About 300,000 baseball fans lined downtown streets, hung out of windows and perched in treetops to greet the World Series-champion Kansas City Royals today as the city threw a two-hour parade.
Players, team officials and others rode the two-mile route along Grand Avenue to Liberty Memorial, beaming and waving as 40,000 pounds of shredded paper drifted from downtown office buildings.
Fans along the route, celebrating Sunday's 11-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7, skipped school or took an extended lunch hour. They hoisted themselves on bus stop shelters, billboards, light poles and others' shoulders to catch a glimpse of the players.
"Who wants to work when you can be here?" said Duff James, a Kansas City native. "This is the greatest day in history for Kansas City. I own my own business, so I can do whatever I want. And today, I want to be a little boy."
Nearly every fan wore blue, while some sprayed their hair or painted their faces the royal color. Many fans tied blue ribbons in their hair. Fifteen arches of blue and white helium-filled balloons were draped across the parade route.
The parade was forced to stop several times as fans surged into Grand Avenue. The volume of confetti also caused problems: at least three cars caught fire.
Cars carrying Royals Manager Dick Howser, All-Star third baseman George Brett and center fielder Willie Wilson caught fire. No injuries were reported.
The parade culminated at Liberty Memorial Mall. Bret Saberhagen, the winning pitcher in Sunday's game, wore a gold crown and slapped fans' palms and threw bags of confetti as he rode to the grandstand.
"I think we sent some birds south for the winter," catcher Jim Sundberg told the crowd."
In Washington, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution lauding the Royals for "tenacious comebacks" and the White House invited the team to meet the president Thursday.
The mood was different in St. Louis, where the Cardinals returned unceremoniously as airport festivities and a ticker-tape parade were canceled. A few die-hard fans who showed up at the airport for the players' 1 a.m. arrival, found a stand set up on a parking lot vacant and the gate locked.
But the economies of both cities benefited from the World Series and league playoffs. Fourteen postseason games generated about $140 million for the state, said Marjorie Beenders, director of the Missouri Division of Tourism.
According to Patty Nolte of the Greater Kansas City Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, each playoff and World Series game meant about $4 million to the city in the form of boarding, food and souvenir sales. St. Louis Visitors and Convention Bureau spokesman Jack Walsh said the three NL playoff games and three World Series games pumped $10 million a day into the city's economy.