November 5, 2015 5:37 AM EST

It’s still hard to believe: the Kansas City Royals won the World Series. Baseball’s changing economics, and the team’s rampant mismanagement, had long left this small-market franchise behind. Before last season, when the Royals lost the World Series to the San Francisco Giants, they hadn’t made the playoffs since their 1985 win. And yet they bounced the New York Mets in five games. Kansas City stuck with their plan to be patient while young talent like World Series MVP Salvador Perez matured. “We weren’t going to be swayed by anyone’s opinions,” says manager Ned Yost. The Royals mounted three late-inning comebacks against the Mets by making contact and zipping along the base paths. “We’re going to go, go, go,” said first base coach Rusty Kuntz. “Until they crack.” And the Mets did. The three-decade drought has ended. The Royals are world champs.

–SEAN GREGORY

This appears in the November 16, 2015 issue of TIME.

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Write to Sean Gregory at sean.gregory@time.com.

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