HOUSTON -- They came to cheer their champions one more time, filling every nook and cranny and parking garage in downtown Houston on Friday afternoon to get one more glimpse of the 2017 World Series champion Astros.
Astros fans from all corners of southeast Texas and all over the city were dressed in orange Astros shorts, many emblazoned with World Series Champions on them, celebrating the first title for the 56-year franchise. Houston Independent School District even cancelled classes on Friday.
The Astros beat the Dodgers to clinch the Series on Wednesday and then shared the thrill of victory on Friday, celebrating with a crowd officials estimated to be between 750,000 and 1 million on a parade route through downtown. The parade ended on the steps of City Hall, where Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, owner Jim Crane, manager A.J. Hinch and several players spoke to the crowd.
"Hey Houston, we did it," Hinch told the crowd. "These guys did it. Let me tell you something: Did you guys ever step up today for our team and our team stepped up for you in this city. We're going to be forever linked as a championship city because of 2017. So don't forget where you were when we made that last out and we became the 2017 World Series champions."
Astros players and staff rode in fire trucks through the streets, while orange and white confetti rained down on them. Fans waved flags and carried signs throughout the crowd, draping banners from parking structures. The crowd was so big that city officials expanded the parade by two blocks.
"It was the most memorable experience of my life," said shortstop Carlos Correa. "Seeing the fans with tears in their eyes and screaming at the top of their lungs is something I will never forget. It was unbelievable."
Crane, who purchased the team late in 2011 and hired general manager Jeff Luhnow to oversee an ambitious rebuilding project, lauded the crowd.
"The fans have been great all season and gave us the extra little kick to get over the edge -- the region, the state, everybody," Crane said. "The 'Houston Strong' [emblem] on the uniform helped the guys get over the edge. We've got a great team and these guys have worked hard all year."
In addition to the coaching staff and most of the current players, Hall of Famers Jeff Bagwell, Nolan Ryan and Craig Biggio rode in the parade as well.
Speaking in front of thousands of fans, many of whom were cooling off in the reflection pool at City Hall, Dallas Keuchel, the longest-tenured pitcher on the team, started off his comments with a simple question.
"What the hell took us so long to win a World Series?" he asked the crowd with a smile.
Keuchel then took a video of the crowd cheering for teammate Justin Verlander, who wasn't at the celebration because he's getting married to model Kate Upton this weekend in Italy.
World Series Most Valuable Player George Springer said he wanted to thank all the fans who believed in the Astros when no one else would.
"From the second we stepped foot on that field this year, we wanted to do something for everybody here," Springer said. "It's about time we brought something home for the great city of Houston. Houston, we have a championship team and no one can take that away from us."
Hinch said he took the Commissioner's Trophy to his home in the Houston suburb of The Woodlands on Thursday night. On Friday morning, Hinch had breakfast with former Astros manager Phil Garner, who guided the Astros to the 2005 World Series, so he could share the trophy with him.
"I called Jeff on the way home and said, 'Listen, I got the trophy in case there's some sort of issue,'" Hinch joked. "I took it over to some really close friends of ours and their kids got to see it, my kids got to see it. I know this trophy is going to get passed around. I sort of hijacked it because I was the last one in the clubhouse [Thursday night]. I happened to walk by it and said, 'I'm going to take it.'"
Turner, who pleaded for the Astros to return home to play in the days after Hurricane Harvey ravaged the city with floodwaters in August, proclaimed Nov. 3, 2017, as "Houston Astros' Day" in the city. The Astros wore a patch with the word "Strong" on their jerseys and the Texas silhouette on their chests for the final two months of the regular season and throughout the postseason.
"When the city needed a pickup, when the city needed someone to elevate us to another level, the Astros stepped up," Turner said. "On the first Saturday immediately following the hurricane, the Astros came home and won a doubleheader against the Mets and they have not stopped since. Boston didn't stop them, the New York Yankees did stop them and now we're here today."
Texas governor Greg Abbott proclaimed Nov. 3, 2017, as "Houston Astros' Day" across the state. The Astros are the first team from Texas to win the World Series.
"This is a victory that's far bigger than Houston, Texas," Abbott said. "This is a victory as big as the Lone Star State altogether."
A trip to the White House could be in the future as well. Keuchel, Springer and Lance McCullers Jr. are among the Astros who said they would attend if invited.
"What comes out of this moving forward, on the political side or what we do or don't do, or what sports has turned into to representing the country's tone, will have to be decided in time," Hinch said. "We're not going to allow anything to polarize this moment we want to share with our fans."
The last person to address the crowd was Astros outfielder Josh Reddick, who was wearing, of course, a championship wrestling belt.
"Houston," he said. "We don't have a problem. We have a championship."
The celebration will continues today when Springer, Correa and Jose Altuve will represent the Astros in a parade at Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.