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One Last Cheer for Indians

October 28, 1997

CLEVELAND (AP) _ While the Cleveland Indians lost the World Series, you wouldn’t have known it from the reception they got Tuesday.

About 50,000 people turned out for a parade and rally downtown to honor the American League champions, who were two outs away from winning the Series before losing to Florida 3-2 in 11 innings Sunday.

Fans may have felt disheartened by the Indians loss, but they weren’t showing it.

Ten marching bands led the parade to the rally, where cheers and squeals greeted 15 players from among the World Series roster of 25.

Along the way were fans like Keith Heidenreich, decked out in an Indians jersey, sweatpants and blue face paint. He wore a radiation warning sign around his neck and had tacked on a note that said, ``Caution Florida: We Will Be Back.″

Squeals from teen-age girls sounded when their new heartthrob, pitcher Jaret Wright, 21, was introduced.

The crowd chanted ``M-V-P! M-V-P!″ when catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. went to the podium. A plane flew overhead, pulling a banner that read: Sandy Alomar for Mayor.

Ellyn Vargo of Lorain sewed two giant red hearts that she wore sandwich-board style over her clothes. In stickers on the heart she had printed ``We love you, Tribe.″

``I was devastated by the loss,″ she said. ``I tried not get my hopes up but in the seventh game I started to think we were going to win. I went to work yesterday and I was just in a fog. This gives us some closure.″

The team probably would have enjoyed playing in Tuesday’s crisp but clear weather, following home games in snow flurries and 18-degree wind chill last week.

Indians owner Richard Jacobs thanked fans for ``unprecedented support.″ The entire baseball season was sold out, as were nine postseason games at Jacobs Field.

``This team had a never-say-die attitude, and they played great ball,″ Jacobs said.

``America just found out that Cleveland has the best fans in the entire universe,″ said Mayor Michael R. White, who gave key to the city awards to team officials.

Pitcher Orel Hershiser, expected to file for free agency within two weeks, thanked fans for their devotion.

``I know everyone here did a lot of praying in the last month and lost a lot of sleep,″ he said.

David Justice, on the Atlanta Braves team that beat the Indians in the 1995 World Series, told the crowd he has seen fans in a lot of cities `` but I’ve never seen this kind of support.″

As the celebration ended with fireworks and the release of red-blue-and-silver streamers, Indians play-by-play announcer and ceremony host Tom Hamilton said ``So long, folks. We’ll see you in spring training.″

Joe Desatnik, a block away in the back of the crowd, stood draped in streamers with his fists clenched above his head. ``Come on, spring!″ he yelled. ``Let’s rock, Cleveland!″

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