FEATURES

 

Holy cow!
Published:
May/Jun 2004

Above: Wrigley Field, which dates back to 1914, is an integral part of Chicago baseball history. The park is a landmark in Chicago, as well as throughout Major League Baseball cities. Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs photo

Below: Busch Stadium in St. Louis is where the Cardinal faithful watch their team play. The park, and all of downtown, buzzes with excitement when the Cubs come into town. St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission photo

Before You Go
For information on baseball ticket availability, call the Cubs at (773) 404-2827 or the Cardinals at (314) 421-2400.

Stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, reservations, TripTiks and TourBook guides. View a list of offices.

Order free information through the Reader Service Card online. Click on Reader Resources.

Cardinals and cubs weekends are a sure hit
to experience baseball’s friendliest rivalry.
By Mark Mandernach

hicago’s Wrigley Field is absolutely hopping 81 home dates every year, from April to September--and even into October if the Cubs make the National League playoffs. The fabled ballpark packs in fans from all over the globe, and the surrounding neighborhood provides plenty of local haunts for pre- and post-game celebrating.

But for an additional jolt of electricity that brings Wrigley Field excitement to another level, nothing is quite like a Chicago Cubs-St. Louis Cardinals game.

The stands in Wrigley Field, which opened in 1914, are usually a sea of blue for most home games. But when the Cardinals travel to Chicago and bring their faithful fans with them, Wrigley's palette takes on a definite red-and-blue feel, as Cubs and Cardinals fans figuratively joust for supremacy. Even the souvenir stands outside the park hawk Cardinals stuff along with the Cubs items.

The Cubs and Cardinals is one of the best rivalries in professional sports. It's also one of the friendliest, which is perhaps owed to the Midwestern sensibilities of the teams’ fan bases. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox might slug it out on the field and in the stands at Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park, but Cubs and Cardinals fans would much rather share a frosty beverage than put up their dukes. Wrigley Field is, after all, "The Friendly Confines."

The Cubs against the Cardinals is baseball’s civil war, with emphasis on civil. Everyone has fun, no matter who wins.

Mike Shannon has lived the rivalry for decades, first as a Cardinals player and for the last 32 years as an announcer for KMOX radio.

“This is the best rivalry in athletics,” said Shannon during a visit to Chicago last September. “It’s good, clean entertainment. Coming to Chicago is like Mardi Gras.”

The Cubs and Cardinals have been linked for decades. Every long-suffering Cubs fan still laments how the Cubs traded future Hall of Famer Lou Brock to the Cardinals on June 15, 1963 for Ernie Broglio. Announcer Harry Caray might have ended his career with the Cubs, but the St. Louis native called games for the Cardinals from 1947 to 1969.

Budweiser beer might be brewed in St. Louis, but the brewery is also a longtime Cubs sponsor (as well as a sponsor of St. Louis professional sports, including the Cardinals). Former Cub All-Star Ryne Sandberg became a local folk hero when he hit two homers off the Cardinals’ Bruce Sutter in an extra-inning classic in 1984. And sluggers Mark McGwire of the Cardinals and Sammy Sosa of the Cubs dueled homer-for-homer in their historic pursuit of Roger Maris’ single season home run record in 1998.

If you’re making your Major League Baseball plans for the summer, the Cubs and Cardinals meet in Wrigley Field May 21–23, June 7–10 and July 19–20 and in St. Louis’ Busch Stadium April 30–May 3, June 22–24 and July 9–11. Tickets in Chicago are getting hard to come by, as more fans jump on the Cub’s bandwagon after last year’s successes and a promising upcoming season. But gameday in Wrigleyville always is fun, especially with St. Louis in town. In St. Louis, series with the Cubs usually are among the first to sell out.

In September 2003, the Cardinals came to Wrigley Field for five games in four days. The two teams were embroiled in a pennant race and 177,530 people attended the five games. Body paint was high fashion, as fans resorted to artwork to show support for the team. Jerseys for Sosa, Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Albert Pujols or Jim Edmonds were worn like formalwear. And the caps. It was almost as if you needed to sport a Cubs or Cardinals baseball cap to be admitted into Wrigley Field.

Of course, no Wrigley Field experience is complete without exploring the surrounding neighborhood. On the northeast corner across the street from the ballpark is Murphy’s Bleachers underneath the “El” tracks. Follow the smoke to the outdoor grill where the burgers and brats are outstanding. On the southeast corner outside the park at the corner of Clark and Addison is the legendary Cubby Bear, which has been packing in fans since the Chicago Cubs began playing at Wrigley Field.

Hi-Tops, at Addison and Sheffield, boasts that it’s the “best sports bar in the free world” and they have 65 TV monitors to back up their claim. Across from Hi-Tops, the Sports Corner is another Wrigleyville haunt where they take their sports very seriously. And if you get the itch to swing a bat, you don’t have to get into the box against Mark Prior or Greg Maddux. Stop by Slugger’s Sports Bar on North Clark Street and visit the upstairs batting cages to test your stroke.

Now, if you feel like sitting down to eat after an exciting Cubs/Cardinals game, what better place than Harry Caray’s Restaurant at 33 W. Kinzie St. in Chicago. Reservations are recommended.

One other way to enjoy Wrigley Field is by taking a tour of the ballpark. Tour dates are scheduled for weekend days throughout the season, and advance tickets are required.

Mark Mandernach is a new contributor from Arlington Heights, Ill.

Author has a hit with
’Roadside Baseball’ book

Chris Epting started to research his book, “Roadside Baseball,” when most boys are playing in Little League.

A collection of historic parks and sites connected with America’s pasttime, “Roadside Baseball” came out last year after the baseball season had opened. It is gathering national attention.

“I’ve always wanted to do this,” said Epting from his Huntington Beach, Calif., home. “I grew up in New York, about 45 minutes north of New York City, and was a big Babe Ruth fan. I’d love to look at old baseball photos from the 1920s and ’30s and wondered what would be there now.”

Cities from across the country–including Chicago and St. Louis–are included in the book that has descriptions of sites any baseball fan would want to visit.
O
ne of the sites in his book is Wrigley Field, described by Epting as one of baseball’s most beloved environments. What makes Wrigley special is the fact it’s still there, Epting said.

It’s one of the last parks in an urban environment; it’s still an inner-city park. People walk to the park, talk about the game; the baseball experience has already started.

“Plus, take the history and combine it with what the Cubs have become over the decades–it’s a great mythical thing,” he said.

Epting has also watched games at Busch Stadium in St. Louis and said that experience balances the intensity of East Coast ball with a solid family atmosphere.

Fans in Chicago and St. Louis know their baseball and love their teams, Epting said, acknowledging that the legendary Cardinals/Cubs rivalry is one of the best.

“It’s heartland baseball. That’s beautiful stuff,” he said.

Epting said he’s thinking about writing another volume or at least a second printing of “Roadside Baseball” (Sporting News books). But first, he’s off to Arizona with his son to catch some Cactus League games, including a few Cubbie contests.

– Deborah Reinhardt



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