With my bias as a Chicago Cubs fan a matter of public record, I have to make the case for the Cubs and Cardinals as the best rivalry in all of baseball. The East Coast has the Red Sox and Yankees, and the West Coast has the Dodgers and Giants, but neither has anything on the blue and red here in the Midwest.
Four hours and more were needed to settle Friday night’s affair, and two more games are on tap for this weekend. It doesn’t matter that one team is the defending National League champion, while the other is mired in a rebuild that doesn’t seem to have an endpoint. Just throw that out the window and let the power of the game take over. That’s what happened last night, as it has thousands of times before, and will continue to happen for as long as baseball is played in these two cities.
Chicagoans — those who were born here, anyway — tend to fixate on the White Sox more than they do on the Cardinals. And watching the White Sox win a World Series in 2005 hurt me a lot more than watching the Cardinals win ever could. Abraham Lincoln’s “The House Divided” speech mentality fully applies to baseball in Chicago, since this city wouldn’t know what to do with itself if there was only one team to root for.
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But the Cardinals are a division rival, which makes this year’s 19 Cubs-Cardinals games far more meaningful than the six Cubs-White Sox games could ever be. And going to a game in the Cardinals’ park requires more than a ride across town on the Red line, too. St. Louis and Chicago are separated by three hundred miles geographically — and about five hours on Interstate 55 — but it’s a journey fans of both teams are happy to make.
I grew up in Cardinals country, in a place where — as George Will once put it — there is an infestation of Cardinals fans. So, at an early age, when all of my Khoury League teammates carried red Cardinals batting gloves in their back pockets, I was the rebel with the Cubs blue. So I understand this rivalry, and I look forward to its renewal every year.
It’s hard to see the smaller city to the south take it to the bigger city up north, over and over and over again, but there’s also a palpable excitement around these games. I could never get up for the Giants or Phillies or Reds the way that I do for the Cardinals. And those who think of the Cubs and Brewers as a summertime extension of the Bears and Packers are just going to have to get over it. Wrigley Field and Busch Stadium are where the real action is.
The Cubs won in 11 innings Friday night, and the game ended right before KISS performed on Jimmy Fallon’s show. The band didn’t play “Rock and Roll All Night,” but they really didn’t have to. The Cardinals and Cubs had already done it, and will continue doing so all weekend long.