Why The Cubs v Cardinals Is The Best In The MLB

Cubs v Cardinals Overview

There are three words guaranteed to send chills down the spine of any serious fan of the Cubs/Cardinals baseball rivalry: “The Sandberg Game.”

Cubs second-baseman Ryne Sandberg burst on the scene in the summer of 1984. He was a rare blend of hitting ability, power and speed.

Yet “Ryno” was still a relative unknown outside of Chicago.

All that changed on June 23, in one of the most storied games in Cubs lore, against the archrival St. Louis Cardinals.

Sandberg thrilled Cubs fans with a game-tying home run off ace closer Bruce Sutter in the bottom of the ninth.

Yet the drama wasn’t finished.

The Cardinals roared back in the top of the 10th, putting the Cubs back down by two.

Sandberg came to bat again in the bottom of the inning, to square off once again against baseball’s best closer.

Did Sutter get his revenge? Hardly. The young star second baseman smashed a two-run shot that sent Wrigley Field into a frenzy.

Sandberg somehow found a way to beat Sutter long, not once, but twice, to tie the game.

The Cubs would go on to win the game in the next inning.

The game made Sandberg a local hero. More importantly, it helped revive and solidify one of the greatest rivalries in baseball – the Cubbies and the Redbirds.

A rivalry like no other

Great baseball rivalries have some common characteristics. Geographic proximity, a history of brawls and controversial trades are some of the ingredients that make a rivalry heat up.

The Cubs and Cardinals have all of these in spades

The rivalry dates back to the 19th century, when the St. Louis Brown Stockings were formed in response to the Chicago White Stockings. Some historians speculate the economic rivalry between the cities, which long predated baseball, led to that formation.

By 1964, the rivalry was well established. Most notably, that year marked the trade that sent then Cubs player Lou Brock to the Cardinals, in exchange for Ernie Broglio.

Brock would go on to the Hall of Fame as one of the most celebrated players in baseball. Broglio’s career declined rapidly, and he eventually retired due to injury. For Cardinals fans, this lopsided trade is their own version of “The Sandberg Game.”

That trade, considered one of the worst in baseball history, left fans of the Cubs in the baseball doldrums and only inflamed the rivalry further.

Then there was the time Cards catcher Ted Simmons decided topunch Chicago Cub Bill Madlock in the face, inciting one of the realist brawls in MLB history:

The battle between the clubs came to a froth in 1998, when Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa and Cardinals power hitter Mark McGwire fought to break Roger Maris’ single season home record. The historic chase only deepened the clubs’ rivalry, as McGwire would eventually break the record that year.

“A sea of blue (and red)”

Cubs and Cardinals games are now some of the best attended games in the league, as the rivalry fills both Wrigley Field and Busch Stadium with rabid fans, making parking around Wrigley Field a precious commodity.

Wrigleyville truly comes alive during the rivalry — the atmosphere is part street party and part pep rally. It is not uncommon to find a sea of red at Wrigley Field — or a sea of blue at Busch Stadium.

Such intense fan loyalty is a hallmark of the rivalry, which is often described as one of the best in baseball by national sports writers.

Despite this intensity, the matchup is largely friendly. It was not uncommon during the summer of 1998 for Cubs fans to applaud McGwire at Wrigley, or for Cardinals fans to cheer Sosa at Busch during their home run chase.

While the Cardinals have been far more successful on the field historically, that dominance may soon come to an end.

While the Cardinals have fielded one of the best teams in baseball this year, the 2015 Cubs aren’t far behind. Led by young stars such as Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and ace hurlers Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta, the Cubs have been nipping at the heels of the division-leading Cardinals for much of the season.

The Cubs’ recent resurgence has heightened an already intense rivalry, making a Cards/Cubs game one of baseball’s best game day experiences.

Celebrity cheerleaders

This amazing rivalry has created legions of fans across America — and some of them are very well known.

Actor Bill Murray is a Cubs fanatic. His rendition of “Take me out to the ballgame” is always a fan highlight at Wrigley Field.

Rapper Ice Cube and Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder have also professed their love of the Cubs, along with Smashing Pumpkins singer Billy Corgan.

Actors Vince Vaughn, Gary Sinise, and John Cusack have been spotted at Wrigley Field over the years, as well as NFL quarterbacks Tony Romo and Johnny Manziel.

The Cardinals have their share of famous fans as well, including actors Jon Hamm, John Goodman and Billy Bob Thornton.

The future of baseball’s premier rivalry

Though the Cubs have lacked the Cardinals’ dominance in recent years — and even though the competition hasn’t always been close — the rivalry has made every game a must-see for fans on both sides. This one-of-a-kind fan devotion creates an electric environment in the stadiums, giving regular season games a playoff air.

Though the Cardinals have had the upper hand for most of the last century, their fans have (mostly) been gracious winners. With the Cubs on the verge of going from perennial doormat to potential powerhouse, however, the rivalry might develop more of an edge.

After all, a Cards/Cubs game crackles with electricity even when there’s nothing at stake. Now that both teams are championship contenders, this is one rivalry that promises to get even fiercer with age.

There’s one thing all fans should keep in mind, however: If you’re attending a game, get there early – Wrigley Field parking spots always fill up fast – and they fill up at lightning speed when the Cardinals are in town.