The Best of the I-55 Series: Looking back at the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry

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ORG XMIT: 477580051 ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL13: Matt Holliday #7 of the St. Louis Cardinals is tagged out at second base by Starlin Castro #13 of the Chicago Cubs in the seventh inning at Busch Stadium on April 13, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals beat the Cubs 6-4. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

CHICAGO – History will be made in one of baseball’s most storied and heated rivalries.

New York and Boston’s baseball feud tends to get a lot of the national attention but here in the Midwest the non-political Blue and the Red battles have had plenty of moments.

Sixteen years after the Yankees and Red Sox met for the first time in the playoffs, the Cubs and the Cardinals will do the same in the National League Division Series over the next week. Not since Wild Card play began have the teams met up in the postseason and its the first time that both teams have been in the playoffs at the same time.

To fire up for this most unusual edition of the “I-55 Series” her are some of the best moments from the rivalry in the regular season over the years.

The Sandberg Game – June 23, 1984

For Cubs fans the first memory of the Cardinals that’s a happy one comes on one of the greatest afternoons in the modern era of Cubs baseball.

One of the Cubs up and coming stars made his name on the national stage against the Cubs’ rival.

Trailing 9-8 in the ninth inning and facing one of the best closers in the game in Bruce Sutter, Sandberg blasted a solo homer into the left field bleachers to tie the game. But the Cardinals-just two years removed from a World Series title-rallied back for two runs in the tenth inning to retake the lead .

Facing Sutter again, Sandberg doubled his previous feat by sending another pitch into the seats to tie the game at 11. The raucous crowd whipped up into a frenzy as Sandberg took a curtain call after his second homer. The Cubs would go onto win the game in the 11th inning, capture their first NL East Division title and Sandberg had his greatest moment of an MVP season.


Dashing Dawson – September 9th, 1989


This moment isn’t as famous as “The Sandberg Game” but in terms of a playoff race it might have been more important.

A weekend series at Wrigley Field with the Cardinals saw the Cubs enter with a game-and-a-half lead in the National League East. It appeared the Cubs would extend the lead in the opener when the jumped out to a 7-1 on St. Louis in the 4th inning. But a bullpen collapse helped the Cardinals win it 11-8 to pull within a half game of first.

The next day the Cubs went to extra innings with their rivals when one of the icons of the Cubs era made one of his biggest play with his legs.

In the 10th inning newly acquired third baseman Luis Salazar knocked a double deep into the right field corner. Andre Dawson, who at that point was having knee issues, was on first and took off. “Here he comes! Here he comes!” screamed Harry Caray as Dawson lumbered his way around the bases. He was able to get to the plate before the throw to help the Cubs win it 3-2.

Dawson jumped into the waiting arms of Shawon Dunston and the picture is the most famous image of that 1989 team (The photo was used on the program for the NLCS the Giants). The Cubs would win the series finale the next day and was apart of a six-game winning streak that helped the team to an NL East championship.

To watch the moment, go to the 6:00 minute mark of the video below.

A Repeat Feat – September 20, 2008

Cubs Clinch 2008

Clinching a playoff berth at Wrigley Field is a rarity in modern times.

Since 1945 it has only happened twice-and once was against the Cardinals. (Technically the Cubs were home when a playoff spot was clinched but it wasn’t during one of their games).

Unlike many years where drama has been a big part of the Cubs making the playoffs, that wasn’t the case on this warm fall afternoon on the North Side. Clinching the division, for once, was a formality for the Cubs who were comfortably in first place most of the season.

Not that the game wasn’t without drama. The Cubs saw a 5-0 lead get shaved down to one run by the ninth inning but Kerry Wood was able to keep the day memorable. He got Aaron Miles to fly out to, ironically, former Cardinals’ outfielder Jim Edmonds to seal the Cubs’ second-straight NL Central Division championship.

Five Games, 4 Wins and a Belly Assault – September 1-4, 2003


The 2003 Cubs were a team that teetered on the brink of playoff competitiveness  for a majority of the season under first year manager Dusty Baker.

But this team went from just good to frontrunners thanks to a rare series at Wrigley Field in early September.

Thanks to a May rainout and schedule conflicts the Cubs would play a five-game series with the Cardinals that would start their last season surge into first place.

In third entering the series the Cubs would win four out of the five games played to pass St. Louis for second place in the division.

But the most bizarre day was the double-header played on September 2nd. Game 1 was a marathon contest that went 15 innings and ended when Sammy Sosa hit a two-run home to give the Cubs a 4 hour-47-minute victory over the Cardinals.

They would lose the night-cap but that wasn’t the biggest story. That night belonged to a belly.

In that second game umpire Justin Klemm called a line drive down the line by Moises Alou with the bases loaded foul when replays showed it fair. Angry at the call at the end of the inning, Cubs pitcher Antonio Alfonseca ran out from the bullpen in left to yell at Klemm and bumped into him with his stomach, earning an ejection.

Dusty Baker would later call it “assault and battery with a belly.”

The Great Home Run Chase – September 1998

While this moment has lost some of it’s luster due to the “Steroid Era” accusations and confessions, this marked one of the few friendly moments between the Cubs and the Cardinals.

Starting in late August and continuing till the end of the season St. Louis’ Mark McGwire and Chicago’s Sammy Sosa had a friendly chase to break the major league home run record. They hugged at first base during a game at Wrigley Field in August as they started the chase as a sign of mutual respect. When McGwire broke Roger Maris’ record with his 62nd homer on September 8th, Sosa ran from the outfield to give McGwire a hug after the homer run.

It stayed friendly all the way till the end with McGwire’s late barrage of homers in the final weekend against the Expos helped him defeat Sosa for the home run record 70-66.

Fisticufffs Part 1 – September 22, 1974

As you might expect, if rivals cross paths enough, they’re going to fight.

Perhaps the most famous-if not infamous-brawl between the Cubs and the Cardinals game on September 22, 1974 at Busch Stadium.

The bizarre sequence is spelled out in detail in this 1992 LA Times article but essentially Cubs hitter Bill Matlock and Cardinals pitcher Al Hrabosky got angry at each other trying to stall during an at bat. The umpire became fed up and started calling strikes on Matlock when he walked to the batters circle.

Cubs interim manager Jim Marshall and on deck hitter Jose Cardenal came out to argue, then Matlock returned to bat and Cardinals catcher Ted Simmons slugged him. That touched off a brawl which you can watch above.

Fisticuffs Part 2 – June 5, 1989

The Cubs had a great moment against the Cardinals later in the year at Wrigley Field but had one of their uglier moments earlier in the season at Busch Stadium.

It should have been one of the happier days for the Cubs as they blasted the Cardinals 11-3 but the game was marred by a brawl that would take out one of their best players.

The funny thing is that both participants were former teammates. In the fifth inning Cardinals relief pitcher Frank DiPino nailed Mark Grace with a pitcher and the Cubs’ first baseman charged the mound. A lengthy brawl began and took a number of minutes to finally stop.

Both DiPino and Grace were teammates the year before but as this Chicago Tribune article points out they weren’t the best of friends. It would be a costly brawl for the Cubs as Grace was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a shoulder injury suffered in the fight.


Stan The Man – May 13, 1958

To be fair, there should be a happy Cardinals moment against the Cubs in this collection.

The biggest one comes from “Stan The Man”

On May 13, 1958 Cardinals’ legend Stan Musial notched his 3000th hit against the Cubs at Wrigley Field off Moe Drabowsky with a sixth-inning double to left field. It was the first and only time a major league player has reached the milestone number of hits as a pinch hitter. Initially Musial had the day off but was summoned to hit when the Cubs’ grabbed a 3-1 lead.

Watch the hit in the above video called by then Cardinals and future Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray.




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