At 11:17 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 28, as Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale dealt the Los Angeles Dodgers their third out at the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 5 of the 2018 World Series, the University of New Hampshire’s student body erupted into ecstatic celebration, leading a blockbuster rave through the streets of Durham and the heart of campus that broke a near weeks’ worth of anticipation and die-hard anxiety.
The Red Sox on Sunday obtained their fourth World Series title in 15 years, beating the Dodgers 5 to 1 in Game 5, winning the series overall with a score of 4 to 1.
Prior to the final pitch, students huddled wherever they could find a screen, with a sizable throng of nearly 100 students crowding around the wall-mounted TVs at Libby’s Bar and Grill, hoping to find a decent view of the action. All the while, nearly half a dozen local and state police officers stood guard nearby the bar and other Main Street storefronts, awaiting the inevitable surge of excitement with confidence and expectations of acceptable behavior from students regardless of the outcome.
Chris Vetter, a captain with the New Hampshire State Police, was one of those half-dozen officers stationed on Main Street, and told The New Hampshire minutes prior to the final pitch that, despite the short-lived calmness, he expected proper conduct from students.
“I’m hopeful they’ll…be well-behaved, I have no doubt they will be,” Vetter said at the time. “Hopefully they’ll celebrate responsibly, which is what we’re going to allow them to do, and then hopefully that’ll go without any type of major incident.”
When students from Libby’s and all around campus did congregate in the center of Main Street in front of the Durham House of Pizza (DHOP), it may have been more or less without a “major incident,” but it was as far from mundane as humanly possible.
As the crowd swelled from the Libby’s crowd into a mish-mash of over 500 students from every corner of campus, most could be seen jumping up and down in zealous excitement, leading chants such as “Let’s go, Red Sox” and “Yankees suck” while periodically singing along to Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” the unofficial Red Sox anthem. In between the bursts of baseball-based patriotism, rap beats blared through portable stereos a number of students held above their heads while students body-surfed and were hoisted up on others’ shoulders for a better view – or in some cases, a better angle for their social media posts.
Regardless if they were in the midst of the crowd or on the sidelines, students like senior nursing major Carli Cappelletti and her friends shared a united feeling of fervent relief.
“This is unreal; it’s really cool to get to see this,” Cappelletti, who labelled herself as a “big Red Sox fan,” said, adding that she was “waiting to see if it gets as big as the Patriots winning the Super Bowl two years ago.”
Another student, sophomore political science major Charlotte Rice, said she was proud to see the community come together and proud of “all the spirit we have” in celebrating the title win.
Not all the avid outbursts reflected the spirit of the game, however. Not even 10 minutes in, one student was already climbing a tree in front of DHOP, encouraged by impassioned chants of “f*** that tree” followed by “U-S-A!” It was not long before another student climbed the same tree, and the same chants returned. All the while, beer of various brands flew in every direction, surrounded by the smoke of several students’ cigarettes and vape devices.
In the meantime, police could be seen escorting smaller groups of students away from the mob, though no arrests were reported over the course of the night, as reported by Foster’s Daily Democrat on Oct. 29.
After a unrelenting half-hour of commemoration and controlled chaos, a line of local and state police ushered the mass of students off of Main Street. In the midst of their exodus, the crowd split into two: one headed toward the direction of the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics, while another equally sized swath strode down Quad Way and Campus Crossing, and continuing their sing-alongs of “Sweet Caroline” and baseball chants.
The latter batch soon made their way to the Upper Quad dorms, where students stormed up the steps and reenacted a miniature version of their Main Street rally, complete with portable boom boxes and shouts of “f*** the Yankees,” among other phrases. As for the cherry on top, one unidentified fan ripped a parking sign from the ground and, as he was hoisted up into the center of the crowd, pumped it up and down in the air with a look of exhilaration that perfectly matched the crowd’s mood.
Unlike the first time, the second round did not last nearly as long, as police quickly forced the crowd out of Upper Quad and watched as the swath, still retaining most of its members, made its way up Quad Way, through B Lot adjacent to McConnell Hall, and toward Christensen Hall, where students abruptly started sprinting toward a courtyard surrounded by Christensen and Williamson Halls, and the Philbrook Dining Hall. After noticing increased police presence encircling the area, the crowd scattered in all directions, leaving only small factions of remaining individuals that ultimately went their separate ways.
In the aftermath of Sunday’s events, and in speaking with UNH Police Chief Paul Dean and Durham PD Deputy Chief Rene Kelley, Fosters’ reported that the lack of arrests reflected a “no issues” atmosphere where student celebrations were viewed as “all jubilant” and never once perceived as “hostile” or violent.
As chaotic and volatile as Sunday appeared to be for many, the absence of official arrests and reports of substantial property damage made the night’s events look tame in comparison to past celebrations. In 2004, when the Red Sox broke their 86-year curse after beating the St. Louis Cardinals, TNH staff writer Mark Daniels reported that similar gatherings on Wednesday, Oct. 27 featuring roughly 3,000 people resulted in two dumpster fires, two arrests and a torn-down sign; police presence that year featured officers on horseback and canine companions that bit several students’ legs over the course of the evening. Similar festivities in Oct. 2007 failed to garner any arrests either, although two dumpster fires were reported.
Neither event compared, however, to the World Series celebrations of Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, in which another crowd of 3,000 students quickly devolved peaceful celebrations into what Erika Mantz of UNH Public Relations labelled a “downtown disturbance,” according to a Nov. 1 piece in The New Hampshire by then-executive editor Susan Doucet and then-arts editor Charlie Weinmann. That night, five students faced arrest and charges of disorderly conduct, several on-duty officers received minor cuts, and rowdy partiers dealt minor damage to nearby cars caught in the path of the crowd. The night also showcased occasional fireworks and initial student resistance to police requests to disperse the Main Street area, resulting in the use of pepper spray and pepper balls by officers in riot gear to break up the crowd.