ESPN may not like to acknowledge it, but the best rivalry in baseball isn't on the East Coast. It's in the Midwest, between one large market and a mid-major market.
Together, over the span of just over 125 years, the Cards and Cubs have played nearly 2200 games. The Cubs are winning the series 1100-1058-17. The teams have been competitive during the entirety of the series, meaning that fans are going to be treated to a good time every time they meet.
The fans also make this series a great rivalry for both cities. Red Sox fans and Yankee fans travel 217 miles to get between cities, but for Cubs and Cards fans, they have to travel 300 miles between the two cities. It may only be 83 miles, but those extra miles may be the difference between taking the car and flying, or having to fill up the car an extra time or not. Diehard fans want to travel to see their team in the opposing cities, and they travel the extra miles to see them.
Unfortunately for the Cubs, their fans haven't been able to cheer about a lot between these two ball clubs. Sure, they are winning the series, but that's about it. The Cardinals have 11 World Series titles to their name, the most recent being the miraculous 2011 season. The Cubs' most recent World Series title was in 1908. The Cardinals have 11 division titles and 18 National League Pennants. The Cubs hold 16 National League Pennants, but only five division titles.
Perhaps the best battle between the two clubs was in 1998. Sammy Sosa was playing right field for the Cubs, while Mark McGwire was the Cardinals' first baseman. The two were poised for a great season, but no one guessed what would happen over that season.
By the end of May, McGwire had 27 home runs compared to Sosa's 13. But by the end of the month, Sosa stormed to 33 home runs, only four behind McGwire. The two would duel each other until one fateful series in early September. The Cubs visited the Cardinals at Busch Stadium, and McGwire was sitting on 60 home runs.
In the first game, McGwire hit a home run to be the first player since 1961 to hit 61 home runs. On September 8, 1998, McGwire hit his shortest home run of the season to get to 62 home runs. Sosa would make it to 66 home runs that season, but McGwire would hold the record at 70 home runs in a season.
This battle may have been epic, but what really makes this series is its fans. Cardinals fans are perhaps the most knowledgeable fans in baseball. Not only do they respect the players, but they respect the game itself. The atmosphere at Busch Stadium cannot be matched in any other stadium.
Wrigley Field is one of baseball's historic ballparks. Both Cardinal and Cub legends have battled the same battles at Wrigley, batting in the same batter's box, warmed up in the same bullpens. Being in a place with so much history connects the current teams to those teams of the past.
The Cards vs. Cubs rivalry is the best rivalry in baseball because it is a territorial rivalry. These teams and fans travel far to declare their supremacy, and have been fighting with each other ever since the first game was played more than 125 years ago.
When these two teams play, they play for keeps.