KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A city best known for its barbecue, bebop jazz and, for a while now, bad baseball has become a sea of Royals blue as long-suffering fans suddenly find their team in the World Series.
Kansas City's improbable playoff run stoked a pride that has strangers giving each other high-fives and police officers taking to social media to thank residents for abstaining from crime — at least on the days the Royals play.
Twenty-nine years after the Royals beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1985 World Series, a whole new generation is learning how to celebrate winning baseball for the first time. Team gear is flying off sporting-goods store shelves and sports bars around town shook as the Royals clinched the American League pennant in the middle of Wednesday's happy hour.
"We're all so excited we can hardly stand it," Gail Locascio said Thursday morning as she sifted through Royals window decals at a Dick's Sporting Goods store in Merriam, Kansas.
The 61-year-old Overland Park, Kansas, resident was loading up on T-shirts to send to her two sons, longtime Royals fans who have moved away. Her youngest son lives in Hawaii and was surprised Wednesday when his wife gave him tickets to Game 4 of the World Series.
Her daughter-in-law bought them through the San Francisco Giants, who are up 3-1 on the Cardinals in the NL championship series. That's one reason Locascio is rooting for the Giants; the other is that she doesn't want a repeat of the 1985 I-70 series.
"Been there, done that," she said.
Up the road in Mission, Kansas, dozens of people milled around half-empty racks of blue T-shirts at an apparel store that opened nearly three hours earlier than normal Thursday.
Nicole Green, a manager at the store, said 10 to 15 people were waiting outside when she arrived at 6:45 a.m. Though the store usually opens at 10 a.m., Green said customers were allowed inside at 7:15 a.m. to wait for the first shipment of shirts, which arrived soon afterward.
In the Kansas City suburb of Raymore, Missouri, two trash collectors were surprised when they showed up at John Keesee's home Wednesday morning and found two brand-new Royals jerseys hanging from a trash container.
Keesee, an Alabama native who goes by "Bubba John," said he knew the men didn't have Royals shirts and he wanted to thank them for serving him so well the past few years.
"They're real good to me," said Keesee, a 56-year-old golf pro who also owns a seafood business. "With my seafood business, my trash is trashy, but they never miss a day."
The Kansas City mayor's office is urging people to illuminate their homes and businesses in blue, much like the new owners of the historic downtown Power and Light Building did last weekend.
Rodney Pullen, who works for Northpoint Development, said the idea of cloaking the top of the city's original skyscraper in blue came up last Thursday. He spent the weekend at the top of the dormant, 36-story structure installing 500 light bulbs encased in a blue, heat-resistant gel.
"We thought it would be really cool to make it blue for the boys coming home from Baltimore," he said.
The self-identified City of Fountains also has turned six of its most popular fountains a deep blue and has plans to bottle some of that water, the mayor's office said.
"The mayor is absolutely thrilled that the hometown team is in the World Series and is so proud that our team has now become America's team," Mayor Sly James' spokeswoman, Joni Wickham, said Thursday.