In the end, there was no fireworks display or raucous celebration. No blue-and-white confetti showers, no strangers wrapping each other in bear hugs, no partying like it was 1985.
No, when the San Francisco Giants finished off the Royals, 3-2, in game 7 of the World Series a little after 10:15 p.m. Wednesday, there was only the stunned silence of a Royals fan base that had come to believe — during the logic-defying past four weeks — that this team had been tapped by destiny.
In the sobering moments after Kansas City catcher Salvador Perez fouled out to third base, with the tying run standing just 90 feet away, the vast majority of the 40,535 in attendance at Kauffman Stadium seemed unsure of what, exactly, to do. They bowed their heads. Or buried them in their hands. They looked at one another in disbelief. Or looked at the ground. More than one had tears in their eyes.
A small contingent still chanted “Let’s go Royals” after the game ended.
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But on the field — and around the city — fans began to contemplate, maybe for the first time, that the crazy ride of the past four weeks was officially over.
Some left the stadium quickly. “Let’s go,” a dad said to his son.
Zach Romey of Kansas City, North, stayed a while longer. Age 24 now, as a boy, he ate and breathed the Royals. Even though he lives in Denver now, he came to every Royals postseason game except those in Baltimore.
At the last out, he stared into space. Then slowly hung his head and stuffed his sign and rally towel into a white plastic bag.
“After all that,” he said, “and it’s just over.”
Not quite yet.
An hour after the game, Royals Manager Ned Yost emerged from the home dugout to wave and blew a kiss to the few hundred Royals fans who remained.
Outside the stadium, fans absorbed the loss in a number of ways.
Fire Station 18
When Salvador Perez’s popup landed in the glove of the Giants’ Pablo Sandoval for the final out, the firefighters at 31st Street and Indiana Avenue fell silent — and prepared for what they believed was inevitable.
Stepping outside, they could hear the sound of gunfire, despite the Royals’ loss.
Just minutes earlier, as the alarm bells stayed quiet with the home team coming to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning, the firefighters stood and clapped. Like so many others across the city, they groaned with each out.
Then, Alex Gordon came to bat, skipping a hit in front of the center fielder that eventually rolled all the way to the wall.
Gordon chugged to third, and the firefighters rejoiced.
But the celebration was short-lived. Soon after, with a popup from Salvador Perez, it was over.
“You don’t get any closer than that,” said firefighter Luqman Muhammed.
Still another firefighter was focused already on the night ahead: “Now we’ll be dealing with angry drunks instead of happy ones.”
Negro Leagues museum
As the game ended, Saundra Williams sank to her knees for a moment.
She quickly got up, not wanting to stay down too long: “That’s all right. I’ll see you next year.”
Minutes before, the mood at the museum was upbeat, turning especially jubilant for that moment in the ninth inning when it looked as if the Royals might tie the game.
The crowd of about 100 men, women and children leaped to their feet with cries of “We believe.”
But even after those hopes were dashed, Williams, 50, sounded upbeat. She said she’s a lifelong fan and it’s been an amazing season.
“We didn’t win,” she said, “but we’re still winners.”
At the Brookside eatery just off 63rd Street, fans on the second floor were screaming as loud as they could at the giant flat screen that hung on the wall.
It was the bottom of the ninth and everyone in the place was on their feet. “Let’s go Royals.”
When it was over, they stood silent. Nobody moved for a few seconds.
Katlin O’Malley cried. It was her 28th birthday.
“I was looking forward to what it would mean for Kansas City if they won,” she said. “But all the excitement isn’t just going to go away. This was amazing. From wild card to the World Series. We already won.”
Mará Rose Williams
University of Kansas Hospital
At their station in the emergency room, nurses Danielle Gilder and Cindy Mosciaro had a spread of hot dogs and peanuts. The game played on a cellphone propped up on the desk.
Fortunately, it wasn’t too busy for a Wednesday night, and by the bottom of the ninth, the staff’s attention was definitely turning to the Royals.
A small crowd huddled around the computer of nursing supervisor Gretchen Brown. She tapped her fingernails, painted Royals blue, anxiously on her desk. “Oh, they worked so hard, so hard. They need to win. We deserve it.”
With the final out, there were audible sighs and groans through the ER.
“My heart is broken for my Royals,” Gilder said. “It was a good season, a magical season. You can’t complain.”
Amid a capacity crowd at the Waldo bar and grill, Martha Aguirre knew what would come next.
She moved to Kansas City as a preschooler but was born in San Francisco. Most of her family still lives there.
“My phone is going to blow up with texts of ‘we told you so,’” said Aguirre as her phone lit up with a message from a cousin. “But of course I’m still a Royals fan. They came all this way.”
Within minutes, more than half of the Well crowd had filed out, many to head home when they had hoped to stay up till the wee hours celebrating.
“We came a long way and it wasn’t an easy season,” said Jacob Hamilton of Kansas City. “But of course I am devastated.”
Buffalo Wild Wings
Fans packed the popular restaurant and bar at 137th and Metcalf in Overland Park, ready for a celebration. They cheered for every strike, every out, chanting “Let’s go Royals.”
And then along came Madison Bumgarner. “Tough to watch,” one fan mumbled as he headed for the door.
And when it was over, the room fell silent for several seconds. Some hung their heads, a few wiped away tears. But then the place broke into applause.
“Sure, we’d like to have won it,” said Tom Skram. “But it’s not super disappointing. This has been an amazing season. We’re really proud of the team.”
Scott O’Neill watched the game with his wife, 12-year old twins and father from Jefferson City.
“Who’d have thought that we’d be here right now?” he asked. “And the good news is, I think we’ll be back.”
Judy L. Thomas
A home near The K
Betty Bright, 80, knew Gordon did somethng good in the bottom of the ninth because from her house on the bluff above the stadium she heard the roar of the crowd below.
Her cable runs about 30 seconds behind.
She squeezed the Billy Butler bear around her neck as Perez batted with Gordon on third. When he popped out for the final out, she pursed her lips and scowled.
“They just swung at too many high ones,” she said.
Last year, Bright was given six to nine months to live, and her family said its goodbyes. Then came spring. And like years before, she watched every game. And then she and the Royals got on a roll about the same time.
During a visit to her house after the wild card game, she said: “I’m here and I’m going to watch it all.”
Power & Light District
On Wednesday night, like throughout the Royals’ postseason run, fans poured into the downtown entertainment complex by the thousands, overflowing into the streets, anticipating a celebration.
The potential powder keg, so close to exploding in celebration, instead gave way to somber resignation.
But their pride was unbroken.
Michael Moss II, 28, dressed in a sheer blue-man body suit, wiped at a tear beneath his mask as he talked of what this Royals team meant to him.
“It’s magical what they did,” he said. “They fought and fought. They inspired a whole city.”
The Star’s Rick Montgomery contributed to this report.