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Papelbon dance: He plays it to the kilt

Red Sox pitchers Jonathan Papelbon (foreground) and Mike Timlin celebrated as they rolled past City Hall on a flatbed truck. Red Sox pitchers Jonathan Papelbon (foreground) and Mike Timlin celebrated as they rolled past City Hall on a flatbed truck. (JOHN BLANDING/GLOBE STAFF)

As the flatbed truck came to a halt in Copley Square and the Dropkick Murphys tore into the first few chords of "I'm Shipping Up To Boston," Red Sox nation turned its eyes to the two most famous legs in Boston sports.

It was time for Jonathan Papelbon to dance.

The 26-year-old closer - and his version of an Irish jig - have become a defining image of the Sox run to a second World Series championship in four years, and stole the show at the team's victory parade yesterday.

Where 2004 had "The Idiots" and "Cowboy Up," the 2007 team has a wild Louisiana kid who likes to dance in spandex (he wore jeans and a kilt for the parade).

The Papelbon dance premiered at Fenway Park last month after the Sox clinched the American League East title, when he jigged around the infield wearing only a T-shirt, spandex shorts, and swim goggles. He reprised the performance after the team beat the Cleveland Indians for the American League pennant, and promised he'd do it again if the Red Sox won the World Series.

Thirty-six hours after he struck out the Colorado Rockies' Seth Smith to close Game Four, Papelbon delivered on that promise in Copley Square, the first of three performances on the parade route.

With little room to move on the truck he shared with the Dropkick Murphys, the World Series version of the dance was heavy on air guitar and light on Irish jig, but the crowd didn't seem to mind.

"I thought it was well executed," said Ryan McCarthy, 26, of Wayland, who was a minor celebrity along the parade route himself. McCarthy and his father, Kevin, 60, have been carrying the paper cutout of Papelbon with the two dancing legs that has been a fixture in the stands during the playoffs. When Papelbon saw the two men holding his likeness in Copley Square, he stopped dancing just long enough to point at the men.

"It's not the dancing people relate to," said Ryan McCarthy. "It's the passion."

Papelbon has said his dance moves come from the voices in his head. Fair enough; everyone who knows Papelbon says he marches to the beat of his own drummer. But Peggy Woods, who runs the Woods School of Irish Dance in Southie, said he's obviously mimicking an Irish step dance. And, according to Woods, he's "a pretty good faker."

"If we were to train him, he'd need to learn to put his hands by his side and keep them stiff," Woods said. "But he swings those legs up nice and high, and he stays on the music.

"The key to a performance is to get the crowd going," Woods added, "and he can already do that."

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