An estimated 45,000 Gamecock fans swarmed Main Street in downtown Columbia to celebrate the University of South Carolina’s second national championship in baseball.
Main Street was a sea of garnet Friday as fans braved the 95 degree temperature to watch a victory parade in the Gamecocks’ honor. USC took the College World Series title after sweeping Florida in the championship Tuesday.
The parade was capped off by a ceremony on the Statehouse steps featuring the team. Columbia officials spared little expense to celebrate USC’s second-ever national title in a major sport… which came only a year after its first.
Governor Nikki Haley, a Clemson grad, ordered the USC flag flown above the Statehouse dome and declared Friday as “Gamecock Baseball Back-to-Back National Champions Day.”
It was nearly identical to a parade for the baseball team in 2010 celebrating what was then the Gamecocks’ first-ever title in a men’s sport. This was not lost on Columbia mayor Steve Benjamin, who led the crowd in chants of “Three-peat!”
USC Coach Ray Tanner told the crowd, “This must be heaven.”
There were a few differences this year, as dozens of floats took part this time, including several area governments, beauty pageant contestants, and local youth All-Star baseball teams.
One participant that caught onlookers’ attention was a fishing boat sponsored by a the High Noon Gift Shop in Irmo.
Buster Rhame helped tow the boat, which had several toy alligators (Florida’s mascot) dangling from fishing poles. He explained the metaphor.
They dried up the gator hole. There is no more swamp and we had the last gators hanging out to dry.
Rhame said his father and brother both played baseball for the school and his grandchildren want to go there as well. A longtime Columbia native, he said the parade was a standout moment in the city’s history.
“I’ve never seen anything like this, not in Columbia. It’s once in a lifetime,” he said, before quickly correcting himself, “Well, hopefully, it will be one of many.”
USC alum Polly Fanning was among the throng at the Statehouse. She had trouble putting her feelings into words.
Baseball just… I can’t describe it, really. It’s just amazing that they won back-to-back.
The parade came two days after a celebration was held at the Colonial Life Arena to welcome the team back from Omaha, Nebraska.