By JASON DEAREN, PAUL ELIAS
SAN FRANCISCO – Tens of thousands of baseball fans flocked to downtown Wednesday to toast the San Francisco Giants’ 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.
“This is Christmas, New Year’s and your first-born all rolled into one,” said Steve Williams, 51, an usher at AT&T Park as he gathered with Giants employees at the start of the parade in the financial district. “I’m on cloud nine.”
Fans crowded the sidewalks and flooded Civic Center to salute a team of self-described misfits and castoffs. The die-hards showed up before dawn to stake out spots ahead of the festivity. Many skipped work and pulled their children out of school so they could catch what they said was a once-in-a-lifetime celebration.
“I want 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.
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.
Marching bands, floats and costumed mascots added to the street party.
“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 Brian 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.
At the Civic Center, fans climbed into trees and streetlights to get a better view, the police unable to reach most of them over the crush of bodies. The scent of marijuana wafted in the air even though a ballot measure aimed at legalizing pot was defeated on Election Day.
Mayor Gavin Newsom was giddy 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.”
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.
The parade moved from the financial district, then down Market Street to the Civic Center where Newsom presented the team a key to the city.
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.