Chicago Cubs St Louis Cardinals Rivalry

Birds and Bears: Your Guide to the Cubs-Cardinals Rivalry

When it comes to famous sports rivalries, you’ve likely heard of the high profile ones like the Yankees and Red Sox, or the Lakers and the Celtics.

But you might not know that the rivalry between two MLB teams in the midwest is among the most fierce and bitter of any rivalry.

We’re talking about Cubs-Cardinals rivalry.

That’s right – there has been a bitter hatred between the two legendary teams from Chicago and St. Louis that is as strong as ever.

And there are many stories, incidents, and comments throughout the years that have only increased the hatred between the team and their fans.

Interested in learning more about this epic rivalry? Keep reading!

Some Important Numbers

The Cubs-Cardinals rivalry is also known as both the Downstate Illinois rivalry and the Route 66 rivalry.

As of 2018, they had played each other 2,406 times. The Cubs have won 1,222 of those, the Cardinals have won 1,165 of them, and there have been 19 ties.

So their overall records are incredibly similar. Even closer were the number of runs scored in those games. The Cubs had scored 10,428 runs, and the Cardinals had scored 10,441.

That’s an incredibly minute difference, and it underscores how evenly matched these two teams have been, traditionally.

Pennants and World Series Wins

The two teams are also very close in terms of National League pennants won. The Cards have 19, while the Cubs have 17.

The biggest discrepancy lies in the total amount of World Series titles. The Cardinals have won 11 of them. The Cubs have won 3, including the nearly 100-year drought between their 1908 win and their 2016 win.

And of course, this stat is probably the most cited by Cardinals fans.

Early Meetings

There is speculation that the St Louis Brown Stockings (who later became the Cardinals) were actually formed in 1875 to compete specifically with the Chicago White Stockings. The White Stockings would later become the Cubs.

There was already an economic trade rivalry going on between the two cities, so a sports rivalry would help cement that further.

The teams met in the 1885 World Series, and there was controversy from the start. The St. Louis team walked off the field in the middle of game 6, to protest a bad call. The White Stockings were declared the winner of that game.

And when they won game 7, they assumed they had won the World Series. But St. Louis declared that the forfeited game didn’t count. Rather than continue the dispute, the two teams split the title and the $1,000 prize that came with it.

The next year the two teams met again in the World Series. This meeting had its share of contention as well.

Over the course of the series, there were two inside-the-park home runs, which are a rarity, and at one point Chicago attempted to use a minor league recruit as their pitcher.

St. Louis refused to let them, and Chicago ended up using their shortstop and right fielder to pitch. And St. Louis won the series on a wild pitch and a slide into home place. This was known at the time as the “$15,000 slide.”

The Next Phase

In the early 1900s, the Cubs dominated. They won three pennants in a row, as well as two of their World Series titles. They won seven of their pennants in the era between 1908 and 1945.

But the Cardinals reversed that trend, starting with their 1926 World Series win.

And in the post-1945 era, the Cardinals’ dominance continued. The Cubs went on a major pennant and World Series drought. At the same time, the Cardinals continued winning the World Series a total of 11 times.

The animosity between the teams didn’t diminish either. Like the best sports rivalries, the lopsided numbers of championships only intensified it.

In 1928, Cubs player Hack Wilson, who was known for being an instigator, jumped into the fans to fight some Cardinals fans who were heckling him. 5000 fans then swarmed the field to brawl!

Ryne Sandberg Game

Early in Cub Ryne Sandberg’s career he wasn’t yet known outside of Chicago. But a great performance against the Cardinals was what put him on the national map, much to the chagrin of Cardinals fans.

In the ninth inning, down 9 to 8, Sandberg was up to bat against Cardinals ace, Bruce Sutter. Sandberg smacked a home run off of Sutter, sending the game into extra innings.

Later he did the same thing in the 10th inning, extending the game even further. The Cubs went on to win in the 11th inning, and the game is often referred to as the “Sandberg Game.”

That should give you a sense of how badly these teams want to beat each other.

Sosa and McGwire

The famous home run battle in 1998 between sluggers Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa only intensified the rivalry. Starting on opening day, these two home run machines were hitting them out of the park all season.

McGwire actually leaped into the record books by hitting his 61st and 62nd home runs against the Cubs. These tied and then broke the long-held single-season home run record by Roger Maris.

He finished the season with 70 home runs, and though Sosa also bested Maris’s record, his 66 home runs that year still put him behind McGwire.

The Cubs got the better of the Cardinals that year, however, making the playoffs for the first time in nine years. And the Cardinals went below .500 on the season.


Another theory about what makes this rivalry intense is the distance between the two cities.

They are close enough to feel like neighboring cities, yet far enough away to keep a safe distance from each other.

The 300 miles between St. Louis and Chicago are close enough for fans to go see their team at the opposing stadium by making a day of it. But it’s also far enough that most likely only the most diehard of fans will make the trip.

The result? Any opposing fans in the stadiums will be the most obsessed and loyal fans. And that only stokes the rivalry fires more.

Cubs-Cardinals Rivalry

Hopefully, this post gives you a sense of the history and the intensity of the Cubs-Cardinals Rivalry.

If you’re looking to go see one of their games in person, contact us today!