History behind the Cards – Cubs Rivalry

Nearly 300 miles and four and a half hours separates them. One city is located on the southwest coast of Lake Michigan; the other, west of the Mississippi River. One city is known for its windy nights; the other, for its 630-foot Gateway Arch—the tallest man-made monument in the country. One city was home to poet Carl Sandburg, who defends his city in a famous poem; the other, home to Grammy-winner recording artist Nelly. Despite all differences, both Chicago and St. Louis share a genuine love for one sport—baseball, the nation’s favorite game. And that love shines through when their teams compete head to head.

The Cubs haven’t been to the World Series in 60 years. The Cardinals were in the World Series just last year. The Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908, only their second. The Cardinals have collected nine championships overall, their latest coming in 1982. Whoever said a rivalry implies an equal competition must not have been a baseball fan. Whoever said that the best sports rivalries are those between cities from the same state must not have been a baseball fan either. Everyone always talks about the intense Yankee-Red Sox rivalry, where not only the players, but the fans too, duke it out on the field, in the stands, in the bars, in the streets, and all over the country. But the fighting, brawling, and utter hatred that is so prevalent in that series and others isn’t what makes a great rivalry. One of the greatest rivalries in the world also happens to be one of the friendliest, and that is the one that pits the storied franchises of Chicago and St. Louis against each other in a battle for the National League Central Division and the Midwest.

It’s June 15, 1964. This year, the Beatles are atop of the Billboard charts. This year, Lyndon Johnson is elected as the new president. This year, the Cardinals will go on to win the World Series. And this year, future homerun king Barry Bonds will be born in about a month to Bobby Bonds, who will play for the Cardinals in 1980 and then for the Cubs a year later. Bobby must have known his son was a steal from the start. But what happened on this particular day in the middle of June was one of the greatest steals of baseball in all of 1964. In fact, it was one of the greatest steals in all of baseball history. For whatever reason, the Cubs decided that they no longer needed outfielder Lou Brock, who hit only .258 in his second full season with the team, so away he went to the Cardinals for pitcher Ernie Broglio. After 16 seasons with St. Louis, Brock had made a name for himself as the most productive base stealer ever with 938 career stolen bases. That would be the major league record for a while until Ricky Henderson broke it in 1991. But before a player can get a stolen base, obviously they must first get on base. This wasn’t a problem for Brock, who had 3,023 career hits and a .293 career batting average. The six-time All-Star who helped win two World Series for the Cards was elected into baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1985 and his number 20 was retired with his team, who was very pleased. As for the Cubbies, it was just a testament to their bad luck and woes because Bergolio played only two seasons for them and compiled a less than perfect 3-12 record. This trade is symbolic of the way the dice has rolled for both these teams.

They call it the “I-55 Series.” They say that competition is good for the game. This rivalry between the Cubs and Cards is one of the oldest and most fanatical series in sports and has a history of being good for the game. Back in 1874 the Cubs were born, known as the White Stockings (it wasn’t until 1902 when a sports journalist thought the team played like little bear cubs that the team name was changed to Cubs) and in 1882 the Cardinals became a team. Though the Cards were eight years younger, they didn’t waste anytime battling their rivals for bragging rights as the “Best in the Midwest.” They have since played over 2,000 games, and although the Cubs have a slight edge in total victories, the Cardinals have the upper hand in total and recent success. Call it what you want, but Cubs fans will be the first to tell you that if it weren’t for Chicago tavern owner and diehard Cub fan William “Billy Goat” Sianis and his goat in 1945, the Cubs would be right up there with the first-place Cardinals.

It was Game 4 of the World Series against Detroit and Sianis had a ticket for his goat and himself, but the two were kicked out of Wrigley Field because of the goat’s smell. On his way out, Sianis cursed the team, yelling that a World Series would never again be played at Wrigley Field. Needless to say, the Tigers claimed that game and the 1945 World Series. After that, every once and a while a goat would be let into Wrigley, but the Cubs’ struggles continued. Off the field, however, the friendly rivalry was unrelenting as both teams boasted a smooth legendary voice in the booth.

Jack Buck and Harry Caray—two names synonymous with baseball. The two worked together calling baseball games for the Cardinals; Caray starting in 1947 and Buck joining in 1954. However, Caray, a St. Louis native, jumped ship and moved to Chicago in 1969 to start broadcasting Cubs games, but the duo remained good friends. Famous for his “Holy Cows!” and notable 7th inning stretch version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” Caray called Cubs games until 1998. That year, on Feb. 18, Caray passed away at the age of 80. That year, he would have really enjoyed the good-for-the-game baseball events that would unfold between the two rivals.

It was early September in 1998, and the race was on. No, not the pennant race, but the race to see which slugger would outrun Roger Maris’ record of 61 single-season homeruns. Outfielder Sammy Sosa represented the Cubs, and the Cardinals were represented by bulky first baseman Mark McGwire. Chicago was visiting St. Louis, and McGwire was perched on 61 HR. Cameras flashed as Cubs pitcher Steve Trachsel hurled from the mound and in a slow-motion moment, McGwire drilled the ever-anticipated number 62 in his home Busch Stadium. It was only fitting that McGwire broke the record off the Cubs, so his home run competitor was his on-the-field opponent. Sosa, emblematic of the friendliness of the rivalry, embraced McGwire with all smiles. A few games later, Sosa would be the one to reach the goal. At the season’s end, McGwire finished with 70 HR and Sosa finished with 66. That record has long been passed by Barry Bonds, but the 1998 home run battle between opposing rivals’ stars drew many people back to baseball in general.

Jack Buck was there with the famous call of that home run. Buck was also there for the 2001 Cubs-Cards game, where Caray was honored. Buck was the center of that honor at the 7th inning stretch. Halfway through Buck’s “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” tribute performance, Buck, who was wearing a red sport coat and Cardinals hat, switched over to a Cubs hat. Would the Yankees and Red Sox ever be caught dead doing this? Absolutely not!

The Cardinals and Cubs also united on June 22, 2002, after an unfortunate event—the sudden death of St. Louis pitcher Darryl Kile. The 33-year-old was found dead in his Chicago hotel room, but both teams put baseball aside for that day to remember their fallen teammate. Four days earlier, St. Louis had also lost their legendary sportscaster Jack Buck, who passed away at 77.

Whether at Busch Stadium or the 91-year-old Wrigley Field, the crowds will always flock down Interstate-55 when the teams face each other. Some will bleed red while the others bleed blue. The seats will be filled but their midwestern hospitalities will always take prevalence before hostility and fighting. Cardinals’ vendors will set up shop on the streets of Chicago and come home alive, with a good profit to boot. Hey, Wrigley Field is even nicknamed The Friendly Confines. Though the teams will split series after series like they did in April in St. Louis, the Cardinals will continue their postseason success while the Cubs watch from home again in October. Yet the only time Cubs fans would resort to violence would be to kill that bloody curse that haunts them in their sleep. Maybe Harry Caray can use his vocal talent to talk up the Cubs to the baseball gods and plead their case. Jack Buck, though a Cardinal at heart, would surely have his back.

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