The conquering heroes of the baseball world rode triumphantly through lower Manhattan Friday, as a sea of adoring fans showered them with cheers in a spectacular celebration of the Yankees' 27th world championship.
More than a million fans packed the Canyon of Heroes - many arriving the previous night - to take part in the first Yankees victory parade in nine years. The Long Island Rail Road alone estimated an extra 20,000 customers on its trains Friday.
They stood on the back of sanitation trucks and balanced from streetlight poles to get fleeting glimpses of such stars as A-Rod, Joba and "The Core Four," as their floats moved slowly up Broadway to the music of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.
As thousands of hands reached into the air to take pictures with cell phones, many of the Yankees players and their families, too, captured the spectacle on their own cameras.
"My son and I decided on Opening Day that if the Yankees won the World Series, we were going to the parade," said Michael Jamison, 60, of Wantagh, whose wife was not initially thrilled about him pulling their son Ricky, 15, from school to attend. "I convinced her this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
By Friday afternoon, the parade terminated at City Hall, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg hosted a luncheon with the championship team before its members gathered in three rows on the front steps to collect their keys to the city in a triumphant ceremony.
One by one, the 2009 World Champion Yankees were called up by team broadcasters Michael Kay and John Sterling to accept their keys. In all, 72 keys were handed out, city officials said, including to 25 roster members.
"I tell you what, it's been too long, hasn't it? It feels good to be back," Yankees captain Derek Jeter told the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd in City Hall Park as he stood at the podium. "On behalf of the entire team, we want to thank everyone who came out there today. What a parade. It's unbelievable. You really forget how great it feels."
Yankees skipper Joe Girardi thanked "the most wonderful fans in the world for this great party."
"This was a club that never gave up, even when things were down," he said. "This was a club that always had heart, always had confidence in their abilities and never stopped fighting, and I think that's because of the fans in New York."
Girardi said he spoke with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner Friday: "He said, 'The only thing greater than this celebration is doing it two years in a row.' "
One of Steinbrenner's sons, Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, accepted the last key handed out by Bloomberg on behalf of his father, whose boisterous personality was missed throughout the season as he battled health problems.
"This one is for my dad, as we've all said, but this one is also really for you," Hal Steinbrenner told the legions of screaming fans. "With a little bit of luck, I hope we will be standing here a year from today."
Singer Bridget Kelly sang the chorus: "New York. Concrete jungle where dreams are made of. There's nothing you can't do. Now you're in New York."
With Michael Frazier