Every year for the past five, Cardinals fans have headed into October knowing all is right in the world: Post-season play is about to commence.
And yet each year, there seems to be a little more pushback against the Cardinals. As Will Leitch noted in 2013, “Over the last eight years, the Cardinals have ended the postseason dreams of the Mets, Tigers, Phillies, Brewers, Rangers, Nationals and Pirates. That's a lot of fan bases spitting in your general direction.”
Last year, we added the Dodgers.
This June, as the national press was full of a little story about the FBI and Astros and hacking, DJ Gallo in The Guardian explained that “Hating the St Louis Cardinals has become as big a part of being a baseball fan over the past decade as peanuts, Cracker Jacks, overpriced beer and assuming everyone who hits more than 40 home runs is on steroids. In fact, maybe even more so; millions of people are allergic to peanuts, but hating the Cardinals is easy and natural for all.”
Gallo did note that the Cardinals are targeted because they are good. In a similar vein, Grant Brisbee, in SB Nation, said “They’re so quiet and efficient, and their quiet efficiency makes you hate them even more.”
We’ll take that. But what about the disdain being heaped upon the “Best fans in baseball” and the “Cardinal Way”?
That fan thing
As this season was starting Forbes looked into which team actually had the best fans.
The article noted that the authors of “Baseball as a Road to God” called St. Louis “baseball’s moral center.” It also quoted an old Drew Magary column in Deadspin in which he described Redbird fans as “a church casserole made out of cream of mushroom soup and Minute Rice.”
But back to the evidence. According to Forbes, using five categories, Cardinal fans were the clear winners.
According to Nielsen Scarborough, the team has more local fans than any other in MLB — 76% of St. Louisans watched, attended or listened to a game last year. It’s the fourth year in a row the team has held that honor, the eleventh time in the last 15 years. Every other year they had the second largest fan base. (In comparison, less than half of the city’s population identify as fans of the NFL’s Rams.) Over 3.54 million fans pushed through Busch Stadium’s turnstiles in 2014, the second largest attendance in MLB, and the second highest attendance in franchise history, while games on FW Midwest were the league’s top local draw.
Boston was second.
As for a less scientific judgment. Ball Eight – a blog run by a Cubs fan – asked its readers to vote on the “Most Insufferable Fans” in baseball.
Surprise! The Cardinals won that, too.
According to Derrick Goold in the Post-Dispatch, the team does use the phrase the Cardinal Way:
For decades the phrase "Cardinal Way" has been bandied about the ballpark, used to describe a style of play, an approach to player development, sometimes a marketing slogan, and many years ago a pejorative for penny-pinching.
The marketing program may have helped the haters (see above), but the “way” is the work of coaches, including the legendary George Kissell, who spend 69 years with the Cardinals organization. It does spell out how players in the franchise are supposed to go about their work.
While Joe Torre and Sparky Anderson and others may have signed onto the philosophy, not all of baseball is enamored. That was clear last month after a game in which the Cards and Cubs traded hit batsmen. Joe Maddon, Chicago’s first-year skipper, had less-than-complimentary words to say about the Cardinal Way. His general manager, Theo Epstein, backed him up. Talking to the Chicago Tribune, Epstein said “…just because we hate them doesn’t mean we can't respect the job they've done for almost 100 years. But I think the Cubs Way is starting to develop a certain reputation too.”
Respect for the job fits right into the Cardinal Way. But other writers are finding other reasons for the Cardinals winning this year. Ben Lindbergh, writing in Grantland, talks about clutchitude and the headline on the article says “Cluster Luck Is Once Again Propelling St. Louis’s Astonishing Success.”
Writing on Numberfire, John Stolnis talked about what a tough season it has been for a team that some think “have been sprinkled with pixie dust over the last decade-plus.”
And then there’s Bill Murray, Cubs fan. According to Don Doxie of the Quad City Times, Murray was at a golf tournament when he asked fans whether they had seen his Cubs sweep St. Louis in a double header. A woman declared that she was a Cardinals fan, and Murray pronounced his judgment: “Satan’s messengers on Earth."
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