As a Cubs fan, there are some basics, and that’s love the Cubs no matter what and that the Cardinals are the enemy, but here’s the thing is that it’s a friendly rivalry. Unlike a lot of rivalries in my view its the best in all of the sports because there is respect. Its one of the few rivalries where you can go to the ball game before the game wearing your respected jersey’s and leave the game afterward in the same jersey still friends. There is some kind of harmony that exist between the Cubs and the Cardinals. Seriously, though, there is a trash talk, but there is respect. It combines two of baseball’s best fan bases with history, amazing ballparks, and an undying love for our game. As a child, I could not stand seeing the likes of Mark McGwire succeeding. I always hated seeing Albert Pujols (still one of my favorite players) leading the Cardinals, but when the Cubs and the Cardinals get together, in my opinion, its baseball at its best. No matter which team is on top the games are good for the most part. If you drive across Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, etc. there is almost a clean split in most towns between Cubs/Cards fans. It’s something that combines midwestern lore and history.
A baseball like a cathedral when you enter is supposed to have a special feel for what you are about to witness belongs here. When a church is absent of the gospel its not the same, like a baseball venue which is not fit for the game that is about to be played. This is not nor has ever been the case for the Cubs nor the Cardinals. Walking into these venues baseball feels right and it feels like a home. Both venues feature history, iconic imagery, and an experience which highlights the features of its city.
In all honesty, though as much as I despise the Cardinals on the field, there is an underlying respect on my part and many Cubs fan’s parts. There is something special about going to St. Louis, and watching baseball because it’s a city that loves its baseball, I also appreciate the price of military tickets as well. However, it’s fun to watch baseball in St. Louis, but it’s also a painful experience. Their fans are passionate and there is something unique about the roar of their crowd. It’s not quite as loud as the roar a Wrigley, but the sound of the crowd is annoyingly unique. I’ll admit over a handful of some of my best friends are Cardinal fans. St. Louis for me is a place which is near and dear, but despised in my heart. There is something special about baseball in St. Louis, they are a juggernaut and when you think they’re out their not. They have a long history of elite talent Pujols, Smith, Gibson, Stan the Man, Hornsby, Brock, and so on and so forth. It’s a place which is a haven for baseball fans because it’s welcoming.
My first major league game was at Old Busch Stadium, and let me tell you, folks, there is only one way to describe that place “hot” it made you uncomfortable, but that’s often how many opponents feel walking into Busch Stadium because they’re ways a threat. A perfect example of this is July 28, 2002, it was a day I still remember. My parents let me stay up that night and I loved it. However, the end result was no so enjoyable. The Cubs took an early lead as Moises Alou’s RBI double gave the Cubs an early lead. Moises Alou’s big game continued as he drove in another. Corey Patterson would homer giving the Cubs a 6-0 lead. The sixth inning came and the game shifted. The Cubs’ lead went from a 6-0 to a 6-4. The Cubs would score in the 7th and 8th. It once again looked like the Cubs had this one in the bags as they held onto a 9-4 lead going into the bottom of the 9th. Miguel Cairo doubles to left scoring Fernando Vina. Jim Edmonds singles narrowing the lead from 9-6, they just won’t go away. The bleeding continued Tino Martinez drove in Jim Edmonds. Tino Martinez and Albert Pujols are on, and Edgar Renteria comes to the plate. Home Run, ball game over. Something so typical of that team. However, what was significant about that game is that the Cubs would see a number of key pieces in that game play a role. The next year the Cubs would go on a spectacular run and make it to the NLCS anchored by Sammy Sosa, Moises Alou, Corey Patterson, and with the help of the game’s starter Matt Clement.
Two years ago when the Cubs and the Cardinals squared off in the NLDS it was like a match made in heaven because in order to be the best you have the beat the best, and in the National League there was no bigger hurdle than the St. Louis Cardinals, and I say this with all due respect to the San Francisco Giants and other teams, but let’s face it they are the pentacle of success in the NL, if you beg to differ lets crack open the history book together sometime. Even though the Cubs did not go all the way in 2015 it was a stepping stone to their success in 2016. No longer were the Cardinals the big bad wolves, no, they were now in our rear view mirror in a sense. They became an achievable target. It was a symbolic conquest which showed the league these boys are for real. Simply put I don’t think you can call a National League team a success unless they clear the hurdle which is the Cardinals.
When the Cardinals transitioned from Tony LaRussa to Mike Matheny it was kind of a shot in the foot to the rest of the league because there never became much of a step off. During LaRussa’s days in St. Louis, he made the best of nobodies, it seemed like when someone would depart in comes another equally talented ball player. I mean seriously guys like Bo Hart, Hector Luna, and So Taguchi had a solid run in St. Louis. There pitchings solid and that usually was to the credit of Dave Duncan. There were times where I thoroughly believed Dave Duncan could get a dog turd to be a 5.00 ERA pitcher. I mean that’s a bit of a stretch. However, two things were consistent when LaRussa/Duncan was are the reigns was solid pitching and solid defense, pair that with crafty and timely hitting the Cardinals were always in contention. This mentality carried over when Matheny took over a smart, young manager molded in the “Cardinal Way.” Matheny’s hire was a home run something Matheny was not known for as a player. He’s got the experience and baseball knowledge that’s going to continue to make St. Louis a thorn in the side of my Cubbies for years. This team went from a Hall of Fame manager to likely another one in the making. Credit this to their management and scouting as well. The bottom line is they’re a well ran the organization and baseball know’s it.
When it comes to baseball, in my view there is no better baseball than the show that is put on in the Midwest between the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals. It’s a rivalry which will remain near and dear to my heart. Now that the Cubs are on top hopefully we can shift the tides of this rivalry in our favor. However, for now, I look forward to this upcoming season and the many more to come. Simply put baseball is at its best when the Cubs and Cardinals are at their best. They are two cornerstone franchises which share a level of notoriety shared only by the Red Sox, Yankees, and Dodgers.