KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) This Midwestern city best known for its barbecue, bebop jazz and, for most of the past three decades, bad baseball has exploded into a sea of blue as long-suffering Royals fans suddenly find their team at the center of the sports universe.
Kansas City's improbable playoff run stoked a community pride that has blue-clad strangers giving high-fives on the street while police officers thank residents on social media for abstaining from crime - at least on days when the team is playing.
Twenty-nine years after the Royals beat St. Louis in the 1985 World Series, a whole new generation of Kansas City fans is learning how to celebrate winning baseball for the first time.
Sporting goods stores are seeing team gear flying off the shelves, while sports bars around town shook Wednesday afternoon as the Royals won the AL pennant smack dab in the middle of happy hour.
''We're all so excited we can hardly stand it,'' a beaming 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 from the area. Her youngest son, Keith, lives in Hawaii and was surprised by his wife on Wednesday when she gave him tickets to Game 4 of the World Series in San Francisco.
That's one reason she's rooting for the Giants to win the National League pennant, which they did Thursday night.
A mile up the road in Mission, Kansas, dozens of people milled around half-empty racks of blue T-shirts at a Kansas Sampler apparel store that opened nearly three hours earlier than normal on Thursday.
Nicole Green, a manager at the store, said 10 to 15 people were already waiting outside when she got to work 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.
''We were waiting, and we invited them to come in and wait with us,'' Green said.
In the Kansas City suburb of Raymore, Missouri, two trash collectors were surprised when they showed up at John Keesee's home on Wednesday morning and found two brand-new Royals jerseys hanging from one of the trash containers.
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 business, Bubba John Seafood, which transports seafood from Alabama to Kansas City. ''With my seafood business, my trash is trashy, but they never miss a day.''
Kansas City Mayor Sly James' 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 city, which also identifies itself as the City of Fountains, 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,'' the mayor's spokeswoman, Joni Wickham, said Thursday.