BOSTON (AFP) - Boston Red Sox players paid tribute to victims of last April's Boston Marathon bombings during a parade rally on Saturday for their World Series baseball crown that rolled through the city streets.
The Red Sox won their third Major League Baseball crown in 10 seasons last Wednesday with a 6-1 home victory over the St Louis Cardinals.
Players rode Boston's amphibious vehicles, known as the "duck boats", from Fenway Park to the Copley Square area on Saturday and stopped when they reached the finish line of the Boston Marathon, near where three spectators were killed by two explosions while watching the April 15 race.
Jonny Gomes, a Red Sox outfielder, placed the World Series trophy on the finish line and joined teammate Jarrod Saltalamacchia in placing a pair of Red Sox jerseys on the line that featured the number 617, the telephone area code for Boston, and the words "Boston Strong" where player names are typically displayed.
A jersey with the "Boston Strong" message, a theme for the city in the wake of the tragedy at the famed race, was displayed all season in the Red Sox locker room.
Players and the crowd sang "God Bless America" before the team resumed the parade past city hall and eventually into the Charles River.
"It's a magical day for us," said Red Sox owner Tom Werner. "It has been a fantastic year."
The Red Sox finished last in the American League East division last season and were not expected to be title contenders but new manager John Farrell guided the club to a division crown and Boston became the first club since the 1991 Minnesota Twins to go from worst in a division to winning the World Series the next season.
"When we assembled in Fort Myers in February, it was clear that we had a special group of guys," Farrell told the crowd. "To see it come to light last Wednesday... this is a group that was very special."
Jon Lester, Dustin Pedroia and World Series Most Valuable Player David Ortiz spoke to fans during the ceremony.
"Everyone counted us out in spring training," Pedroia said. "When we got together, we all believed that we could do this." The biggest cheers went to Ortiz, who has been part of each of the team's three World Series titles since 2004.
"We stayed together as a family," Ortiz said. "This might be one of the teams I'm most proud of all. We may not have the talent of the teams in 2004 and 2007, but we had guys who cared and guys that wanted to get it done."