The Cardinals and Red Sox are meeting in the World Series, and it became clear that these are the best two teams in baseball. Both clubs won a Major League high 97 regular season games, both captured their respective divisions, and both won pennants. These two teams have been frequent visitors to the Fall Classic of late with St. Louis in the World Series for the fourth time since 2004 and Boston making their third trip in that span. The winner of this evenly-matched best of seven will clearly be numero uno, while the loser will finish a worthy second best. There’s an argument to be made that the Cardinals are already the second best. Not for 2013, but in all of history. Not just baseball, but the history of sports.
The Yankees may be the greatest organization in sports, love them or hate them. Sure, 27 world championships and 40 pennants speak for themselves, but it goes even beyond that. The Yankees gave us Babe Ruth, the house he built, and all the lore and nostalgia that comes with the Bronx Bombers. They are in a class by themselves. The National League’s Cardinals, however are right there when it comes to next greatest.
St. Louis has won a league best 11 World Series crowns while capturing 19 pennants. Then there’s the intangibles. The is the Cardinals Way. Those who live on one of the coasts may not realize this, but the Redbirds are ultra-popular in this country. Not just now, because they are winning. They’ve always been. Partially, it’s about location. Many Midwestern residents who do not have an MLB squad in their state follow the Cardinals. Those fans, along with an unbelievably loyal Missouri fan base, make the Cards something special. The atmosphere at Busch and around St. Louis is that perfect blend of big city meets small neighborhood. Everyone knows the team is one of the elite, yet that friendly feel you get toward the players is really unlike any other city in sports. Look how the St. Louis crowd cheered Dodgers outfielder Skip Schumaker, a former Cardinal, during the NLCS. An opposing player who’s trying to beat you being cheered in a postseason game? Imagine that happening in Philadelphia or Boston? That’s St. Louis baseball. That’s part of the fabric of what makes this organization great.
The sheer numbers show the Cardinals are the best team in baseball history after the Yankees. They have the second most World Series titles. So, while some fans of the Athletics, Red Sox, Dodgers, Giants and others may disagree, the rings don’t lie. Of course, it comes down to more than that though. There’s the eye test. That’s the best way to compare the Cardinals to great teams in other sports.
In the NFL the Packers are the cream of the crop with 13 championships. No other team is in double digits. The Bears and Giants are next, followed by Pittsburgh, Dallas, San Francisco, and the Redskins. All storied franchises. All with a case to be made. But because baseball was tops in this country for such a long time, existing decades before pro football, the St. Louis Cardinals had already won multiple World Series before most of these listed NFL teams were even founded. The Packers floundered for years, often playing some horrible football between their Super Bowl II win and their next title almost thirty years later.
The Celtics have won more NBA crowns than anyone else, with the Lakers close behind. The Bulls are a distant third. The association didn’t come on the scene until 1946. The Cards already had six titles and nine pennants before anyone ever dribbled a basketball in the NBA. Through the years the NBA has been known for it’s small group of contenders. Most years precious few have a legitimate shot at winning it all. In baseball there are usually more teams with a chance, making the Cardinals resume more impressive.
Hockey, like baseball has been around forever. So perhaps from a longevity standpoint a top NHL team could challenge the Cardinals’s silver medal. Heck, the Montreal Canadiens are on the heels of the Yankees when it comes to quantity of hardware. Montreal has 24 Stanley Cups to boast about, well ahead of Toronto and Detroit for supremacy on the ice. The Habs, however, haven’t skated Lord Stanley’s Cup in over twenty seasons. The history of the longest continuously operating pro hockey team is rich and vibrant, but they’ve been in a drought. Since the Canadiens’s last Cup, the baseball Cardinals have made the postseason twelve times, won four pennants and two World Series.
The St. Louis Cardinals have been a force in baseball and all of sports for some time. Often overshadowed by the Yankees and others, the Cards have continued to thrive. They’ve won National League pennants and World Series titles in seven different decades. Since 1926, they’ve made the postseason in every decade except the 50s and 70s. Impressive is an understatement.
Perhaps the intangibles are what make this group so special. Not only are the fans in St. Louis friendlier and more loyal than many places, the players seem to follow suit. Rookie Redbirds are not hazed or demeaned, instead welcomed in and mentored by the veterans. Perhaps that welcoming atmosphere has played a role in the success of Michael Wacha and five other Cards rookie pitchers this season.
Cardinals baseball is always relevant. The fans and players have a bond that isn’t always seen in sports today.
The Cardinals do it right on and off the field. Their fans are now focusing on the potential of another huge celebration. They’re just four wins away from being number one for 2013 and solidifying their status as second best of all-time.