There isn’t much that will get a debate going with sports fans more so than rivalries. Who is the better team? Who had the better players? Who has more championships?
It’s in that discussion you start to see the true passion of a sports fan and their loyalty towards their team and the team they despise. As Cubs fans we have a rival and it is the St. Louis Cardinals.
Looking at the history of the rivalries – the two teams have faced off 2344 times – with the Cubs holding the edge slightly 1189-1136 since 1892 as noted by baseball-reference.com
With less than 300 miles separating each other – you will always have a great mix of fans at each other’s home games.
Some of the more recent and memorable encounters will include not just the players, but the managers, and sometimes the fans.
In 2011 Albert Pujols was making headlines – just this time it wasn’t with his bat but his contract. The Cardinals wanted to sign their franchise player to a contract to keep him in their control but he turned them down and added to the Cubs/Cards rivalry by commenting on maybe playing for the rival Cubs.
This would get all Cubs fans dreaming of a knockout punch to the St. Louis fans by stealing their hero.
Fans would make custom jerseys with Pujols’ name and uniform number on it. Making signs welcoming and inviting the soon-to-be free agent to the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. Thankfully the L.A. Angels swooped in that off-season and signed him to a record-setting contract – saving us from another financial mistake.
While the fans usually kept things friendly – the players didn’t always have that same attitude.
The reason for the pain wasn’t so much the collision – Lilly only weighed about 190 pounds – it was the fact that his knee connected with Molina in his groin.
Even the managers would get into the fold when former Cubs manager Dusty Baker and then Cardinal manager Tony La Russa. In 2003 the two teams were in a heated series and the first shots were fired by the Cubs pitcher Matt Clement when he drilled Dan Haren. Later Haren would return the favor and nail Clement.
This brought out Baker who was wild – yelling at the umpire, Haren, and La Russa. Almost to the point where you thought the two managers were getting ready to throw down like hockey players.
Kerry Wood added fuel to the fire in the series that season. A game later Wood threw at opposing pitcher Matt Morris twice and giving him chin-music on another. The irate manager this time would be La Russa referring to Wood as one who “likes to scare people. I’ve heard he likes to hit people.”, according to an interview he had done back in 2003.
Ryan Theriot added to the rivalry when he signed with the Cardinals after being traded away by the Cubs. In one of his first interview’s the former Cubs’ second baseman declared himself “on the right side of the rivalry” – still something that irks me to this day.
While those battles brought out the ugly – the Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa chase for Roger Maris‘ home run record at the time brought out the good. The chase caught the attention of the world and brought both teams on the national stage – getting nightly news updates every day and night.
While a great night for baseball – it wasn’t as sweet for Cubs fans. It would be just another moment the Cardinals and their fans would have at our expense. While McGwire would win that battle of the home run chase – Sosa did take home the National League MVP award that year.
In the bigger picture of that season – the Cubs also went to the post season while the Cardinals hovered around the .500 mark.
We also have our 1984 moment – “The Ryne Sandberg game”. When Sandberg and the Cubs played the national game of the week, he would have one of his greatest performances as a player. He would record five hits, 2 home runs, and seven runs batted in. Both homers would be off of the dominate Bruce Sutter and would also tied the game each time.
Our moments as Cubs fans are maybe not as monumental as the Cardinals – but we have had our fair share of them – especially as far as the rivalry goes. I cannot list every one of them but they are out there.
Cardinal fans will be quick to point out how they hold more championships (11-2), pennants (19-16), and division titles (12-5) – they cannot deny that the Cubs do bring out the best in the players and the fans and that goes both ways for us as well. It’s still something to look forward to and is still one of the best rivalries in baseball.
Starting on April 5th – the rivalry continues. I think this new chapter is going to be one that will be a very exciting one – especially for Cubs fans.