History, in one measure, will tell you that the St. Louis Cardinals are easily a better team than the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers. The Cards have won 11 World Series titles to the Dodgers’ six. Until 2011 I could have claimed the Dodgers were better than St. Louis since my boys moved to Los Angeles, but this decade the Cardinals evened up that record. Each team has won five titles since 1958.
I’m writing this on the night the Dodgers won their fifth straight game and look like they could be on the verge of turning around what has been an awful season. So bad it has been that five straight wins still leaves the team seven games under .500 and six back in the division.
More World Series titles is one reason the Cardinals are better than the Dodgers. I’ve been dared to come up with 10. Here are nine other reasons, in no particular order.
1. They broke the Red Sox jinx. Cardinal fans won’t like me for this, and in some ways many of us wish the Sox fans would go back to being the lovable whiners they were instead of the insufferable blowhards success made them become. But at the time it was a wonderful moment that changed the ending of a Jimmy Fallon movie I might not otherwise have seen. None of it would have happened had the team that looked like it was going to steamroll its way to another ring not fallen limp before the history the Red Sox were making. In fact, because the Sox made it to the series by staging a miraculous comeback against the Yankees, the World Series was anticlimactic.
2. The 2011 World Series St. Louis Cardinals were probably my favorite non-Dodger single-season team ever. They earned my love in game six. Game one of the 1988 World Series had my favorite single moment ever in a World Series game, and the context behind the Dodgers’ improbable win made that moment and the game even more special. But game six in 2011 between the Cardinals and the Rangers was special from first pitch to last, capped off by a walk-off home run by hometown boy David Freese. They just wouldn’t go away.
3. Personal history. I played baseball for 10 seasons and in four of those I played for the Cardinals.
4. Dizzy and Daffy Dean, two brothers as colorful as their names suggested. “Son, what kind of pitch would you like to miss?” Dizzy Dean asked a hitter. He also was quoted saying, “”It puzzles me how they know what corners are good for filling stations. Just how did they know gas and oil was under there?”
5. In 1982 the Cardinals kept the Milwaukee Brewers from winning the World Series, and I don’t ever want to see the Brewers win the series before the Seattle Mariners do. Before there was a Milwaukee Brewers they were, for one year, the Seattle Pilots. The Pilots were an expansion team with possibly the worst uniforms ever, at least the hats. That the team moved doesn’t seem at all to be Milwaukee’s fault, or even the fault of Bud Selig. Seattle’s owners really had no business even getting a team, because they were fatally optimistic and were far short in the cash necessary to own a Major League Baseball team. But since when are grudges based on facts? I love my new city and it is home to my second favorite baseball team, the Mariners. Once the M’s win a World Series then the Brewers are welcome to win all they want. Until then I demand a curse.
6. The cross and 6 on the mound. This year the groundskeepers at Busch have taken to drawing a number 6 on the mound behind the rubber, as well as a cross. This isn’t an idea I necessarily want to see carried on at other parks, but to me an expression of faith in sports is preferable to some alternatives, especially on a day when a high profile NFL receiver was arrested for murder. And the 6 honors a treasured part of the team’s history, Stan Musial, who died this year.
7. In 1899 the team was known as the St. Louis Perfectos, had a manager/first basemen named Patsy, and a pitcher named Cuppy. Cuppy’s first name was a racial slur. The top player on that team, by the way, was Cy Young. You might have heard of him.
8. The Cardinals let Albert Pujols go and you can argue they got better. According to a story in the Wall Street Journal the team has seen the same production at first base without him that the Los Angeles Angels have with him. The team missed the World Series by one game last year and are tied with Pittsburgh this year for the best record in baseball. Meanwhile the Dodgers loaded up on free agent talent (a move I still think was wise) and got worse. I think the Dodgers’ investment will pay off, but what the Cards did already has.
9. My saying the Cardinals are better than the Dodgers makes me humble, which makes me a better person than any Cardinal fan I’ve ever met. And I constantly strive to be a better person.