Today marks the 10th anniversary of one of the most unfortunate moments in Chicago Cubs history.
And what I think it the moment in time when the Cardinals-Cubs rivalry took a turn for the worse.
On this date Moises Alou turned an entire city against a young man who just wanted to see his team make it to the World Series for the first time in about a million years. Cubs outfielder Moises Alou jumped up and down, stamped his feet and otherwise gestured irately toward that young man who tried in vain to catch a ball that drifted over the side wall down the left field line at Wrigley. There was no way Alou could have caught the ball because he would have had to reach 2-3 feet back over an eight-foot wall. But he threw a public fit all the same.
The sideshow likely contributed to a total un-nerving of the Cubs. Mark Prior forgot how to pitch, the Chicago fielders forgot how to catch and you could just see the whole franchise tighten up like a snare drum. But it was someone else's fault they lost...
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Up until 1998 the Cardinals and Cubs enjoyed a friendly rivalry largely because, while they were in the same division and/or league, they were not usually competitive at the same time. Since the Cardinals stormed past the Cubs in 1964 to win the World Series following the Lou Brock trade, the Wee Bears spent most of the time hanging out in the division/league basement. In 1989 it looked like the clubs would fight to the finish. But the Cardinals fell back when closer Todd Worrell got hurt and the Cubs walked away in an anti-climactic fashion.
It wasn't until Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa battled to break Roger Maris' single season home run record -- and then re-set the bar once they both passed it -- that people thought again of the Cardinals and Cubs as direct competitors.
Things heated up after that with the Redbirds and Wee Bears fighting for playoff spots in the early 2000s. In 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2006 the Cardinals made it to the National League Championship Series. In the only blank spot on that list, the Cubs represented the National League in 2003.
This was Chicago's big chance to erase nearly 100 years of futility. And to come so close only to have everything their rooters dreamed of ripped out of their paws seemed to be too much to handle. Since then Cubs fans who make the trek to Busch Stadium seem to be much less in a joking mood.
Of course, things have settled down the last three years since Chicago is non-competitive and in rebuilding mode. But I still think that the way Cubs fans view their relationship with not only the Cardinals but also their team has changed.