New England baseball fans are fortunate enough to be able to see their team wrangle with a true rival 18 times a year and, occasionally, in the postseason. There is no love lost between the fans of the Red Sox and the Yankees, the games almost always offer up some sort of drama and there is rarely a meeting that does not have significance in the standings.
It is often termed “The Best Rivalry in Sports,” and for good reason.
Because of this relentless Red Sox-Yankees vibe, fans in the Northeast are also afforded the ability to recognize all that makes a rivalry great, and for that reason have become relative “experts” in the field. Heck, the mindset comes from living in the most provincial portion of the country.
With that in mind, we turn our attention outside our own little battlefield and wonder which other rivalry would benefit from the animosity which fuels our fire.
Although Midwestern hospitality and kindness may never allow it to happen, the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals could use a little spice to their age-old rivalry.
In one way, the Cubs and Cards have a pre-2004 Sox-Yanks vibe. Chicago has notably gone 103 years without a World Series title, all too often looking up at their rivals to the south. Not that St. Louis has matched New York in terms of titles, but it has won at a steady clip since the Cubs last tasted glory, which only members of this guy’s club have any chance of recalling. The Cards have won it all 10 times since then.
Saying all that, close your eyes and try to conjure up images of the two teams really getting testy with one another, like the Sox and Yanks did many times over the years. On the field, it just hasn’t happened as much. This rivalry is usually played out in the backyards of towns in Central Illinois, where the royal blue of the Cubs hat begins to cede to Cardinals’ red. Indeed, “The Prairie State” is the battleground, perhaps more so than the teams’ respective homes.
Wrigley Field and Busch Stadium get their fair share of visiting fans — it’s not uncommon to see an Albert Pujols jersey in Chicago or a Carlos Zambrano T-shirt in St. Louis. While statistics on this were not immediately available, it’s a near certainty that fewer fans are carted out in cuffs than at a typical Sox-Yanks tilt.
There have been memorable moments between the two teams, but not as many as one would like that actually involved the scoreboard. We recall Sammy Sosa playfully slugging Mark McGwire in a friendly gesture after Big Mac broke Roger Maris‘ home run record in 1998. Back then, the two sides celebrated a pair of players who had pulled the wool over the eyes of the two great baseball towns.
There were other moments that bound the teams together, but not the kind that engender anything in the way of vitriol. After Cardinals pitcher Darryl Kile died in 2002, a game between the two sides was postponed, with current Yankees manager Joe Girardi making an emotional announcement to the fans at Wrigley. A similar scenario played out in St. Louis in 2007, when the Cardinals lost pitcher Josh Hancock to a car accident. They were bound by tragedy, which means something, but it doesn’t necessarily add to the rivalry.
Can you imagine longtime Red Sox radio broadcaster Joe Castiglione taking over for Yankees play-by-play man John Sterling someday? One of the more celebrated figures in Cubs history, announcer Harry Caray, went that same route, broadcasting for both teams for more than 20 years. Similarly, the teams are not entirely opposed to trading with one another, contrary to the 14-year freeze on such transactions with Boston and New York.
Simply put, there is just too much acceptance for one another on the field and in the front office to make this rivalry, while good, as great as it can be.
This is not a support of brawls or hatred or anything of that nature, but the Cards and Cubs could use a little more distaste for one another. We know all about it here in New England. In many ways, it’s what keeps us going.
Could the Cardinals-Cubs rivalry ever compare to Red Sox-Yankees? Leave your thoughts below.