Fans flood lower Manhattan for Yankees

NEW YORK -- Crowds roared, church bells rang and streams of paper rained down on Broadway as the New York Yankees celebrated their 27th championship Friday in a way only this city can, with a parade up the Canyon of Heroes.

The players, joined by a few celebrity fans and Yankees of the past, drank it all in as they rode on floats and double-decker buses through Manhattan's financial district.

It has been years since the city used actual ticker-tape to celebrate its World Series wins, but the experience was still authentic to the many thousands who crammed the sidewalks along the three-quarter-mile parade route near Wall Street.

"I love it!" said city sanitation worker John Freeman, as he raked up confetti and toilet paper rolls thrown from skyscrapers.

Whole families skipped work and school to be there. Players recorded the crowd with their cameras as they rode to a second celebration at City Hall, where the mayor presented the team with keys to the city.

Shortstop Derek Jeter carried the trophy, hoisting it high above his head while the crowd screamed and "We are the Champions" blasted on loudspeakers.

"It's been too long, hasn't it?" he told the crowd, a reference to the team's eight-year absence from the top of the sport. "It feels good to be back."

Fans and players brimming with classic New York confidence let it be known that they didn't plan to relinquish their title anytime soon.

The crowd at City Hall chanted "28." Manager Joe Girardi said he had already talked on the phone with George Steinbrenner about not letting up next year.

"He told me this morning ... the only thing greater than this celebration is doing it two years in a row," Girardi said. "So he asked me to remind everyone, pitchers and catchers report in 96 days. Be ready to defend it."

Brooklyn native Jay-Z capped the celebration with a performance of his song "Empire State of Mind."

Yankees fans may be used to winning, but that didn't make the day any less special for the multitudes along the parade route -- especially children living a championship for the first time.

"This is an experience of a lifetime," said Nicole Orrico, who let her fifth-grade daughter, Koranda, skip school to attend. "You have to mix life with learning."

The Yankees beat the defending champion Philadelphia Phillies to win the best-of-seven series in six games. The title was the team's first since beating the crosstown Mets in the 2000 "Subway Series," and came during the first season of the new $1.5 billion Yankee Stadium.

"There's no better way to inaugurate a new stadium," said Michael Rheubottom, a city jail guard, who attended with his 13-year-old son, Jason. "This is the house that Jeter built. We don't even remember the house that Ruth built."

Pitcher Mariano Rivera, who waved a Panamanian flag as he rode in the parade, called the outpouring of support "beautiful."

"The city of New York, the fans ... you can't put it into words. It's magnificent," he said.

Alex Rodriguez, finally free of all the criticism that had been heaped upon him for failing to win a championship, wore a black hat and a wide smile.

"We waited a long time for this," he said. "I've never seen so many people collected in one place. Excitement. It just seems like they were as hungry as we were. The fans really wanted this. They were hungry."

There was one notable absence: Steinbrenner. "The Boss" has made few public appearances since his health deteriorated in recent years. He attended the first two games against the Phillies, returning to the new Yankee Stadium for the first time since opening day.

His son, Hal, took over the day-to-day operations of the team about a year ago.

"A magical day," Hal Steinbrenner said. "New York just has the best fans in the world."

Yankee greats of the past, including Yogi Berra and Reggie Jackson, were on hand for the celebration. Jackson urged the players to enjoy the experience, noting that as players, "You never know if it'll happen again."

Some fans were more confident the trophy would be back soon enough on lower Broadway -- the narrow Canyon of Heroes that has seen some 200 ticker-tape parades for astronauts, foreign leaders, sports champions and five-star generals.

"We're going for 28, baby," said Ulysses Coleman, of Manhattan. "Next year it's ours, it's in the bag."