City Royals' Norichika Aoki celebrates with fans after
the Royals defeated the Baltimore Orioles 2-1 in Game
4 of the American League baseball championship series
Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. The
Royals advance to the World Series.
CITY, Mo. — The game had been over for hours. Kauffman
Stadium had gone dark. The roars of a sold-out crowd, which
had rooted the Kansas City Royals to a sweep of the mighty
Los Angeles Angels, had drifted away into the cool night
A few miles
away, at a bar and grill called McFadden's, the party was
Holland had showed up, the All-Star closer watching with a
grin as highlights of the game played on television.
Salvador Perez and Jarrod Dyson, both integral parts in the
Royals' playoff push, posed with fans for more pictures than
they could count. First baseman Eric Hosmer put down his
credit card and for a full hour picked up the tab for
hundreds of strangers.
fun to get to enjoy it with the whole entire city. It's a
special time," Hosmer said a few days later. "I
think the buildup to this, it's been so long. They've been
hungry for a winner. What we're doing now has just been a
So much so
that Hosmer didn't mind his credit card taking a hit — he
shared the $15,000 bar bill with some teammates — after
beating the Angels in their AL Divisional Series.
realize how bad the fans want it, how bad the city wants
it," Hosmer explained. "I think this team
symbolizes the attitude of this city — tough, we're not
going to quit and we're going to fight to the end. It's a
pretty special bond we've created."
pretty rare bond, too, in modern professional sports.
City Royals fans celebrate with the team as they hold
the trophy after the Royals defeated the Baltimore
Orioles to win the American League baseball
championship series Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in
Kansas City, Mo.
Royals prepare to play the San Francisco Giants in the World
Series on Tuesday night, capping their first postseason
appearance since winning the title in 1985, the relationship
they have established with their long-suffering fans harkens
back to a bygone era.
reminiscent of a time when players lived in the same
neighborhood as working-class fans, because they too were
working class. When they had to find offseason jobs just to
make ends meet, long before million-dollar contracts. When
you walked into the barbershop or the supermarket and would
see Duke Snider or Red Schoendienst getting a trim or
perusing the vegetables.
players and fans are connecting over drinks at a bar in the
trendy Power and Light District of Kansas City. Or they're
connecting on Twitter in 140-word bursts.
about that one? Well, life-long Royals fan Nicholas Knapple
didn't have the cash for playoff tickets, so he messaged a
few players on Twitter with a plea. One of them was Brandon
Finnegan. The rookie pitcher promptly hooked him up.
found himself watching Game 3 of the AL Championship Series
against the Baltimore Orioles with his girlfriend and
Finnegan's mom — and an entire section filled with friends
and family of other Royals players.
City Royals' Salvador Perez holds the trophy as he
celebrates with fans after the Royals defeated the
Baltimore Orioles 2-1 in Game 4 of the American League
baseball championship series Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014,
in Kansas City, Mo. The Royals advance to the World
the seventh inning, his mom told us we were going downstairs
for the celebration," Knapple said in a phone
interview. "So after the game, we got to go down
outside the clubhouse. We got to meet Danny Duffy, take
pictures. It was unbelievable."
unbelievable as the Royals' postseason run.
marriage between the Royals and their fans was a rocky
relationship earlier this summer. Third baseman Mike
Moustakas was getting booed off the field. Manager Ned Yost
had gone back to using an alias when he ordered at
Starbucks. Even longtime designated hitter Billy Butler was
starting to feel the wrath of a fan base that had been
pining for success.
fans popped onto the Royals' radar, and things seemed to
One was Tim
Grimes, a 28-year-old fan battling Stage 4 cancer. Doctors
gave him a 5 percent chance of surviving the next 18 months.
He is spending it relishing every pitch and every hit.
was SungWoo Lee, a fan from South Korea. He wakes up in the
middle of the night, every night, to watch the Royals
online. In August, he finally made it to Kansas City.
was coincidence, perhaps it was fate. But at the same time
their stories were told, the Royals started to win. They
climbed out of a deep hole in the AL Central, made a big
push for the pennant, and then qualified for the wild-card
rallied from a four-run hole to beat the Oakland Athletics
in 12 dramatic innings.
think that's really when it all came together," said
Bob Fescoe, the host of a popular morning talk show on 610
Sports in Kansas City. "The players saw the way the
fans reacted, and the way fans cheered for them and stayed
through that entire game."
they keep staying through games, until long after they're
over. When the Royals clinched their first pennant in 29
years, security had to begin ushering them out of the
ballpark so the cleaning crews could begin their work.
There was almost certainly a party they could go to
that some of the Royals were already there.