B/R MLB Rivalry Series: Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals
Welcome to the third edition of Bleacher Report's MLB rivalry series.
In the weeks to come, we'll highlight some of the biggest head-to-head rivalries in our national pastime and shine light on the past, present and future of those matchups.
We kicked things off on the East Coast with a look at the famed Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees rivalry. Then we turned our attention west to the long, storied history of the Los Angeles Dodgers-San Francisco Giants feud.
Now it's time for the best of the Midwest.
The Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals may not have the same contentious history as the first two feuds we highlighted. But, thanks to overlapping loyalties, it might be the best turf war the sport has to offer.
The following provides a look at notable numbers and notes, a detailed breakdown of the rivalry's origins, an overview of memorable regular-season moments, a rundown of postseason meetings between the two clubs and finally a preview of the outlook of both franchises.
Rivalry Numbers and Notes
Head-to-Head Record (Regular Season)
- 1,202-1,151 (adv. CHC)
Head-to-Head Postseason Meetings
- 1885 World Series: St. Louis vs. Chicago (3-3-1)
- 1886 World Series: St. Louis over Chicago (4-2)
- 2015 NLDS: Chicago over St. Louis (3-1)
- 5/15/1960: Don Cardwell, CHC
- 9/30/1933: Babe Herman, CHC
- 6/28/1950: Roy Smalley, CHC
- 9/14/1961: Ken Boyer, STL
- 7/17/1966: Billy Williams, CHC
- 4/22/1980: Ivan DeJesus, CHC
- 6/23/1984: Willie McGee, STL
Notable Players Who Made an Impact on Both Sides
- OF Lou Brock
- Announcer Harry Caray
- SP/RP Dennis Eckersley
- OF Jim Edmonds
- RF Jason Heyward
- 2B Rogers Hornsby
- SP John Lackey
- RP Lee Smith
- RP Bruce Sutter
Unlike some of the other rivalries we'll touch on in this series, there's not that one defining moment or series of events to pin down as the origin of the Cubs-Cardinals feud.
Instead, it's a rivalry born almost entirely from the geographical proximity of the two franchises and their subsequent battle for territorial rights.
"All that stands between these two adversaries is a mere 297 miles of rich, Midwestern soil. With each team intent on owning that land, this rivalry is really a turf war," wrote Doug Ward of ESPN.com in 2009.
For much of central Illinois, Busch Stadium is closer than Wrigley Field. With radio and television broadcasts readily available for both teams, it's easy to see why allegiances are so split.
That leaves friends pitted against friends and families against families. That unique situation is what keeps the rivalry going even when the outcome of the games has not always mattered from a contention standpoint.
Now that both teams are in a position to contend, the rivalry has only taken on a new significance.
Notable Regular-Season Rivalry Moments
May 13, 1958: Stan Musial gets 3,000th hit vs. Cubs
One of the greatest players in MLB history and probably the best player to don a Cardinals jersey, Stan Musial piled up 3,630 hits in his 22-year career.
An impressive 492 of those came against the Cubs, including No. 3,000 during his age-37 season in 1958.
Musial reached the milestone on May 13, with a pinch-hit RBI double in the top of the sixth inning off Cubs starter Moe Drabowsky.
June 15, 1964: Brock for Broglio
In two full seasons with the Cubs, Lou Brock flashed the game-changing speed that would later make him a star.
However, he hit just .260/.309/.396 with a 20 percent strikeout rate, making him a less-than-ideal leadoff option.
That was reason enough for the Cubs to move him midway through the 1964 season, bringing back a three-player package headlined by right-hander Ernie Broglio.
Broglio was coming off an 18-win season in 1963 and had finished third in NL Cy Young voting in 1960 when he went 21-9 with a 2.74 ERA. But his arm was spent at the time of the trade.
In parts of three seasons with the Cubs, he went 7-19 with a 5.40 ERA before retiring at the age of 30.
Meanwhile, Brock's career took off as he hit .348/.387/.527 in 464 plate appearances the rest of the way in 1964. He racked up 3,023 hits and 938 stolen bases over his 19-year career en route to the Hall of Fame.
Just to throw salt in the wounds, Brock was a career .334/.378/.479 hitter against the Cubs, his best numbers against any team.
June 23, 1984: 'The Sandberg Game'
One game during the first half of the 1984 season simultaneously announced Ryne Sandberg as a budding superstar and the Cubs as legitimate contenders for the first time in years.
Sandberg was in his third full season in the majors. While he won a Gold Glove the previous year and was viewed as a solid young player in Chicago, he was largely unnoticed outside of the Windy City.
That would all change with one nationally televised game against the rival Cardinals.
With the Cubs trailing 9-8, Sandberg led off the bottom of the ninth inning with a solo home run against future Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter to send the game to extra innings.
The Cardinals regained the lead with two runs in the top of the 10th, but Sandberg came through again, this time with a two-run shot off Sutter to send the game to the 11th.
The Cubs won on a walk-off single from Dave Owen and had an MLB-best 59-34 record the rest of the way as they reached the postseason for the first time since 1945.
1998 Home Run Race
With the sport still struggling to recover from the 1994 strike, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa brought some much-needed excitement into the league with their assault on the record books in 1998.
The two sluggers' chase to break the single-season home run record became a national story, and they both wound up passing the previous mark of 61 set by Roger Maris during the 1961 season.
It was only fitting that the record fell when the two teams squared off for a two-game series at Busch Stadium in early September.
McGwire tied the record on Sept. 7 with a shot off Cubs starter Mike Morgan, then he broke it the following night when he took Steve Trachsel deep.
McGwire finished the season with a record 70 home runs, while Sosa wrapped up the year with 66 and took home NL MVP honors as he led the Cubs to their first postseason appearance in nearly a decade.
Postseason Rivalry History
1885 and 1886 World Series
The World Series as we know it today did not begin until 1903 when the American League established itself as the second major league alongside the National League.
Prior to that, it was the American Association that took on the NL champion at the end of each season.
The 1885 and 1886 campaigns both ended with a matchup between the Chicago White Stockings and St. Louis Browns, early editions of what would become the Cubs and Cardinals.
There was no shortage of controversy during the 1885 series, which ended in a contested tie and the two teams splitting a $1,000 prize.
Chicago led 5-4 during the sixth inning of Game 2 when St. Louis manager Charles Comiskey ordered his team off the field in protest of a call made by umpire Dave Sullivan.
Chicago was awarded a victory via forfeit, but St. Louis refused to acknowledge that victory and the series went down in the history books as a 3-3-1 tie.
The two teams met again the following season, with St. Louis winning the series in six games.
Those six contests were played over six days, and only seven total pitchers took the mound. A different time.
2015 Division Series
It would take more than 100 years for the teams to meet in the postseason again, as they squared off in the Division Series last year.
The Cardinals won the NL Central title with a 100-62 record, while the Cubs advanced out of the Wild Card Round behind a five-hit shutout from Jake Arrieta to set up a Division Series meeting between the rivals.
St. Louis jumped out to an early series lead, as the Cubs offense didn't show up in Game 1. Tommy Pham and Stephen Piscotty went deep for the Cardinals, and John Lackey, Kevin Siegrist and Trevor Rosenthal combined on a three-hit shutout.
That would be the only game the Cardinals won, though.
The Cubs rode a five-run second inning to a 6-3 victory in Game 2, launched six home runs en route to an 8-6 win in Game 3 and closed out the series with a 6-4 victory in Game 4 behind eight pitchers.
A World Series run was not to be for the Cubs, as the New York Mets swept them in the NLCS. However, their young core far exceeded expectations in 2015 and most assume the best is yet to come on the North Side.
The Present and Future of the Rivalry
The St. Louis Cardinals have established themselves as one of the most consistent franchises in all of professional sports, reaching the postseason an impressive 12 times in the past 16 years.
They've won four NL pennants and two World Series titles during that span, and they have not missed the playoffs since 2010 while working on a run of three straight NL Central titles.
That said, they're chasing the Chicago Cubs in 2016.
The Cubs stormed to a 47-20 start but ran into some trouble prior to the All-Star break with a 6-15 stretch that began with a three-game sweep at the hands of the Cardinals.
Despite that brief slide, they still hold a 7.5-game lead over the Cardinals in the NL Central.
Looking to the future, the Cubs appear to be in as enviable a position as any team in baseball.
Their young offensive core of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber should only improve in the years to come. The pitching staff is solid with veterans Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester and John Lackey at the top and an emerging Kyle Hendricks looking like more than just a back-end starter.
Even after graduating all of those young pieces last year and calling up guys like Willson Contreras, Albert Almora Jr. and Carl Edwards Jr. this season, Chicago has an abundance of talent in the minors.
The Cubs checked in at No. 11 in our post-draft farm system rankings, with high-ceiling bats Eloy Jimenez, Gleyber Torres and Ian Happ now leading the way.
On the other side, the Cardinals are set up well for long-term success.
Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha and, eventually, top prospect Alex Reyes should provide a formidable young trio to anchor the rotation, while Stephen Piscotty and Aledmys Diaz appear ready to take the torch from aging stars Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina on the offensive side.
In the short term, a bullpen upgrade or two ahead of the August 1 non-waiver trade deadline should help solidify their standing as contenders. In the long term, finding a legitimate replacement for Molina behind the plate has to be a priority, as his contributions stretch far beyond his counting stats.
This rivalry has always been an important one in the eyes of the respective fanbases, but with both teams finally in a position to contend at the same time, it's taken on new meaning within the MLB landscape.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted.