For Pete's Sake

Data show Royals' fandom spreading in all directions

The areas outlined in white had mostly Cardinals fans a year ago but are now populated by mostly Royals fans in 2015.
The areas outlined in white had mostly Cardinals fans a year ago but are now populated by mostly Royals fans in 2015. jpilgreen@kcstar.com

The Royals are making a push to turn Missouri from a red state to blue.

This, however, has nothing to do with politics; it’s about baseball.

Missouri long has been dominated by Cardinals fans. But the tide is turning with two World Series appearances and one championship by the Royals in the last two years.

Slowly.

In 2014, The New York Times made a wonderful interactive map of baseball fandom across the United States broken down by ZIP code. The Times used aggregated data provided by Facebook — that is, users who “like” a team. As it noted, this is an imperfect means, but “likes” do match up well with other data.

That 2014 map found Missouri full of Cardinals fans, while the Royals fans were located predominantly in the western and northwestern part of the state.

However, The Star looked at updated Facebook data and the Royals’ sphere of influence is growing. Not just in Missouri, but in Kansas, Iowa and, most dramatically, in Nebraska.

The impact has been great on the Royals Radio Network.

Read Next

Keith Kowalski’s title is Affiliate Sales and Regional Marketing Manager for the Royals, but in simpler terms he is in charge of building the Royals Radio Network.

Last year, the Royals added 11 new radio affiliates. Kowalski expects to see that number grow in 2016.

“There are certain areas where I see where we have a great amount of growth,” Kowalski said. “Southern Missouri, getting into Iowa, getting further into Oklahoma, and even Arkansas ...”

Kowalski said that some of the farthest outposts of the network have seen a jump in the number of Royals fans.

“Places like Garden City (Kan.), Liberal (Kan.), North Platte (Neb.), McCook (Neb.), just hearing what it’s been like for those stations that are certainly on what I call the outpost of the Royals’ fandom, what it’s been like for them,” he said. “Really seeing for for those stations what it’s been like for them to carry the broadcasts, the turn in Royals fandom has definitely increased in those markets.”

Here is a look at some specific states:

Missouri

Since the start of the 2014 season, the Royals have pushed the dividing line between them and Cardinals east in Missouri, making gains into cities such as Sedalia and Marshall. OK, it’s not a huge gain, but remember that the Cardinals were in the NLCS a year ago and won 100 games this season, so the Royals won’t turn the tide overnight.

Still, Royals fan Jeff Stubblefield has noticed a difference in Marshall, where he lives.

“Around town, there are a lot more blue hats and paraphernalia walking around. They’re everywhere,” said Stubblefield, who said he’s been a fan since the Royals began play in 1969.

“I’ve always been a fan, I’ve always had Royals stuff on. I’ve always had a Royals hat or shirt or the old jacket that I brought out of mothballs that I was still able to wear. The last couple of years has been especially sweet to wear it proudly.”

(NOTE: Here is a map of favorite teams in Missouri. If it is not displaying correctly or if you are interested in The Star’s interactive map, please click or tap here.)

   
 

While the area that the Royals have turned from red to blue hasn’t been huge, it’s interesting to note that they also have significantly reduced the deficit between the number of Cardinals fans and Royals in some of the areas studied.

For example in ZIP code 65322, which encompasses part of Interstate 70 and is just east of U.S. 65, the Cardinals held a 54 percent to 22 percent advantage a year ago. That has been trimmed to 47 percent to 37 percent.

ZIP code 65329 is east of Sedalia and the Cardinals fans made up 57 percent of the survey in 2014 to just 20 percent for the Royals. The new numbers from Oct. 30: Cardinals 41 percent, Royals 31 percent.

It’s like that in many other areas west of Columbia, which one would think to be the natural dividing point in Missouri. But Royals fans are making a comeback.

“To see them have success,” Stubblefield said, “and the city and the Royals fandom just come alive is really cool.”

(A closer look at areas in Missouri can be found below)

Kansas

In the 2014 study, the Royals were squeezed out by Rockies and Rangers fans in western Kansas. But the Royals have taken nearly the entire state, and some areas have seen a huge swing.

Of the 27 western ZIP codes not for the Royals, 21 have broken their way.

For example, ZIP code 67901, which includes Liberal, the breakdown a year ago was: Rangers 18 percent, Royals 17 percent and Yankees 16 percent.

But in the latest numbers, the Royals have surged to 24 percent, followed by the Yankees (17 percent) and Rangers (9 percent).

A couple of others worth noting:

▪ ZIP code 67739 (Herndon) had this breakdown: Rockies 20 percent, Royals 14 percent, Red Sox 13 percent. Now: Royals 63 percent, Rockies 25 percent.

▪ ZIP code 67950 (Elkhart) didn’t include Royals fans among the top three: Rangers 20 percent, Rockies 17 percent, Yankees 15 percent. The 2015 numbers: Royals 28 percent, Yankees 13 percent, Rockies 10 percent.

In southeast Kansas, the Cardinals were the favorites in 17 zip codes a year ago. But 16 of those have changed over to the Royals this year.

(A closer look at the southeast of the state can be found below).

Nebraska

In 2014, the Royals held a small portion of the state, mostly in the south and southeast. Large swaths of the state were split among Cubs, Yankees, Red Sox, Twins and Rockies fans. But the Royals have made inroads.

It’s about a 4  1/2 -hour drive from Kansas City to Grand Island, Neb. The city of about 50,000 has three ZIP codes and there was data on the two biggest.

In 2014, ZIP code 68803 had this fan breakdown: Yankees 16 percent, Cubs 15 percent, Royals 12 percent. Now: Royals 20 percent, Yankees and Cubs 13 percent.

ZIP code 68801 then: Yankees 17 percent, Cubs 15 percent, Red Sox 11 percent. Now: Royals 16 percent, Yankees 13 percent, Cubs 10 percent.

Adam Rauch, district sales manager for Hibbett Sporting Goods, said the store in Grand Island began carrying Royals apparel this year.

“Nebraska doesn’t have its own pro teams, it’s really funny to hear some of the requests of different teams,” Rauch said. “Obviously, the Midwest teams, the Cubs, Cardinals ... (but) when a team is playing well, it’s easy for people to jump on that bandwagon, especially when they are the closest team they’ve got.

“We’ve actually just started to carry the Royals apparel up here, so obviously when the team is playing well, we definitely see a response to that.”

Read Next

Farther north and west, ZIP code 68879 was full of AL East fans in 2014. The Yankees had the most fans (15 percent), followed by the Red Sox (13 percent) and Cubs (13 percent). This year: Royals 53 percent, Red Sox 13 percent and no one else in double digits.

The main city in ZIP code 68879 is Taylor, which is about 100 miles northwest of Grand Island. It’s about 80 miles from the South Dakota border, so that shows how far Royals fandom is gaining in the Cornhusker state.

Head to Lincoln for a look at the intensity of the jump in Royals’ support. Of the 24 ZIP codes that had data for the state capital, none registered the Royals as being the most popular team (and they registered as high as third in just five cases).

The 2015 numbers show the Royals are the favorite in 22 of those ZIP codes.

Iowa

In the 2014 survey, Royals fans dominated a sliver of southwest Iowa. That area has increased considerably. The very southwestern part of Iowa wasn’t even for the Royals last year. The Yankees (17 percent) led the way in ZIP code 51640, followed by the Cubs and Royals (both 14 percent). This year: Royals 27 percent, Yankees and Cardinals 16 percent each.

ZIP code 51566 broke down like this: Yankees 19 percent, Cubs 17 percent, Royals 11 percent. This ZIP code is home to Red Oak (which was the boyhood home of ESPN’s Bradford Doolittle). It is a two-hour drive from Des Moines and it is now Royals territory: Royals 23 percent, Cubs 11 percent, Yankees 10 percent.

Bridgewater is 90 minutes from Des Moines, home of the Cubs’ Class AAA team. The numbers in its ZIP code (50841) a year ago: Cubs 23 percent, Royals 15 percent, Yankees 13 percent. This year: Royals 24 percent, Cardinals 17 percent, Cubs 12 percent.

One final tally. Wiota, Iowa, has a population of 116. It is in ZIP code 50274, and a year ago 30 percent of the residents were Cubs fans, followed by Yankees fans (14 percent) and Cardinals fans (9 percent).

These days? It’s Royals 27 percent and Cubs 18 percent. And it is just an hour west of Des Moines.

Also, it is another sign of the Royals’ surge in popularity in the Midwest.

Arkansas

The Royals should have a built-in fanbase in the part of the state where its Class AA team, Northwest Arkansas, plays. But a quick look at four ZIP codes shows this wasn’t the case in 2014.

ZIP code 72714 in 2014: Cardinals 26 percent, Red Sox 12 percent, Yankees 10 percent. In 2015: Cardinals 24 percent, Royals 13 percent.

ZIP code 72715 in 2014: Cardinals 27 percent, Yankees 11 percent, Red Sox 10 percent. In 2015: Cardinals 22 percent, Royals 14 percent.

Those two ZIP codes are in the Bella Visa area. Head farther south, and you’ll find Cardinals fans are in the majority, but the Royals fans are starting to show up.

ZIP code 72758 in 2014: Cardinals 23 percent, Red Sox 12 percent, Cubs 10 percent. In 2015: Cardinals 23 percent, Royals 11 percent.

Zip code 72756 in 2014: Cardinals 23 percent, Red Sox 12 percent, Cubs 11 percent. In 2015: Cardinals 23 percent, Royals 11 percent.

Again, the Royals fans aren’t taking over, but they are taking the place of AL East teams.

Oklahoma

The Royals had little presence in the northeast part of the Sooner state. But they are gaining fans there as well. Interstate 35 goes through ZIP code 74301, which in 2014 showed this breakdown of fans: Cardinals 34 percent, Yankees 17 percent, Red Sox 9 percent. The 2015 numbers: Cardinals 29 percent, Royals 12 percent.

Head farther south and west to ZIP code 74331, which I-35 also goes through. The 2014 numbers: Cardinals 37 percent, Yankees 15 percent, Royals 10 percent. In 2015: Cardinals 26 percent, Royals 14 percent.

Not a tidal wave of change, but it is an expansion of Royals fandom that wasn’t seen even a year ago. It’s one that shows the Royals are gaining fans across the Midwest.

Listen to Ryan Lefebvre's call of the final out of the 2015 World Series as the Kansas City Royals defeated the New York Mets.

Pete Grathoff: 816-234-4330, @pgrathoff

A closer look at areas in Kansas and Missouri

Focus on Missouri

ZIP CODE: 64646

Notable city: Humphreys

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 36, Royals 32

2015 breakdown: Royals 57, Cardinals 38

Percentage change: Royals +23

Royals gain? Yes

ZIP CODE: 64630

Notable city: Browning

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 37, Royals 33

2015 breakdown: Cardinals 44, Royals 42

Percentage change: Royals +2

Royals gain? No

ZIP CODE: 64653

Notable city: Linneus

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 39, Royals 34

2015 breakdown: Royals 50, Cardinals 27

Percentage change: Royals +28

Royals gain? Yes

ZIP CODE: 64674

Notable city: Purdin

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 40, Royals 31

2015 breakdown: Royals 49, Cardinals 32

Percentage change: Royals +26

Royals gain? Yes

ZIP CODE: 64651

Notable city: Laclede

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 40, Royals 35

2015 breakdown: Cardinals 50, Royals 43

Percentage change: Cardinals +2

Royals gain? No

ZIP CODE: 64628

Notable city: Brookfield

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 46, Royals 28

2015 breakdown: Royals 46, Cardinals 33

Percentage change: Royals +31

Royals gain? Yes

ZIP CODE: 64681

Notable city: Sumner

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 38, Royals 38

2015 breakdown: Royals 68, Cardinals 23

Percentage change: Royals +45

Royals gain? Yes

ZIP CODE: 64676

Notable city: Rothville

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 50, Royals 28

2015 breakdown: Royals 44, Cardinals 39

Percentage change: Royals +27

Royals gain? Yes

ZIP CODE: 65286

Notable city: Triplett

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 39, Royals 38

2015 breakdown: Cardinals 67, Royals 33

Percentage change: Cardinals +35

Royals gain? No

ZIP CODE: 64660

Notable city: Mendon

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 49, Royals 38

2015 breakdown: Royals 49, Cardinals 30

Percentage change: Royals +30

Royals gain? Yes

ZIP CODE: 65236

Notable city: Brunswick

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 48, Royals 29

2015 breakdown: Royals 45, Cardinals 37

Percentage change: Royals +27

Royals gain? Yes

ZIP CODE: 65246

Notable city: Dalton

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 53, Royals 24

2015 breakdown: Royals 50, Cardinals 50

Percentage change: Royals +29

Royals gain? Yes (tie)

ZIP CODE: 65261

Notable city: Keytesville

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 55, Royals 21

2015 breakdown: Cardinals 57, Royals 36

Percentage change: Royals +13

Royals gain? No

ZIP CODE: 65344

Notable city: Miami

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 44, Royals 33

2015 breakdown: Royals 44, Cardinals 41

Percentage change: Royals +14

Royals gain? Yes

ZIP CODE: 65349

Notable city: Slater

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 52, Royals 24

2015 breakdown: Royals 50, Cardinals 31

Percentage change: Royals +47

Royals gain? Yes

ZIP CODE: 65340

Notable city: Marshall

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 44, Royals 31

2015 breakdown: Royals 39, Cardinals 31

Percentage change: Royals +21

Royals gain? Yes

ZIP CODE: 65347

Notable city: Nelson

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 50, Royals 25

2015 breakdown: Cardinals 49, Royals 37

Percentage change: Royals +13

Royals gain? No

ZIP CODE: 65334

Notable city: Hughesville

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 43, Royals 32

2015 breakdown: Royals 50, Cardinals 42

Percentage change: Royals +19

Royals gain? Yes

ZIP CODE: 65333

Notable city: Houstonia

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 38, Royals 38

2015 breakdown: Royals 46, Cardinals 35

Percentage change: Royals +11

Royals gain? Yes

ZIP CODE: 65301

Notable city: Sedalia

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 44, Royals 31

2015 breakdown: Royals 43, Cardinals 35

Percentage change: Royals +21

Royals gain? Yes

ZIP CODE 65350

Notable city: Smithton

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 48, Royals 27

2015 breakdown: Cardinals 45, Royals 38

Percentage change: Royals +14

Royals gain? No

ZIP CODE: 65338

Notable city: Lincoln

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 40, Royals 36

2015 breakdown: Royals 41, Cardinals 33

Percentage change: Royals +12

Royals gain? Yes

ZIP CODE 65325

Notable city: Cole Camp

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 48, Royals 29

2015 breakdown: Royals 44, Cardinals 39

Percentage change: Royals +24

Royals gain? Yes

ZIP CODE: 65355

Notable city: Warsaw

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 45, Royals 31

2015 breakdown: Royals 47, Cardinals 30

Percentage change: Royals +31

Royals gain? Yes

ZIP CODE: 65078

Notable city: Pemberton

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 58, Royals 21

2015 breakdown: Cardinals 40, Royals 39

Percentage change: Royals +36

Royals gain? No

ZIP CODE: 65326

Notable city: Edwards

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 51, Royals 24

2015 breakdown: Royals 38, Cardinals 31

Percentage change: Royals +34

Royals gain? Yes

ZIP CODE: 65324

Notable city: Cross Timbers

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 54, Royals 22

2015 breakdown: Royals 39, Cardinals 32

Percentage change: Royals +39

Royals gain? Yes

ZIP CODE: 65037

Notable city: Gravois Mills

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 65, Royals 14

2015 breakdown: Cardinals 45, Royals 37

Percentage change: Royals +43

Royals gain? No

Focus on Kansas

ZIP CODE: 67347

Notable city: Havana

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 18, Royals 17

2015 breakdown: Royals 31, Cardinals 25

Percentage change: Royals +7

Royals gain? Yes

ZIP CODE: 67333

Notable city: Caney

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 20, Royals 14

2015 breakdown: Royals 44, Cardinals 14

Percentage change: Royals +36

Royals gain? Yes

ZIP CODE: 67337

Notable city: Coffeyville

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 22, Royals 21

2015 breakdown: Royals 36, Cardinals 13

Percentage change: Royals +24

Royals gain? Yes

ZIP CODE: 67342

Notable city: Edna

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 28, Royals 25

2015 breakdown: Royals 63, Cardinals 12

Percentage change: Royals +54

Royals gain? Yes

ZIP CODE: 67332

Notable city: Bartlett

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 32, Royals 25

2015 breakdown: Royals 71, 4 tied with 7

Percentage change: Royals +71

Royals gain? Yes

ZIP CODE: 67356

Notable city: Oswego

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 31, Royals 28

2015 breakdown: Royals 43, Cardinals 23

Percentage change: Royals +23

Royals gain? Yes

ZIP CODE: 67336

Notable city: Chetopa

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 36, Royals 24

2015 breakdown: Royals 50, Cardinals 22

Percentage change: Royals +40

Royals gain? Yes

ZIP CODE: 66725

Notable city: Columbus

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 38, Royals 23

2015 breakdown: Royals 46, Cardinals 23

Percentage change: Royals +38

Royals gain? Yes

ZIP CODE: 66713

Notable city: Baxter Springs

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 42, Royals 21

2015 breakdown: Royals 29.6, Cardinals 29.4

Percentage change: Royals +21

Royals gain? Yes

ZIP CODE: 66770

Notable city: Riverton

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 42, Royals 21

2015 breakdown: Royals 39, Cardinals 31

Percentage change: Royals +29

Royals gain? Yes

ZIP CODE: 66739

Notable city: Galena

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 43, Royals 21

2015 breakdown: Cardinals 35, Royals 34

Percentage change: Royals +21

Royals gain? No

ZIP CODE: 66773

Notable city: Scammon

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 38, Royals 26

2015 breakdown: Royals 43, Cardinals 27

Percentage change: Royals +27

Royals gain? Yes

ZIP CODE: 66781

Notable city: Weir

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 40, Royals 25

2015 breakdown: Royals 51, Cardinals 19

Percentage change: Royals +46

Royals gain? Yes

ZIP CODE: 66762

Notable city: Pittsburg

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 38, Royals 27

2015 breakdown: Royals 51, Cardinals 15

Percentage change: Royals +47

Royals gain? Yes

ZIP CODE: 66724

Notable city: Cherokee

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 36, Royals 28

2015 breakdown: Royals 38, Cardinals 16

Percentage change: Royals +30

Royals gain? Yes

ZIP CODE: 66763

Notable city: Frontenac

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 36, Royals 29

2015 breakdown: Royals 53, Cardinals 16

Percentage change: Royals +44

Royals gain? Yes

ZIP CODE: 66756

Notable city: Mulberry

2014 breakdown: Cardinals 35, Royals 30

2015 breakdown: Royals 52, Cardinals 14

Percentage change: Royals +43

Royals gain? Yes

  Comments