Thursday, 4:30 PM
Red Sox Nation assembles for rally on City Hall Plaza
(Dominic Chavez/Globe Staff)
Red Sox manager Terry Francona told fans gathered at a rally today on City Hall Plaza that Boston was "the best baseball city in the world."
By John C. Drake and Andrew Ryan, Globe Staff
Red Sox Nation descended on City Hall Plaza for a pep rally this afternoon, its citizens clad in team jerseys and caps and business suits and ties. Holding off the late-season surge by the Yankees seemed to sweeten the moment for fans, who shouted derogatory chants about the rivals from New York before Boston players walked onto a temporary stage.
The Red Sox were celebrating their first American League East division title in 12 years and are hoping to keep the surge alive in the playoffs, which will start in Boston Wednesday night at 6:30 against the Angels.
"I came to support the team, the ownership, everybody," said Bobby Nelson, 43, of Quincy, who attended the rally with his daughter and girlfriend. "I like it that it came down to the wire like that."
City Hall Plaza was crowded, but not packed. Police and city officials declined to estimate the size of the crowd. There was a loud roar when Red Sox manager Terry Francona took the stage and talked about the team clinching Friday night when the Yankees lost in Baltimore in 10 innings. Hundreds of fans stayed in Fenway Park after the Red Sox win to watch the Orioles score the winning run on the giant television screen in centerfield.
"The most special thing for me was the other night sitting back in the clubhouse with a cigar and a bottle of champagne," Francona said, pausing to let the crowd cheer. "And then watching it spill out onto the field where you loyal fans remained. Jonathan Papelbon dancing across the infield. Things like that make this city the best baseball city in the world."
The rally on City Hall Plaza included music by bands that have become part of the Red Sox soundtrack. The Dropkick Murphys played songs from their new album, "The Meanest of Times," and the Standells sang "Dirty Water," which is played over the public address system after every Red Sox victory at Fenway Park.
Players who appeared with Francona included Clay Buchholz, Javier Lopez, Kyle Snyder, Mike Timlin, and Jacoby Ellsbury.
The rally also included a tribute to the 1967 Red Sox on the 40th anniversary of their win over Minnesota to capture the American League pennant.
It was one of eight rallies across the country today sponsored by Major League Baseball to mark the start of the playoffs. With the exception of New York City, where no rally is scheduled for the Yankees and the team's wildcard berth, the home city of each playoff team hosted a festival-like baseball celebration. That included San Diego and Denver, home to the Padres and Colorado Rockies, who faced off in a single-game tiebreaker tonight for the final wildcard playoff spot.