All of Cleveland was abuzz over the Indians' first playoff appearance since 1954.
But as the clock ticked past 2 a.m. local time, many in the sellout crowd had gotten their fill of postseason play, heading for home with the score tied, 4-4, after 12 innings of Game 1 of the Indians-Boston Red Sox playoff series.
A sizable number stuck around on a soggy night, watching a slow-paced, tactical game twice delayed by rain. Perhaps the Indians felt they owed their fans something extra.
Each team built a small lead only to lose it later.
Boston led, 2-0, in the third inning but Cleveland rallied for a 3-2 lead in the sixth. Boston tied it, 3-3, in the eighth, then went ahead in the top of the 11th, but Cleveland rallied to even the score, 4-4, in the bottom of the 11th.
Boston's Tim Naehring gave the Red Sox a 4-3 lead with a bases-empty home run off Cleveland reliever Jim Poole with one out in the top of the 11th inning.
But Albert Belle tied it, 4-4, for Cleveland with a blast into the left-field stands off Boston closer Rick Aguilera in the bottom of the inning. He led the majors with 50 homers in the regular season.
Following Belle's home run, the umpires confiscated his bat at the request of Boston Manager Kevin Kennedy. Belle also had his bat confiscated in Chicago during the 1994 season.
A steady drizzle fell most of the day, forcing a 39-minute wait to start the game. But the record crowd of 44,218 at Jacobs Field didn't seem to mind, chanting "Let's go Tribe," cheering the grounds crew as it removed the tarp and snapping pictures of the packed ballpark.
What's 39 minutes when you've been waiting 41 years to see your team in postseason play?
Cleveland starter Dennis Martinez rode a wave of sound as he led his teammates out of the dugout to begin the Indians' first playoff game since they were swept in four games by the New York Yankees in 1954.
Flash bulbs popped and the crowd roared again when Martinez delivered the game's first pitch, a ball, to Boston's Dwayne Hosey at 8:44 p.m. (EDT).
"I've felt something special, probably, since the day we clinched this thing," Cleveland Manager Mike Hargrove said of the Indians' playoff appearance. "I have a heightened sense of expectation and excitement. I'm really looking forward to this."
He wasn't alone.
You couldn't go anywhere in northeast Ohio Tuesday without seeing the smiling, politically incorrect mug of Chief Wahoo. Cleveland's mascot was worn on T-shirts and caps, jackets and bumper stickers and even lawn signs on quiet suburban streets.
Neither Martinez nor Boston starter Roger Clemens lasted past the seventh inning. Martinez went six innings, giving up two runs and five hits with two strikeouts.
Clemens retired the first nine batters he faced, gave up two singles in the fourth, but kept rolling until giving up three runs in the sixth. He pitched seven innings, give up three runs on five hits.
"Roger's pitched extremely well his last 10 starts," Kennedy said before the game. "His velocity is back and he's healthy. He the heart and soul of the Boston Red Sox. Historically, when he's on, he can beat anybody.
"He's the guy I want in Game 1."
Boston took a 2-0 lead on shortstop John Valentin's two-run homer off Martinez in the third. It was the first postseason home run by a Boston shortstop since Rico Petrocelli homered in the 1967 World Series.
In the sixth, Clemens retired leadoff hitter Kenny Lofton on a slow roller to second, but after a walk to Omar Vizquel he began to falter.
The Indians pounced.
Carlos Baerga sent a grounder toward shortstop, but with Vizquel running on the pitch, Valentin had gone to cover second and the ball found its way to left field.
Belle, who shared the AL runs-batted-in title with Boston's Mo Vaughn, followed by one-hopping a two-run double off the left-center field wall. Belle then went to third when catcher Mike Macfarlane dropped the throw home trying to get Baerga.
Eddie Murray hit the next pitch from Clemens into right field, scoring Belle.
Julian Tavarez pitched a 1-2-3 seventh, but gave up a lead-off homer to No. 9 hitter Luis Alicea to start the eighth.
There wasn't much doubt about whether the ball would clear the wall. Right fielder Manny Ramirez retreated a few steps, then stopped to watch the ball land in the Red Sox bullpen beyond the right-field fence.