Phillies fans pack parade route

Phillies fans pack parade route

PHILADELPHIA -- They spread like wildfire, their red-and-white Phillies gear engulfing more than three miles of city sidewalk.

When there was no more room, Phillies fans clustered onto staircases, balanced themselves on top of trash cans and even perched on tree limbs.

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The youngest among them had never seen anything quite like this. The older fans had witnessed it once, but received no assurance that it would grace this town again.

Their ecstatic cheers melded with the rumbling trucks, blaring horns and clomping of horses hooves for two glorious hours on Friday afternoon. The attention of an entire city zeroed in on the 2008 Phillies, as they marched from 20th and Market Streets to the South Philadelphia Sports Complex for the second time, and first time since 1980.

"There's Blanton!" screamed an overjoyed young fan, pointing toward the truck that carried Phillies pitcher Joe Blanton, a July trade acquisition. "Blannnntonnnnn!"

In the middle of Passyunk Avenue, another fan squeezed a cell phone against his ear, yelling as loud as he could the name of each player he saw pass by: "Jamie Moyer, Greg Dobbs, Jimmy Rollins."

Robert Grant, a 21-year-old college student, leaned up against a tree to get a better view as the parade neared his spot at the corner of Broad and Wharton Streets. A student at Philadelphia University, Grant was scheduled to be in Japanese class Friday afternoon.

So much for that. Class was canceled.

"That was all the motivation I needed," he said. "I don't think anybody was going to show up today. So I said, 'Forget it.' I might as well be down here. It's 28 years since this happened. Might as well come on down."

Police officers manned metal barricades, turning around with bright smiles and misty eyes when the parade neared their respective spots. Some even pulled out cameras to capture the occasion.

Mike Kean, a Delaware County resident, ducked out of work early as a 23-year-old to see the Phillies' World Series championship parade in 1980. Now 51, Kean did the exact same thing on Friday afternoon to attend this year's parade with his wife.

"This is better," Kean said, standing on a staircase on Broad Street. "It's more crowded, for one thing. It's just amazing. It's an amazing outpouring of love by the city."

Perfect strangers exchanged high-fives, hugs and excited cheers. Fans sprayed miles of silly string into the air, while others shot champagne off balconies.

No one seemed to mind.

"It's all right here," said Matthew Schuh, a fan who lives on Broad Street. "All morning, it's been great -- ever since they started playing in the playoffs, Broad Street has been a fun place to be."

Many fans thought of creative ways to show their support -- there was a homemade World Series trophy, a gigantic cardboard Phillies "P," colorful wigs, face-paint and capes.

Standing in front of a funeral home owned by her brother, Annamarie Stolfo pointed toward a sign in the window that read: "R.I.P Rays." In front of her was a bouquet of red and white flowers that she intended to present to manager Charlie Manuel and the rest of the team.

"Red and white is for the Phillies," Stolfo explained. "And Charlie is the man!"

Even a non-Phillies fan, 26-year-old Jason Solinsky, was able to appreciate the scene.

Solinsky grew up in Connecticut, then Vermont, and donned a Buffalo Bills cap as he stood perched on top of a railing, watching the parade.

When Solinsky saw the players pass by and heard the symphony of blaring horns, clomping hooves and cheering Phillies fans, however, he cracked a wide smile.

"It's cool to see so many people united over one thing," he said. "They needed something to appreciate."

Kevin Horan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.