BOSTON - A defiant David Ortiz stood on the Fenway Park infield and told the crowd to "stay strong," bringing a rousing cheer from Bostonians weary from a week of bombings, stay-at-home orders and a manhunt that locked down the city for a day.
Playing at home for the first time since two explosions at the Boston Marathon finish line killed three people and wounded more than 180 others, the Red Sox honoured the victims and the survivors with a pregame ceremony and an emotional video of scenes from Monday's race.
"This past week, I don't think there's one human being who wasn't affected by what was going on down here," Ortiz said after the Red Sox beat the Kansas City Royals. "I was emotional, very angry about the whole situation. ... Everybody was hurting. I know it's going to take some time to heal up, but the one thing everybody's got to remember is that everybody supports each other."
Starting with a video, alternating between celebratory and sombre and accompanied by Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah," the tributes continued with a first-pitch ceremony that honoured a first responder, a victim of the blast, and a marathon institution: Dick and Rick Hoyt, who have participated in the race for more than 20 years.
Then Ortiz took the microphone and, in what he later said was an unplanned outburst, let loose with an expletive that drew a huge cheer from the 35,152 who managed to make it through the beefed-up security and into their seats on time.
"This is our (expletive) city, and nobody is going to dictate our freedom," he said. "Stay strong."
Neil Diamond, who flew into town on his own and asked if he could sing, gave a live performance in the eighth inning of "Sweet Caroline," the Fenway staple that has been adopted by opposing ballclubs to show their support for the city.
As Diamond, a New York native who wore a Red Sox cap, left the field, fans chanted "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" In the bottom half of the inning, Daniel Nava hit a three-run homer to give the Red Sox the lead, and they held on to win 4-3.
"You give people hope," Ortiz said. "We wanted to let them know we're here for them."
Across town, the Bruins also returned to the ice after postponing their game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night, when a manhunt for the bombing suspects led to a "shelter-in-place" order that locked down the city. One suspect died and the other was captured, hiding in a dry-docked boat in a Watertown backyard.
"At least we could all breathe a little easier and sleep a little easier," coach Claude Julien said after the Bruins lost 3-2. "And now it's, hopefully, time to work ourselves into trying to get things back to normal again. But it will always leave a scar somewhere."
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma met with reporters before the game wearing a black T-shirt with words "Boston Strong" over his shirt and tie.
"I feel like we're playing with the Bruins today, not against them," Bylsma said before the game. "I know I share their pride yesterday in their city and their people and certainly their law enforcement yesterday. I'm certainly not a Bostonian, but I certainly share in that pride and hope to today with them as well."
The Bruins took the ice for their pregame warmup wearing baseball caps for the Boston and state police, along with one for the police in Watertown featuring the Bruins' "Spoked B" logo and the word "Strong" on the back.
On CBC's "Hockey Night in Canada," commentator and former Bruins coach Don Cherry wore a gold suit with a Bruins logo on the jacket and his tie. He closed the "Coach's Corner" segment with some kind words for his old team and the city.
"We're thinking of you up here," said Cherry. "God love the victims and their families. Hey, Boston strong."
Security was tight at both games, as it was when the Bruins made their emotional return after the bombing on Thursday night.
A SWAT team member with a German shepherd stood guard at the doorway to the tunnel leading to Royals dugout about 2 1/2 hours before game time. A man in military fatigues checked all of the players' lockers and the many cracks in the ceiling tiles with a flashlight.
Outside, fans milled around, waiting for the gates to open. Several of them were wearing Boston Marathon jackets dating back as long as a decade. Long lines of fans waited to be scanned by metal-detecting wands; many were still waiting to get in when the Red Sox and Royals lined up along the base-lines for the pregame ceremony.
With Boston Athletic Association volunteers in their yellow and blue jackets lined up in front of the Green Monster and police and public officials encircling the mound, ballpark organist Josh Kantor played The Star-Spangled Banner, with the crowd singing along. A giant U.S. flag was draped over the 37-foot-high Green Monster left-field wall, temporarily covering the "B Strong" logo newly painted in left-centre field.
Pictures of the victims, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier, were shown on the scoreboard, along with pictures from the marathon and the aftermath. Some of the biggest cheers were for the police who tracked down the suspects.
Gov. Deval Patrick and Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, along with other law enforcement officials and rank-and-file, circled the mound for the ceremonial first pitches from firefighter Matt Patterson, who rushed to the site of the bombings; from Steven Byrne, who was injured in the explosions, and from Dick Hoyt, accompanied by his son Rick, who has cerebral palsy.
Ortiz, who had been on the disabled list all season, took the microphone and showed fans the specially designed uniforms saying "Boston" on the front instead of the "Red Sox" they have worn for decades. Both teams wore patches with the "B Strong" logo.
The Red Sox said their uniforms would be autographed and auctioned off to raise money for the One Fund Boston, the charity established to help the victims. The Boston Celtics, who opened their playoff series against the Knicks with a loss in New York on Saturday, said they would donate $100,000 to the charity, with another $100,000 to come from fundraisers.
The team said fans would be given the option to donate their refund from the cancelled April 16 game against Indiana to One Fund Boston.