed him while the crowd chanted "Char-lie!" That said it all.
A 2008 world champions flag was raised on the center pole above the batter's eye in the outfield, hoisted with the help of four fans as "We Are The Champions" was played, just as it was after the Game 5 clincher over the Rays on Wednesday night.
"A beautiful cry." That is how Annette Mira of South Philly described the sight of her father Anthony in tears as the first parade vehicles started to approach on Broad. She was wearing a grass skirt and lei and waiting for Shane Victorino, the Flyin' Hawaiian. "It's amazing -- better than Christmas," she said. "I am so happy. My father brought me here, and I saw him cry. It was a beautiful cry."
A sign as the parade entered the Sports Complex where all four Philly teams play. It read: "Mets fans are working today." Jimmy Rollins took it a step further at the parade-ending ceremony, drawing a roar from more than 40,000 fans when he said this of the Mets and Johan Santana: "They had one thing they forgot, that it takes more than one player to bring home a championship."
"Skipped School '08." That sign pretty much said it all. From this writer's vantage point in one of the two media buses at the front of the parade, the crowd was dominated by youths, especially those who normally would be in classrooms on this day. Mayor Michael Nutter had said Thursday that students need to be in class. Right.
"It's been 25 years of waiting, and hopefully it won't be another 25," said Howard Sperling of Voorhees, N.J. "My kids stayed home from school. They should have just closed the schools today. You can see that they're all here. I want to see Cole Hamels."
Togetherness -- strangers hugging and kissing and high-fiving and becoming friends, no matter their color or creed. "It's not only a dream come true, but it's all to see this city engulfed in community," said David Rosenzweis of Philadelphia.
The constant, deafening roar, four solid miles of sonic boom. "I'll be surprised if any of them have a voice left," Hamels said.
The Phillie Phanatic in the first vehicle, leading the way, the ultimate mascot in professional sports and so symbolic of this team. When you saw the big green fuzzball from blocks and blocks away, you knew what was coming, and you got chills down your spine as you waited and then saw your heroes right in your face.
When the route bottlenecked at Broad and Bigler, with irrepressible crowds pushing right against the vehicles, as they cheered at Hamels, Rollins, Utley, Ryan Howard and Victorino and all those people who had just touched their lives in a way no one ever imagined. And right at that intersection, seeing police officers high-fiving fans as everyone tried to make a little more space for the vehicles to squeeze through.
Halloween 2008. Some came in costumes, but everyone dressed up in Phillies gear. There's Only One October, and this one was perfectly symmetrical. It started on the first day of the month with Division Series games. It ended on the 31st day with a parade marching through the streets of Philadelphia. That was an October.
Jayson Werth's enormous right hand.
Seeing the clinching games of all three postseason series played on the PhanaVision screen in left field, and the Phillies players standing on the stage to turn and watch the final strikeout along with all the fans. It was another loud ovation, almost duplicating the release of two nights earlier. The joy was still here.
A full crowd at not only Citizens Bank Park, but also at Lincoln Financial Field next door, where the Eagles play. The players stopped first at the latter facility, and players like Victorino and Jamie Moyer showed them the Commissioner's Trophy and spoke to the adoring crowd before heading over to the ballpark. Fans had gobbled up all of these complementary tickets in less than 1 1/2 hours on Thursday afternoon at Phillies.com.
A new generation of fans like Ryan Leven, 15, of Doylestown, Pa. He had been waiting five hours, hoping for that first glimpse of Hamels, the World Series MVP. Then it happened. "I'm lucky enough I'm able to be here early," he said, meaning "early" as in young age. "My hockey coaches and my baseball coaches always told me how long they had to wait. I hope they do it again now."
Howard, telling the fans that he was "just taking it all in." Then he said to the crowd: "We're looking forward to trying to do this again ... year after year after year. But in order to do that, we need you guys in our corner -- to pick us up, and to cheer us all the way on like you did this year."
Victorino tossing soft-pretzels in the shape of a Phillies "P" logo into the crowd.
The sign somewhere on Broad that read: "PATrick or Treat." The fan, Rachel Hezlep of Philadelphia, wore No. 5 and she swooned when the Clydesdales click-clacked past carrying Burrell. "We tried to make up a Halloween theme sign," she said. "I love him. He's my favorite."
Moyer, and the heartfelt love that fans were showing the hometown kid who grew up to pitch in a World Series for his Phils. Seeing the connection between him and the fans along the parade route, according to Phillies vice president Bonnie Clark, was her personal highlight of the day. Moyer told the ballpark crowd: "I was at that parade in 1980. Today, you guys dwarfed that ... I had a dream watching that parade of someday being on a team in the World Series. In 2008, it took place in what I call my hometown, Philadelphia. I couldn't be any more happier to be in this city with this group of guys, bringing the World Series back to Philadelphia, where for 28 years you've been starving to win, and it's been my good fortune to be with this group of guys that brought you a World Series championship."
"I broke both wrists clapping for the Phillies" -- words on a sign held by a man with a red cast on each arm.
The overwhelming crowds on Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority's trains and buses, just as everyone predicted. Nutter had urged citizens to "take your patience pills," and sure enough, public transit was the way to go but even that was an event in itself, just getting into viewing position. The early bird got the worm.
From all indications, the safe journey of this parade and the universal happiness by everyone who came out. Fans seemed generally well-behaved, and it was honestly just an outpouring of beaming smiles and tears of joy that come from waiting so long. The last pro sports championship in Philly was won by the 76ers in 1983.
"My wife and I kept looking at each other and saying, 'This is unbelievable,'" said Greg Dobbs. "You couldn't dream of this scenario. It seems like in this city, the fans came out in droves."
They did. There was no doubt that they were going to, either. It was always about the parade, the P word, and this was precisely what they waited all this time for. It was worth the wait. The Phillies are 2008 world champions. A million fans were able to complete the picture with a parade they needed a long time. Standing on the platform atop his float, the Phillie Phanatic danced while the crowd cheered. "Celebrate good times, come on!" Those were the lyrics from Kool and the Gang, and at that point in the parade, it was just right.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.