The Cubs-Cardinals rivalry has to be No. 2 in baseball, doesn’t it? I mean, sure, back when the Giants and Dodgers were consistently battling in both New York and then in California that was big.
But now, that’s not as intense.
Nothing is going to top Yankees-Red Sox, but if we’re looking at a the next best one, this is probably it. Sans the fact that the Cubs have more often been terrible while the Cardinals have been good, these are two of the most dedicated fan bases in baseball.
Most of the time, if a team is playing within driving range, fans are going to travel. Cubs fans on Saturday said their team’s series against the Tigers earlier this year was absolutely the biggest mass-exodus of opposing fans this season.
Now-relevant(ish) outfielder Bryan LaHair and obscure Chicago comedian Jeff Garland weren’t fans of the invasion, but hey, it’s the Cubs and when things are going bad as they were then, any publicity is good publicity.
Fast forward to now and things are a little different. It wasn’t 75 percent opposing fans like that Tigers’ series, but the Cardinals fans love their team. They come in hoards — families all sporting custom shirseys — and they look like they belong, even on the road.
(Side note: custom shirseys or jerseys are always a no. You just can’t do it. Don’t go out and get a No. 31 Cubs’ jersey that says Martin on the back. That’s Greg Maddux jersey, there’s no need to poison it with your own name.)
In terms of baseball fan bases though, the Cardinals fans are near the top — these people absolutely adore that baseball team. I seriously saw a lady wearing a No. 23 David Freese jersey carrying around an oxygen tank. THAT’S a die-hard fan.
Cardinals fans have the most championship memorabilia at games, too. Yeah, they’re the defending champs, but so many shirts with word plays based on rings and what-not — everyone get it, you won the World Series, you don’t need to have a hat, shirt and sign that explain it.
These are the outsiders though. Bartenders hate them because they tip like crap. I’m an awful bar tipper, I’ll admit that, but apparently it’s a St. Louis/being a jerk thing, too.
Basically, they’re great fans who are loyal and more times than not have very attractive wives and girlfriends. Makes sense why Cubs fans would hate them, right?
Those Cubs fans on the other hand, that’s different. There are plenty of churches and what-not on the Northside of Chicago, but I’m pretty sure the holiest of sanctuaries is Wrigley Field.
It’s about the experience. You see the ivy on the walls, you see Alfonso Soriano tease the bleacher bums in left field with two or three random balls; making them move side to side like zombies staring at a piece of human flesh before a game.
Fans are everywhere, hell, a ton of them don’t even go to the game. They just hang outside Wrigley for the experience. They love their team and they might be the mirror image of Cardinals fans — they’ll go to the game whether the team’s good or bad, they just have more experience seeing bad baseball.
I saw Travis Wood pitch against Cards’ surprise ace Lance Lynn on Friday. Wood’s been pretty solid this year, but after St. Louis rocked him for six runs on July 22, they continued their ownership on Friday to the tune of eight runs over five innings.
Needless to say, Travis Wood isn’t very good. But if we’re judging off one start, neither is Lynn. He got a win, but he got abused by Cubs’ first basement Anthony Rizzo multiple times at the dish.
Originally, I thought Rizzo was all hype. He was hailed in Boston, then he failed in San Diego and now he’s the sudden cornerstone of the Cubs. After seeing him in person — running the bases, playing a solid first and crushing a good pitcher — I’m a total believer in the guy, he’s that good.
He smashed a two-run home run down the right-field line. The ball was gone as soon as it hit the bat. Of course, he then came back and won the game for the Cubs on Sunday in extras with another home run. Like I said, he’s really good.
You know who else is a good guy? Tom Ricketts. The Cubs owner, Ricketts was just walking around the upper deck during the sixth inning on Friday, minding his own business while saying hello to anyone who actually notices it’s him.
As my season-ticket holder uncle told me, “he’s just a normal guy who happens to be loaded and owns a baseball team.”
If you’re drinking at the game, you have to drink an Old Style. It’s terrible, kind of like a step down from Pabst Blue Ribbon or as my roommate described it, “the Natty of PBR.”
Friday’s game was Ron Santo day, which was an interesting sight as well. Santo is arguably the most beloved Cub of all time, and even if you hate the Cubs, you have to recognize that it was a sham that it took 33 years for him to get in to the Hall of Fame.
If you look around Wrigley, attempting to pick out the most popular jerseys, it’s going to come down to five main choices:
1. Ron Santo – He’s just a popular guy. Most didn’t see him play, but they all heard him be terrible, yet lovable on the radio for 20 years.
2. Ryne Sandberg – Maybe the best Cub of the modern crowd’s era. People are still a little peeved that Theo Epstein didn’t interview him for the manager job last offseason.
3. Geovany Soto – I get it, he was good and now he’s in a two-year super slump.
4. Anthony Rizzo – At his current pace, he’s going to be the most popular player on the team sooner than later, sorry Gio.
5. Mark Prior – It’s kind of depressing to see, but I guess you’ve got to do something with that $140 jersey, right?
The fans just love sports. Honestly, I don’t think they care that Prior’s arm fell off or that Soto is really a bad baseball player, they just love sports and whatever memories they have.
Some guys behind us were talking football. Apparently the Bears are arguably the second-best team in the NFC now — of course, this conversation occurred after the seventh inning and maybe seven or so beers into the game.
Long story short, Bears fans think Jay Cutler is a “douche face” off the field, but say he‘s the best quarterback they‘ve had in 25 years. They also think the Lions are the most talented team in the NFC North, but won‘t win because of their coach, Jim Schwartz, and his being an ass hole.
Douche face is a great insult, by the way.
The Cubs may have lost the game 9-6, but when Santo’s son Jeff sang “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh inning stretch, the score didn’t matter. Fans were singing and smiling. Cubs and Cardinals fans sang in unison like kids at their first ball games.
Everyone sporting a fun-loving smile? That’s how a baseball game should be.