McKnight: Cubs-Cardinals rivalry has lots of special moments

  • In 2005, two of the best first basemen in the National League were in a battle for MVP -- Derrek Lee of the Cubs and Albert Pujols of the Cardinals.

    In 2005, two of the best first basemen in the National League were in a battle for MVP -- Derrek Lee of the Cubs and Albert Pujols of the Cardinals. Associated Press/2005 file

 
Updated 10/8/2015 1:32 PM

The answer to the trivia question everyone's been asking you the past 24 hours is: Never.

Despite the fact that baseball in America dates to when James K. Polk was the President of the 28 United States, the Cubs and Cardinals have never met in the playoffs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Cubs, however, hold a modest lead in the regular-season series. They've gone 1,194-1,144 against the Cardinals since play started 1892. There also have been 19 ties.

All that history and virtually none of it will matter once St. Louis starter John Lackey throws pitch number one to Cubs' leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler to open the 2015 National League Division Series.

Still, this rivalry can be a bitter affair.

And the connection between the two clubs is undeniable. Whether it be the proximity of the two teams, the mutual territory shared by Cubs fans and Cardinals fans down around Peoria and into Springfield or even legendary broadcaster Harry Caray, who called games for both teams, the connections run deep.

• There's the Ryne Sandberg game in 1984; a game Bruce Sutter would rather just forget.

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• Then the home run chase in 1998 between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa that, regardless of the additives used, fueled a rivalry and the game itself to new heights.

• A somber moment when Cubs catcher Joe Girardi asked fans to pray for the Cardinals lost Darryl Kile.

• Another race in 2005 when Derrek Lee was near to chasing down Albert Pujols for the NL MVP.

But for years now, the Cubs have had very little to say. The Cardinals have been class of the NL Central -- class of Major Leagues, really. They've reached the NL Championship Series each of the last four years, won a World Series in 2011 and lost in 2013.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

It's no secret; the Cubs just won their first playoff game since 2003.

Things have changed since then, too. While the Cubs of 2007 and 2008 did their best to win an arms race against the Cardinals by signing Alfonso Soriano and Mark DeRosa and trading for Ryan Dempster and Derrek Lee, the Cardinals did what they've always done. Grow their own.

Whether it was Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright or even David Freese (who they traded for one year after being drafted in the ninth round), the Cardinals were growing from the inside before supplementing with the likes of Matt Holiday, Jim Edmonds, Carlos Beltran or Scott Rolen.

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have now adopted the same approach and even talked freely of emulating the Cardinals -- though neither would likely acquiesce to the implication of imitation inherent in the word.

Now the upstart has a chance to prove a point. The challenge has been issued again and, for the first time, the Cubs and Cardinals will meet in the post season.

One thing is certain, what will follow will be history.

• Connor McKnight can be heard regularly on WGN 720 AM. He hosts the weekly sports show, The Beat, from 3-7 p.m. Saturdays. Follow him on Twitter @McKnight_WGN

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