Fans revel in return trip to Fall Classic
Players celebrate their AL pennant with loyal supporters
NEW YORK -- The scent of champagne floated down the long corridor leading to the Yankees' clubhouse, wafting through the double doors and straight into a frenzied mosh pit of players, each so soaked that their shirts clung to their back like a second skin.
"We knew what we had in store for us at home," Joba Chamberlain said, spewing drips of champagne with every punctuation as he took in the emotions following the Yankees' 5-2 American League Championship Series-clinching victory over the Angels on Sunday.
"Our fans have been great for us all year, and they were loud. I hope they are celebrating this one as much as we are, because they were just as much of a part of it."
Chamberlain didn't need to worry. While the Yankees rushed onto the field in childlike glee once Mariano Rivera retired Gary Matthews Jr. for the game's final out, the celebration for the crowd of 50,173 started as soon as their beloved team took a three-run lead in the bottom of the eighth inning.
"Are you kidding me? This is absolutely nuts," Yonkers native Bob Seda yelled in disbelief as he ran up and down section 206, exchanging high fives and hugs as Robinson Cano scored on an error by Angels reliever Scott Kazmir.
Several sections over, season-ticket holders Paul Bratkowski and Joe Rindone lead the surrounding fans in chants of "Hip, Hip, Jorge," an ode to the Yankees' veteran catcher.
"The atmosphere is great," New York native Shaun Ertischek said in between cheers. "There is no place else like New York. What's better than seeing [Game 6 starter] Andy Pettitte becoming the all-time postseason wins leader and watching Mariano Rivera close out the game? What's better? What's better in all of sports today? Nothing."
Ertischek's assertion certainly carried its weight in numbers, as the largest crowd in new Yankee Stadium history was on hand to watch the Yankees secure their first trip to the World Series since 2003.
"I've been waiting years for this, since they lost [four consecutive games] and collapsed against Boston [in 2004]," Queens native Peter Martini said. "It's a great feeling."
Even in a sea of painted faces and fans decked head to toe in Yankees garb, Martini's head -- which was shaved with the "NY" logo on the back -- stood alone as a sign of confidence that this season will restore order to the Bronx. Martini had the No. 40, signifying the Yankees' 40th AL pennant, shaved on one side of his head, while the other side was the No. 27, in reference to the team's next World Series championship.
"This is our year," Martini said.
And fans from all around New York made sure they didn't miss the chance to watch history unfold.
"I drove all the way from Binghamton to see this," said Casey Jussin.
The Brooklyn native made the three-hour drive from her college and would have weathered Saturday night's rain if the game hadn't been called. No matter what Mother Nature did, Jussin was going to attend her first postseason game and watch the Yankees clinch in the process.
"I have class [Monday morning] and I'm probably going to be really tired," she said. "But it doesn't matter, it's worth it."
"This has to be the best game ever," Seda said. "I wouldn't miss it for the world."
And as the FOX cameras panned to the crowd hugging, clapping and dancing, it was one sign in particular that stood out.
"The Empire Strikes Back."
"It's as it should be," said Dave McGurian. "Exactly as the baseball gods envisioned."
Brittany Ghiroli is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.