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
to experience baseballs friendliest rivalry.
By Mark Mandernach
|hicagos 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 baseballs 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. Its 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 youre making your Major League Baseball plans for the summer, the Cubs and Cardinals meet in Wrigley Field May 2123, June 710 and July 1920 and in St. Louis Busch Stadium April 30May 3, June 2224 and July 911. Tickets in Chicago are getting hard to come by, as more fans jump on the Cubs bandwagon after last years 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 Murphys 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 its 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 dont have to get into the box against Mark Prior or Greg Maddux. Stop by Sluggers 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 Carays 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
Chris Epting started to research his book, Roadside Baseball, when most boys are playing in Little League.
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