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Cards/Cubs rivalry always delights

Published: Mar/Apr 2002

The Cardinals/Cubs rivalry is as natural to baseball as standing up for the National Anthem or slapping mustard on a hot dog. No matter what side you root for–blue or red–it’s hard to remain neutral.

Chicago and St. Louis have nurtured a baseball rivalry since the 1880s, when the Chicago White Stockings and St. Louis Brown Stockings battled, according to Jim Rygelski, co-author of the book “The I-55 Series: Cubs vs. Cardinals.”

As a boy in the 1950s, Rygelski said the Cubs were never in contention, so passionate play between them waned.

“There’s always been an ebb and flow to it (the rivalry) until the 1960s,” when the two teams were tied for first place in 1967. The Cards won the pennant.

In the 1970s, Rygelski lived in Chicago for 1 1/2 years and rooted for the Cubs because he lived near Wrigley Field. He found Cub fans to be knowledgeable and loyal, similar to fans in St. Louis.

“It was fun to see the other side, although after 1 1/2 years, it started to get to me and I had to come back,” he said.

Always in fun

Allegiances may be strong, but the rivalry isn’t nasty. Al Hrabosky, Fox Sports Midwest broadcaster and former Cardinal relief pitcher, said the Cardinals and Cubs have the best rivalry in baseball because it’s always friendly. Sometimes, players took the rivalry to heart more than fans, he said.

“When I was a player, it (the rivalry) was much more intense with players. We didn’t like the opposition. For us, that World Series pot of gold was like winning the lottery. Now, the intensity is more with the fans,” he said. “It’s a great trip for Cardinal fans to migrate to Chicago.”

“Players get into it because fans are into it,” said Joe Buck, Fox Sports Midwest broadcaster. “You can’t help but feel the energy when you walk into the packed stadium.”

Dan McLaughlin, Fox Sports Midwest broadcaster, said the American League has a strong rivalry between Boston and New York, and the two teams in New York– Yankees and Mets–have fun when they meet. But in the National League, nothing comes close to the Cardinals and Cubs.

“That has to be the top rivalry,” he said. “There’s so many good reasons why. The thing that makes it so great is the day games at Wrigley Field. It’s a different atmosphere. Maybe because it’s during the day, or because half the park is wearing red and half is wearing blue.”

The clubs’ histories are intertwined with memorable events, such as the 1964 deal that sent right fielder and Hall of Famer Lou Brock to St. Louis for starting pitcher Ernie Broglio. The 1998 home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa is legendary.

Legends loom in the announcer’s booth, as well. Harry Caray brought Cardinal games to fans during his tenure at KMOX Radio (1945-69) before moving to Chicago. St. Louis legend Jack Buck and Caray worked together in the 1960s at the radio station. Last year, Buck offered a stylish tribute to Caray and Cubs fans that illustrated what the Cardinals-Cubs rivalry represents: class, clean fun and sportsmanship. Buck sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch, wearing a flaming red sportcoat, and doffing the Cub cap for a Cardinal cap mid-performance.

Buck’s son, Joe, said his father was satisfied with the result.

“He was glad he did it, but he was nervous about it. It was meaningful for him to pay tribute to Harray Caray. Dad’s one of the few guys who could have pulled it off, and the fans loved it.”

What’s not to love about the Cards and Cubs?

– Deborah Reinhardt

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