ST. LOUIS -- They've played more than 2,300 times, but the Cubs and Cardinals have never played any games that mean more than the ones they're going to play over the next week. Yet along the way the Cubs and Cardinals have built one of baseball's greatest rivalries, with passion on the field and in the stands whether playing for first place or bragging rights alone.
Lou Brock, signed by legendary scout Buck O'Neil after being a star at Southern University, had barely gotten his feet wet in the Major Leagues after one season in the low Minors. Ernie Banks, his roommate, knew the kid had greatness in him. Unfortunately for the Cubs, general manager John Holland did not.
With the Cubs in need of pitching depth at the Trade Deadline, Holland traded the 24-year-old outfielder to the Cardinals for veteran right-hander Ernie Broglio. Brock would not only immediately revitalize a St. Louis team that was sputtering, helping it win a seven-game World Series over the Yankees, but would go on to help the Cards win another championship in 1967 and a pennant in '68 on his way to the Hall of Fame.
After the Cubs suffered their near-miss in 1969, among other disappointments, Banks lamented that they were one player short. Brock was that player.
2. Mark McGwire's 62nd home run off Steve Trachsel, Sept. 8, 1998
In hindsight, it is easy to classify the McGwire and Sammy Sosa duel for the all-time, single-season home run title as a product of PEDs, but there is no denying the excitement it created as they traded homer after homer down the stretch. While the Cardinals were a non-factor in the playoff chase that season, Busch Stadium, like Wrigley Field, was the center of the hardball universe every time McGwire or Sosa stepped into the batter's box.
It was great theater when the teams intersected at Busch for the swing that sent McGwire past Roger Maris, with Sosa jogging in from right field to congratulate him. Maris' children watched from the stands while children, and adults, all around the world took in the spectacle.
3. Stan Musial's 3,000th hit, which came at Wrigley Field on May 13, 1958
One of the game's greatest hitters, Musial was 37 years old when he stroked that double to right field off the Cubs' Moe Drabowsky. Musial reacted to the milestone with his typically understated nature, he did reveal one goal that day. He told reporters he'd liked to keep playing long enough to retire "as the one player who had more hits than anybody else in the National League.''
When Musial retired five years later, after 22 years with the Cardinals, he had 3,630 hits, one more than he needed to achieve that goal, since passed by Hank Aaron and Pete Rose.
4. The Sandberg Game, June 23, 1984
While the Cardinals' Willie McGee hit for the cycle that day at Wrigley Field, you may have guessed he was not the leading man. Ryne Sandberg, then just building his reputation as a power-hitting second baseman, homered off future Hall of Famer closer Bruce Sutter in the bottom of the ninth and the 10th to give the Cubs a chance to win, 12-11, in the 11th.
This was a tipping point moment for the Cubs, who would go on to win their first NL East title that season and capture a national audience, thanks in part to WGN's Harry Caray, who had been hired away from the Cardinals.
5. Bill Madlock, Al Hrabosky trigger ugly brawl at Busch Stadium, Sept. 22, 1974
Hrabosky, known affectionately as the Mad Hungarian, triggered the brawl by firing a pitch over the plate as Madlock, on-deck hitter Jose Cardenal and Cubs' manager Jim Marshall were gathered near it, arguing with umpire Shag Crawford that Hrabosky's previous pitch -- thrown while Madlock was putting pine tar on his bat -- should not have been called a strike.
As Hrabosky remembered it in a 1992 article, "[the] pitch separated all three of them" and "for some reason that started a fight. And it was a good one."
This was a real fight, not your typical benches-clearing scrum. Cardinals catcher Ted Simmons landed the biggest blow, punching Madlock, who was standing at the plate with his bat in his hands. You have admire the conviction, if not the lack of common sense.
6. Rogers Hornsby wins an MVP in Chicago four years after winning one in St. Louis
Hornsby, who had won the 1925 NL MVP for the Cardinals, was traded to the Giants in '27, the Braves and in '28 and then the Cubs in '29. He was not the easiest man to manage, as his travels suggest, but had plenty of talent left when he donned the Cub flannels. He carried the North Siders to a pennant by hitting .380 with 39 home runs. His 156 runs scored helped Hack Wilson drive in 159. Not bad, huh?
Hornsby would establish his permanent home in Chicago and, when he wasn't betting on the ponies, spent time as a Cubs' coach, working with a young Banks in the 1950s.
7. Four-day war (of words) between Dusty Baker and Tony La Russa, Sept. 1-4, 2003
With the Cubs, Cardinals and Astros locked into a tight three-team race for the NL Central, the Cubs took four-of-five emotional, at times nasty games in a span of four busy days at Wrigley Field. Baker, who was in his first year with the Cubs after managing the Giants to the pennant in 2002, stood up to La Russa several times throughout the series.
At one point, La Russa was upset that Kerry Wood had brushed back pitcher Matt Morris on a bunt attempt, but it was Baker who took the offensive. "If you're going to bark, you have to be ready to bite," Baker said.
That series provided the ultimate margin in the race. The Cubs wound up winning the division by one game over the Astros and three over the Cardinals.
8. Cardinals win 8-7 in 20 innings at Wrigley Field, Aug. 28, 1930
From 1926 through '35, the Cubs or Cardinals won eight of 10 pennants. The Cubs were leading the NL when this game was played but the hard-fought victory helped turn the tide toward St. Louis, which would finish two games ahead of the Cubs.
While not as well-known as the Sandberg Game, it is probably the best of the 2,363 games that the teams have played. The Cardinals led at one point, 5-0, before the Cubs scored three in the seventh and two in the eighth to tie it. No one scored again until the 15th. The Cardinals took a 7-5 lead, but the Cubs scored twice to send it to the 16th.
There was no answer when the Cards pushed across a run in the top of the 20th. That earned a victory for Syl Johnson, who had pitched the final 12 innings for St. Louis. It's the only Cardinals-Cubs game that has lasted more than 17 innings.
9. The Cardinals let Banks get away, 1953
Mr. Cub could have been a Cardinal. Imagine that.
Cool Papa Bell, the Negro League legend, was among the first scouts to seize on Banks' potential as he made the rounds with the Kansas City Monarchs after a stint in the Army. Bell was scouting for the St. Louis Browns, who were too cash-strapped to let Bell try to sign Banks. He instead turned to the cross-town Cardinals, who got back good reports from their scout, Quincy Trouppe.
But GM Richard Meyer sent another scout to check out Banks and he sent back a report saying he "can't hit, can't run." Bell told St. Louis columnist Bob Broeg he blamed Meyer for not trusting Trouppe and him. The Cubs didn't identify Banks as a target until late in the '53 season, when they were looking for a second African-American to bring to the Major Leagues alongside infielder Gene Baker.
10. Cardinals open Wrigley Field-style rooftop at Busch Stadium, 2014
The rooftop is part of the Ballpark Village built on the lot where the old Busch Stadium was built. When it was in the development stage, team president Bill DeWitt III made trips to Chicago to study the ones that sit beyond the ivy-covered walls at Wrigley.
It has become a major revenue-producer for the Cardinals, who own it in partnership with the developer while the Cubs were until recently engaged in economic battles with the owners of the Chicago rooftops.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.