The top six moments in the history of the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry
In 1885, the American Association champion St. Louis Brown Stockings met the National League champion Chicago White Stockings for the first time ever, in a best-of-seven precursor to the World Series.
After a tie due to darkness in Game 1, Game 2 ended in controversy: With Chicago ahead in the sixth, St. Louis manager Charles Comiskey called his team off the field in protest of an umpire's ruling, forfeiting the game to the White Stockings. When the series eventually ended in a 3-3 tie, Comiskey claimed the championship for St. Louis, arguing that the earlier forfeit didn't count -- and one of baseball's fiercest rivalries was born.
More than 130 years and 2,400 games later, not much has changed between the Cubs and Cardinals -- not even amusement parks are safe from the battle of Route 66. But just what are the greatest moments in arguably baseball's biggest rivalry? Here's our countdown:
6. Sept. 1-4, 2003
The Cubs hadn't won the NL Central since 1989. The Cardinals hadn't won the NL Central since … 2002. But thanks in large part to the lights-out duo of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, Chicago was ready to flip the script, trailing St. Louis by just 2 1/2 games heading into a massive five-games-in-four-days set at Wrigley.
Things got heated almost immediately, when Wood hit Cardinals starter Matt Morris with a pitch on a bunt attempt. A day later, St. Louis' Dan Haren plunked Chicago's Matt Clement, who responded by plunking Haren with a pitch of his own. The bad blood even spilled over into the media -- after La Russa accused Wood of throwing at Morris and several other batters, Dusty Baker responded succinctly: "If you're going to bark, you have to be ready to bite."
By the time the dust settled, the upstart Cubs had won four of five -- including a dramatic Sammy Sosa walk-off homer in the 15th inning:
5. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa go swing-for-swing
As they chased down the single-season home run record, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa turned every at-bat during the summer of 1998 into must-see TV. The two went back and forth for months -- Big Mac setting the pace early, Sosa briefly taking the lead with a blistering June in which he hit 20 (!) homers -- until Sept. 8, 1998, when McGwire entered that night's game against the Cubs sitting on 61.
In the bottom of the fourth, off Chicago starter Steve Trachsel, he made history:
For one night, even Cubs-Cardinals took a back seat: Mark Grace, Mickey Morandini, Jose Hernandez and Gary Gaetti all slapped McGwire's back as he rounded the bases, while Sosa -- sitting on 58 homers at the time -- ran in from right field to give his fellow slugger a hug.
4. The Ryne Sandberg Game
The 1984 season was a special one on the North Side. Powered by Rick Sutcliffe and Ryne Sandberg, the Cubs returned to the postseason for the first time in nearly 40 years -- oh, and they pulled off one of the wildest victories in the rivalry's history.
For most of the day, it didn't look very likely. On June 23, 1984, the Cardinals jumped out to a 7-1 lead in the second inning at Wrigley, and looked to have the game well in hand. Even after a Chicago rally, the Cubs trailed, 9-8, in the bottom of the ninth, with legendary closer Bruce Sutter on the mound. Play-by-play man Bob Costas even began reading the broadcast credits as Sandberg stepped into the box:
Sandberg's solo homer sent the game to extras and touched off bedlam at the Friendly Confines, but things were just getting started. The Cardinals rebounded, tacking on two more in the top of the tenth and giving Sutter a shot at redemption. Once again, Sandberg stepped up in the bottom half as the tying run -- and once again, he went yard:
Chicago finally walked it off in the bottom of the 11th, as Sandberg was well on his way to the NL MVP Award.
3. The 2015 NLDS
Despite more than a century of competition, the Cubs and Cardinals had never met in the postseason -- until 2015, that is, when the two teams faced off in a historic NLDS.
The roles were familiar: St. Louis had won two of the last four NL pennants, while Chicago hadn't put together so much as a winning season in six years. And that experience looked as if it would be the difference at first, as the Cardinals took Game 1 behind a stellar outing from
But, when the series shifted to Wrigley Field, the Cubs bats went bonkers -- Chicago launched a Major League record six dingers in Game 3, and the next night
The Cubs took the series in four games, a sign that their youth movement was here to stay.
2. The Lou Brock trade
"Thank you, thank you, oh, you lovely St. Louis Cardinals. Nice doing business with you. Please call again any time." So began Chicago Daily News sportswriter Bob Smith's column on June 16, 1964. It was easy to see why Smith, and Cubs fans everywhere, were feeling giddy: Chicago had just acquired St. Louis starter Ernie Broglio, who had just posted a 2.99 ERA the year prior and was just the pitching depth the team needed.
The best part? The only significant piece the Cubs had to give up was an outfielder, a 24-year-old currently hitting just .251 who went by the name Lou Brock.
Of course, there was no way for Chicago to know at the time that this would become one of the most infamous trades in Deadline history. Brock was able to cut loose as a Cardinal, hitting .348 with 33 steals down the stretch as St. Louis. Broglio, meanwhile, won just seven more games in his career, battling several injuries before retiring in 1966.
The Cardinals went on to win it all in 1964, while Ernie Banks and the Cubs spent the rest of the decade just one more piece away from capturing that elusive World Series title. (A certain black cat also had a little something to do with that.)
1. The Brawl
Because really, what would a rivalry be without a good, old-fashioned brawl?
Al Hrabosky starred at the back of the Cardinals bullpen for much of the 1970s, and he did it in just about the most colorful way imaginable. Everything about Hrabosky was outlandish, from his wild mustache to his pre-pitch routine: After getting the ball back from the catcher, he would walk behind the mound, turn his back to the batter and slam the ball into his glove before hiking back up to the rubber. (It's no wonder that Hrabosky was affectionately known as "The Mad Hungarian".)
But during a game against the Cubs on Sept. 22, 1974, Chicago infielder Bill Madlock wasn't having any of Hrabosky's antics. Every time Hrabosky would go through his lengthy routine and get set for his windup, Madlock would step out of the box. Madlock stepped back in, Hrabosky insisted on spending 30 seconds getting ready, and Madlock stepped out again -- and on and on it went.
After minutes of stalling, home-plate umpire Shag Crawford had enough: He ordered Hrabosky to start pitching regardless of whether Madlock was ready, prompting Cubs manager Jim Marshall to come out and argue. While Madlock and Marshall stood near home plate, Hrabosky delivered strike one, and it was all downhill from there:
Both benches immediately cleared, and the ensuing brawl lasted for several minutes -- but amazingly, only Marshall was ejected. A few innings later, Cardinals catcher Ted Simmons -- who threw the first punch at Madlock -- hit a walk-off single to give St. Louis the win.
Here's to 132 more years.