Inside a city of 467,000, an estimated crowd of 800,000 Royals fans gathered in Kansas City, Missouri Tuesday to salute the World Series champions. The bodies packed from the steps outside the station to the grass of Liberty Memorial. Photo: Kansas City Star
An ocean of royal blue. Or was that Royals blue? Many who witnessed the hundreds of thousands of Kansas City Royals fans packing the streets of Kansas City, Missouri this week said the parade and World Series Championship celebration may have been the largest gathering in city history. It was a tribute to the Kansas City Royals. It was also a celebration of the team’s fans and the city’s optimistic, never quit spirit. The Kansas City Star said Mayor Sly James estimated the crowd at “up to 800,000 people.” The KC Star headline was:
The biggest crowd you have ever seen came out to celebrate the Royals
The Kansas City Star seemed swept-up in the hyperbole surrounding the joyous celebration of a baseball team that beat the odds, played with pride and class, and won baseball’s ultimate crown. Events like this don’t happen often, so a bit of hyperbole is understandable. The Star admitted that maybe its crowd estimate was high, “Nobody can really know.”
It’s hard to argue with the outpouring of people from across the region who attended the parade and cheered the subsequent speeches by Royals players and management as they all packed the area outside Union Station, stretching south onto the expansive lawn of the Liberty Memorial. “We may never know how many were actually there. How do you measure the size of one heart?,” said KC Star reporter and friend Monty Davis. The Kansas City Sports Commission pegged the crowd at a half-million people.
There is an interesting historic contrast to this week’s Royals celebration. It took place in almost the same spot, on almost the same day, 94 years ago. It was the dedication of the World War I Liberty Memorial site on November 1, 1921. This panoramic photo (click on it to see the large size) from the dedication is testimonial to the large crowd that turned out that bright autumn day in Kansas City, Missouri more than nine decades ago. Notice there was even a large group of spectators watching from the roof of Union Station.
The Liberty Memorial site dedication outside Union Station in Kansas City, Missouri on November 1, 1921. Photo: Library of Congress
Here’s another look at the dedication facing north from the entry drive into the Liberty Memorial site.
The Liberty Memorial site dedication looking north in Kansas City, Missouri on November 1, 1921. Photo: Library of Congress
On that day, more than 60,000 WWI veterans and American Legion members marched down Kansas City’s streets to take part in the dedication ceremony. They were part of the four-million U.S. soldiers who fought with Britain, France, Belgium, Italy and several other nations against Germany in the Great War. As was the case in yesterday’s parade, crowds packed deep along the Kansas City parade route to cheer the marching veterans. This panoramic photo (click on it to see the large size) shows how many Kansas Citians were on hand. Again, you’ll see folks watching from neighboring rooftops, even climbing telephone poles to get a better view.
American Legion Parade marching veterans passing the reviewing stand, Kansas City, Mo., Nov. 1, 1921 Photo: Library of Congress
Hundreds of thousands of Kansas Citians turned out on that November day to honor the veterans, and their former WWI commander, General John J. Pershing, a Missourian by birth who helped preside over the dedication. Talk about Kansas City spirit- To build the Liberty Memorial, local residents raised more than $2.5-million in two weeks for the project. In 2015, that amount would be equal to about $32-million.
Here’s how the day was described by the Kansas City Star in 1970:
Never before or since has such a line of martial marchers moved down Kansas City’s streets as did for the American Legion parade at the time of the national convention here in late October and early November, 1921.
Sixty thousand veterans, splendidly uniformed officers and men, with tanks and equipment from World War I, moved through the downtown streets to the brisk music of 85 bands and drum and bugle corps, and passed the reviewing stand at Eighteenth street and Grand avenue, before five of the world’s greatest military and naval leaders.
From left to right: Allied commanders Lieutenant General Jacques of Belgium, General Diaz of Italy, Marshall Foch of France, General Pershing of the United States, and Admiral Beatty of Great Britain at the dedication of the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, November 1, 1921.. Photo: Moxie Hanley, courtesy Kansas City Public Library Missouri Valley Special Collections
Present were Marshal Foch, commander-in-chief of the Allied forces; Admiral Earl Beatty, commanding the British navy; Baron Jacques, commander-in-chief of the Belgian army; Gen. Armando Diaz, commander-in-chief of the Italian army and our own Gen. John J. Pershing.
Also on the stand were governors; Congressional Medal of Honor men; disabled veterans; Calvin Coolidge, vice-president of the United States; Admiral W.S. Sims; John W. Weeks, secretary of war; Edwin Denby, secretary of the navy; Rear Admiral Robert E. Coontz; Maj. Gen. J.A. Lejeune of the Marine Corps; John G. Emory, commander of the American Legion, and city and legion officials.
General John. J. Pershing was born in Laclede, Missouri, commanded U.S. troops in WWI, and was the only living six-star general in U.S. history.
Kansas City homes were opened to the distinguished guests and hotels were packed. Admiral Beatty was entertained at the R. A. Long home, Baron Jacques was the guest of Mr. And Mrs. J. W. Perry, General Diaz was the guest of Mr. and Mrs. Jacob L. Loose, Calvin Coolidge stayed at the Walter S. Dickey home and General Pershing and Marshal Foch and their staffs were guests of Mr. And Mrs. Irwin Kirkwood.
Ground for the proposed Liberty Memorial, across from the Union Station on Pershing Road, was dedicated during the convention.-Kansas City Star, November 7, 1970
On this day, the supreme Allied commanders, among them Missouri son General John J. Pershing, spoke to a crowd of more than 100,000 people. It was the only time in history these leaders were together in one place. What a memory that must have been for the city and its citizens as America emerged victorious from its first global war and established itself as an international power. As was the case with this week’s Kansas City Royals celebration, that memorable place was Kansas City, Missouri.