Related: Live Updates, Slideshow, And Video From Today’s Giants Ticker Tape Parade

San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza seemed to be the center of an orange and black universe today as throngs of people poured in for a ceremony to honor the Giants’ historic World Series win.

Thousands arrived early and waited for hours in the hot sun – even the winds that normally whip through the neighborhood were absent.

Rally rags were draped over heads for some shade, and the crowd passed the time watching the parade that preceded the ceremony on two hanging Jumbotron screens.

Fans climbed flagpoles, light poles and overhangs to get a better view. As the hours passed, the windows and rooftops of nearby buildings became dotted with spectators.

And then…the heroes arrived. Screams filled the air as each player was introduced.
One of the first speakers was a hoarse-voiced Mayor Gavin Newsom, who wore an orange tie and looked positively giddy onstage with the Giants.

“The torture is over,” Newsom said.

He might just as well have been talking about himself and the lieutenant governor’s race, which he won on Tuesday, leaving open the question of who will take over the mayor’s seat.

Newsom’s nomination: Giants closer Brian Wilson, who is known for his signature dyed-black beard.

“This town is gonna need another mayor soon, and I have three words: Fear the beard,” Newsom said.

When Wilson later took the stage, however, sporting a Mohawk and what appeared to be oversized silver high-top sneakers, he said he wasn’t interested.

“I don’t think I am up for that job. But I think I know a man who is…Where’s the Machine?” he asked, to an explosion of cheers and laughter.

Wilson was referring to a leather-clad character who made a cameo in the background while Wilson was being interviewed remotely by Fox Sports’ Chris Rose on his “Cheap Seats” show in August.

Even Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was greeted by some “boos,” turned the crowd in his favor by making a reference to the mysterious character.

“I thought I was the only Machine in the world,” the “Terminator” star said.

Indeed, Giants fans didn’t mind a bit when the formalities of the ceremony devolved into R-rated inside jokes and, eventually, thong-waving by first baseman Aubrey Huff, who threw the crowd into a frenzy by pulling his red “Rally Thong” out of his pants.

Most of the players who spoke kept it short and sweet, including beloved pitcher Tim Lincecum, who made a few remarks then closed with, “All I can say is thank you, and go San Francisco!”

There were repeated references to Wilson’s artificially dark beard, including by Giants manager Bruce Bochy.

“We do apologize for the torture,” Bochy said. “If you did get a little gray hair, I can bring in my closer, I think he can help you with that.”

General manager Brian Sabean congratulated his team on their tenacity.

“They were like junkyard dogs on a bone; they wouldn’t let go,” he said. “It took a village mentality to raise this team.”

He said the Giants’ culture this year was based on the attitude that there’s “no difference between the batboy and the owner.”

One of the more poignant moments occurred before the ceremony when the sprawling crowd sang in unison to a recording of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” which has become the Giants’ anthem.

Former Journey frontman Steve Perry attended the ceremony.

A small crowd waited in a restricted area for the Giants to exit City Hall after the festivities had ended, including 17-year-old Alex Levesque, of Martinez.

Levesque watched from his wheelchair, surrounded by family members, as the heroes strode past. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval, affectionately known as “Panda,” spotted Levesque and stopped.

He hugged Levesque and paused for a photo.

Levesque, who said he has been a Giants fan his whole life, was thrilled.

“It was so exciting,” he said with a grin.

Photo of Aubrey Huff, Rally Thing: Chris Roberts for the Appeal

Melissa McRobbie, Bay City News

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