In his commencement address for Washington University in St. Louis’ graduating Class of 1998, political commentator George Will shared a cautionary tale of youth. “I grew up in Champaign, Illinois, midway between Chicago and Saint Louis,” Will began. “And at an age too tender for life-shaping decisions, I made one. While all my friends were becoming Cardinals fans. I became a Cubs fan,” he said. “My friends, happily rooting for Stan Musial, Red Schoendienst, and other great Redbirds, grew up cheerfully convinced that the world is a benign place. So, of course, they became liberals. Rooting for the Cubs of the late 1940s and early 1950s, I became gloomy, pessimistic, morose, dyspeptic—in a word, conservative.” Will warned the Class of 1998, “Mammas, don’t let your babies grow up to be Cubs fans.”
There is, shall we say, some historical evidence in support of this viewpoint. The Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908, which was, as Will pointed out, two years before Mark Twain and Tolstoy died. Since that time, the Cardinals have won eleven. Besides its one-sidedness, the rivalry between St. Louis and Chicago is also fascinating in that so many great Cardinals moments have come at the expense of the North Siders. Hall of Famer Stan Musial (Class of 1969) collected his 3,000th hit against the Cubs at Wrigley Field in 1958. (Cardinals’ broadcaster Harry Caray’s call: “Line drive! Into left field! Hit number three thousand! A run has scored! Musial around first, on his way to second with a double. Holy Cow! He came through!”) The 1985 Cardinals—the greatest team of the Whiteyball era, with 101 wins—clinched the National League Eastern Division with a 7-1 victory over the Cubs behind a masterful effort by John Tudor (1985: W-L 21-8; 1.93 ERA). In 1998, Mark McGwire dinked a fastball delivered by the Cubs’ Steve Trachsel over the left field wall at Busch Stadium to break Roger Maris’ single-season home run record, while McGwire’s home run chase competitor—the Cubs’ Sammy Sosa—watched from his position in right field. (Years later, at a Congressional hearing into the use of steroids in Major League Baseball, Big Mac preferred “not to talk about the past” while Slammin’ Sammy, also at the witness table, forgot how to speak English all together.)
Despite this history, it is not impossible to escape the inevitable and unfortunate fate of being a Cub. When he joined St. Louis after many years with Chicago, shortstop Ryan Theriot said that he was “finally on the right side” of the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry. The comment infuriated his former teammates, but he was right: Theriot won his first World Series with the Cardinals (2011). He was not alone. Bruce Sutter pitched five seasons for the Cubs (1976-80) and picked up the National League Cy Young Award there (1979). Chicago then traded Sutter to the Cardinals for Leon Durham and Ken Reitz. Sutter won a World Series with St. Louis (1982) and earned induction to the Hall of Fame (Class of 2006). His HOF plaque depicts him in his trademark beard and, of course, a Cardinals cap. Back in Chicago, Durham went on to miss a ground ball through his legs in the decisive fifth game of the 1984 National League Championship Series. (He was Bill Buckner before Bill Buckner was cool.)
No one, however, performed a better escape from the Cubs than the Base Burglar himself, Lou Brock. Chicago traded Brock to the Cardinals in 1964 in exchange for then-St. Louis pitcher Ernie Broglio. The Cardinals’ right-hander had an 18-8 record with St. Louis in 1963, and the deal originally was seen as a boon for Chicago. “Thank you, thank you, oh, you lovely St. Louis Cardinals,” the Chicago Daily News editorialized. “Nice doing business with you. Please call again any time.” Broglio proceeded to win only seven games for the Cubs over the next three years. And Brock? 3,023 hits. 938 steals. Two World Championships, in 1964 and 1967. And (another) Hall of Fame induction for a Cardinal (Class of 1985). Btw, Brock’s 3,000th hit came against, you guessed it, the Cubs in front of 46,161 adoring fans at Busch Stadium. (They’re not booing, that’s “Lou, Lou, Lou.”)
Not every interaction between the Cubs and Cardinals has gone the Redbirds’ way. An injured Bob Gibson pitched as a reliever in the final game of his Hall of Fame career (Class of 1981) against the Cubs in September 1975. Facing bench player Pete LaCock, Gibson gave up a grand-slam home run before obtaining the final out of the game. In a post-game interview, Gibson commented, “When I gave up a grand slam to Pete LaCock, I knew it was time to quit.” At an “old timer” game thirteen years later, Bob Feller had trouble getting his pitches to the plate. LaCock, who played in that game, recalled, “I come up to the plate and all of a sudden Gibson comes running out to the mound and starts warming up.” According to LaCock, “First pitch, he gets me right in the back.” Some things are hard to let go.
The rivalry between the Cardinals and Cubs is also unique because, for the most part, it is a fairly good-natured one. Shortstop Ozzie Smith (HOF Class of 2002) said that the rivalry was “all about bragging rights”. According to the Wizard, “I never hated Ryne Sandberg or Andre Dawson. We just had good professional battles. We knew that when we played the Cubs, it didn’t matter where we were in the standings. It was always going to be a great series.” The rivalry did take on a bit of an edge when frenemies Tony LaRussa and Dusty Baker managed the two respective teams. During that period, Cardinals’ starting pitcher Matt Morris criticized the Cubs’ “professionalism” and their “‘I want to kill you, I hate you’ attitude.” Baker did not take too kindly to Matty Mo’s remarks and warned that “if he thinks [the fight] has been on so far, he’s got a whole decade full of us coming. This is just the beginning.” Baker’s “decade” of “fight” fell about six years short, as the Cubs fired him after the 2006 season. TLR’s Cardinals went on to win two more World Series (2006 and 2011).
After Baker exited stage left, Chicago signed left-handed pitcher Ted Lilly for the 2007 season. Lilly admittedly had a tremendous three years on the mound for the Cubs (W-L 15-8 in 2007; 17-9 in 2008; 12-9 in 2009). In a September 2008 game against the Cardinals, however, the “modestly built” Lilly raced towards home plate and inexplicably tried to knock over St. Louis’ “fireplug catcher” Yadier Molina who was “in full gear”. Almost as inexplicable, the California Department of Insurance earlier this year charged Lilly with three felonies related to insurance fraud. The Department alleged that Lilly sustained damage while backing up his recreational vehicle (valued at $210,000) and sought an estimate from a body shop on March 19, 2014. The shop estimated the damage at $4,600. The Department alleged that Lilly then bought insurance from Progressive Insurance on March 24, 2014, and claimed the damage on March 28, 2014. Lilly later entered a plea of no contest to a lesser misdemeanor count.
Lilly’s situation is not unusual. Most states impose mandatory reporting requirements on insurance companies that suspect that a fraudulent claim has been made by an insured or other policy holder. Illinois, for example, requires an insurer to report to certain governmental agencies when it “knows or reasonably believes to know the identity of a person whom it has reason to believe committed a criminal or fraudulent act relating to a motor vehicle theft or a motor vehicle insurance claim”. Missouri imposes a similar requirement on insurance companies with respect to many insurance claims generally, not just motor vehicle insurance claims. Both Illinois and Missouri provide carriers with certain levels of civil immunity for any reporting they make under these insurance fraud statutes. As a result, policyholders need to take care when reporting claims to insurance companies and ensure that any information they provide is accurate to the best of their knowledge. As Ted Lilly found out, the consequences for allegedly not doing so go far beyond not making the playoffs.
When asked why he chose to root for the Cubs instead of the Cardinals in the 1940s and 1950s, George Will explained, “I didn’t like the Cardinals broadcaster, a guy named Harry Caray.” Caray remained the Cardinals’ radio broadcaster through the 1960s. After twenty-five years with the team, he was fired after the 1969 season, leaving his partner Jack Buck (HOF Class of 1987) to become the Voice of the Cardinals. After he was fired, Caray gave one of the great post-employment interviews on television while holding a can of Schlitz (the Cardinals then were owned by Anheuser-Busch). He eventually landed as broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs, where he became known for his wide-lens glasses and seventh inning rendition of Take Me Out to the Ballgame. As St. Louis broadcaster Mike Shannon might say, “Mmm-mmm-mmm, mmm-mmm mmm-mmm.”
And if you did not know, the Cardinals and Cubs open the Major League Baseball season on Sunday night, April 5, 2015, at Wrigley Field. Baseball is back. Happy Opening Day.