In another venue, I made the observation that the vaunted Cub-Cardinal rivalry was not much of a rivalry from their point of view, that is, the view of the St. Louis team and its fans. After all, they have snagged eleven World Series titles since our most recent one in 1908. I was a bit surprised, then, when someone pointed out that head-to-head, historically, it’s us with 1191 wins, them with 1143.
After a quick dip into the record books, here are a couple of observations about our illustrious red-capped rivals.
The Cubs may have had as many or more hall-of-fame players, but the Cards had players who were transcendent, the best of their era: Hornsby, Dizzy Dean, Musial, Gibson, Ozzie Smith, Pujols. Players like that attract championships in a way that Williams and Banks and Santo and Jenkins and Sandberg just don’t.
(But wait a moment: Banks in the late fifties doesn’t really belong with the non-transcendents.)
The Cardinals have had first-rate catchers over the years: Torre and McCarver and Ted Simmons and Yadier. The catching position is the backbone of the team on the field; or so it would seem, watching the Cardinals operate.
Then there were the hall-of-fame managers. Whitey Herzog led the Ozzie Smith-led team to a world series in the ’80s plus two seven-game Series losses. Herzog was followed by Torre and then quickly by LaRussa. Torre didn’t have the players that Herzog and LaRussa had.
The Cards won titles in the 60′s under Johnny Keane and Red Schoendienst. Schoendienst managed the team to over a thousand wins with the help of all-time great Bob Gibson and the likes of Cepeda and Brock. (Ouch–that last name hurts!)
Are the Cubs building a team with a trancendent player, a solid backstop and a tough and shrewd manager? I certainly think they’re trying. I could imagine a transcendent player or two among the names already in the Cub organization. Behind the plate, I think they’ve settled on someone long-term. The manager has a heralded career and a clear path to Cooperstown if this hungry team succeeds.
May a great Cub-Card rivalry begin! (Next week in Wrigley won’t be too soon.)