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Which of Cubs' foes lured most big crowds?

Many factors can contribute to the size of a crowd at a Major League game.

Crowds almost always are bigger on weekends than on weekdays, and often bigger still on holidays.

Teams with winning records attract more fans than those that are losing, and those in a pennant race generally welcome larger gatherings than those that are not.

The weather can increase or decrease the turnstile count, too.

The identity of the opposing team can be important as well.

A competitor for first place almost always lures more people to the park than an also-ran.

An appearance by a top team that rarely comes to town can boost the gate, too. So can the presence of a superstar on a seldom-seen team, even if that team is not faring well.

And then there are rivalries.

A visit by a "traditional rival" is virtually certain to draw a throng, frequently regardless of their records or where they are in the standings.

Case in point: the Cubs and the Cardinals.

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CLOSE TO EVEN

Games between the teams certainly have been closely contested.

From their first meeting, a 14-10 victory by the Cubs (then the Colts) at St. Louis on April 12, 1892, through their most recent, a 3-2 win by the Cubs, also at St. Louis, on Oct. 3, 2021, they have played 2,468 games.

The Cubs have won 1,253 times, only 57 more than the Cardinals' 1,196, with 19 games ending in ties. That makes the Cubs' winning percentage .512, equivalent to 83-79 over a full, 162-game modern season.

In all those games, the run differential is exactly 7, in favor of the Cardinals, 10,787 to 10,780.

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Yet only rarely have the Cubs and Cardinals battled one another for a championship, unlike the Dodgers and Giants, or, closer to home but in another sport, the Bears and the Packers.

In only 24 of 121 seasons beginning in 1892 have the Cubs and Cardinals both finished first and second, first and third, or second and third.

The first of those 24 times did not come until 1928, their 37th year together. There were 6 more through 1945, then only 5 between 1946 and 2000.

In only 6 seasons (1930, 1935, 1946, 2009, 2016 and 2020) have they finished 1-2 in the standings.

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3 TOP CROWDS IN 2021

Last season, 3 of the 10 biggest attendances at Wrigley Field were for games against the Cardinals.

At least 1 game featuring St. Louis has ranked in the top 10 crowds for Cubs home games in 16 of the past 17 seasons (excluding 2020, when there were no fans at any games).

There were 3 such games in 5 of those 16 seasons, 2 games in 8, and 1 game in 3, most recently 2019.

Oddly, there were none in 2015, when the largest crowd for the Cardinals, on Sept. 19, was 40,994. That was exceeded by the turnout at 14 other games, but the differences were small. Topping the list was a game against the White Sox on July 12 that was witnessed by 41,688, not even 700 more than the number for the Cardinals 2 months later.

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RECENT CHANGE

Based on data at baseball-reference.com and my extensive research in contemporary newspapers, I determined the top 10 crowds for the Cubs in each season, 1871-2021, and entered into a spreadsheet how many games each season were against specific opponents.

During the Modern Era, which began in 1901, the Cardinals have provided the opposition in 190 such games.

But that is not the most; the Giants have done so in 195.

As recently as 2011, the Giants led, 189-173.

Through 1957, the Giants' final season in New York, they had played in front of 151 crowds that were among the Cubs' top 10 at home of a season; the Cardinals, just 84.

The Giants had played 637 games in Chicago; the Cardinals, 624.

So, 23.7 percent of the time, about 1 of every 4 games that New York played in Chicago, it attracted a top-10 crowd, while St. Louis did so in just 13.5 percent, about 1 of every 8.

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MORE PERCENTAGES

Since 1958, the Giants have done so in only 44 of 364 games, 12 percent, to the Cardinals' 102 of 550, 18.5 percent.

For the entire Modern Era, the Giants' percentage of big crowds remains higher than the Cardinals', 19.5 to 16.2.

The Giants' 195 such crowds have come in 1,001 games at the West Side Grounds and Wrigley Field. Game No. 1,000 was a 15-4 shellacking on Sept. 11, 2021, the second of 3 straight losses to the Giants that began a stretch in which the Cubs went 2-14.

The Cardinals have played 1,174 games at Chicago starting in 1901, which is 17 percent more than the Giants have played.

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Include games from the Cardinals' first season in the National League, 1892, through 1900, the last season before the Modern Era, and the total becomes: Cardinals, 206 big crowds; Giants, 204.

The Giants attracted 27 top-10 crowds during the 9 seasons, 1883-91, when they were in the NL and the Cardinals were not.

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19TH CENTURY

During the 9 seasons before 1901 when both were in the league, each was the outright leader in most crowds among the season's top 10 in Chicago only once.

Each had 4 of the 10, the Giants in 1892 and the Cardinals (then called the Browns) in 1893.

The original Baltimore Orioles led the way in 1895, with 3, and 1897, with 4. The Brooklyn Bridegrooms, today's Dodgers, had the most, 3, in 1900.

In the remaining years, multiple teams had 2 of the 10, including the Giants and Browns in 1898.

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EARLY 20TH CENTURY

The Giants were a much more attractive opponent for the Cubs far into the 20th Century.

Baseball-reference.com has no attendance data whatsoever for the Cubs' home games in 1903, 1909, 1911 and 1913. It has extremely limited data for 1904 and 1918, and is missing data for at least 30 games in 7 more seasons before 1920. That adds up to 13 out of 19 seasons.

In those seasons, it has crowd sizes for fewer than half of 1,336 home games: 634, which is 47.5 percent.

By poring over online archives of contemporary newspapers, I was able to find attendance figures for 613 additional games, raising the total to 1,247 and the percentage to 93.3!

Of the 89 games for which attendance remains unknown, 71 came in just 3 seasons: 1906, 1918 and 1919. For the 16 other seasons combined, I found data for 98.4 percent of 1,132 home games.

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From 1901-19, in games for which attendance is known, the Giants and Cubs played in front of top-10 crowds 72 times; the Cardinals and Cubs, just 14.

The Giants were the opponent in 7 of the top 10 in 1906, 6 of the top 10 in 1912 and 1919, and 5 of the top 10 in 3 more seasons. They played in front of at least 2 of the 10 largest crowds in every season.

The Cardinals, on the other hand, had more than 2 only in 1918, when they had 3. But attendance is missing for 22 of 63 home dates that year, including 3 against the Giants and 4 against the Reds, the teams that finished second and third, respectively, behind the pennant-winning Cubs.

None are missing for the Cardinals, who finished dead last.

The Card had a lone top-10 crowd in 7 seasons and none in 7 more.

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In 1917, the Cubs drew at least 1 of their 10 biggest crowds against each of the 7 other teams: 2 vs. the Braves, Giants and Pirates; and 1 vs. the Cardinals, Phillies, Reds and Robins (today's Dodgers).

The Cubs did it again in 1933, 1944, 1948, 1950, 1958 and 1961, the last of which was the final season before the National League expanded to 10 total teams with the addition of the Colt .45s (today's Astros) and Mets.

In 1970, the Cubs' top largest audiences came against 9 teams: 2 against the Mets, none against the Astros and Pirates, and 1 against everyone else!

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Through the first 25 seasons of the Modern Era, the count was: Giants, 97; Cardinals, 20.

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1926-49 CROWDS

Then the Cardinals had the most top-10 crowds among visiting teams, 3, in 1926, the season they won their first World Series.

Over the following 10 seasons, the Cardinals had 27 large crowds when visiting the Cubs, to the Giants' 22. St. Louis had the most big turnouts of any team 5 times; New York, 2; and they tied for the most 3.

In 1929, 1931 and 1946, the Cardinals had 4 of the top 10.

The Giants had 4 in 1930 and 5 in 1935.

From 1937-39, the Giants had 4, 3 and 2, while the Cardinals had only 1 each year. The leader in 1940, and in each of the next 2 seasons, was the Reds, with 4.

The Reds played in front of 21 total big crowds at Chicago in the 1940s, 2 more than the Cardinals' 19 and more than double the Giants' 10.

But none of those teams were the star attraction of the decade. That honor went to the Dodgers, with 23, of which 9 came in 1947-49, once Jackie Robinson joined the team.

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1950S AND BEYOND

The Dodgers drew 20 more big crowds in the 1950s, easily surpassing the 13 each by the Cardinals and Giants.

No team came close to the top figure, 27, by the Braves. They appeared in front of more top-10 gatherings at Wrigley Field than any other team for 5 straight years beginning in 1953, their fist season in Milwaukee, tied for the lead in 1958 and led again in 1959, when they had 5 of the top 10.

The Giants had shared the lead with the Braves in 1952. They led again in 1960, with 5, and in 1966, with 3. They have led only twice more since then, also with 3, in 2001 and 2015.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, had the most top big attendances in Chicago in 10 seasons: 4 crowds each in 1968, 1983 and 1987; and 3 apiece in 1977, 1996, 2004, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2021.

They also tied for the most, with 2, in 11 more seasons.

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LEADERS IN TOP-1O CROWDS BY SEASONS

Here is the number of times each opponent has led or tied for most top-10 crowds in a season. The numbers in parentheses after the team's name is how many times it led outright/how many times it shared the lead.

37: Cardinals (14/23)

36: Giants (22/14)

20: Pirates (10/10)

19: Dodgers (10/9)

18: Reds (11/7)

15: Braves (7/8)

12: Mets (5/7)

6: Astros (3/3) and Phillies (0/6)

3: Expos (1/2), Rockies (0/2) and White Sox (0/3)

2: Brewers (0/2)

1: Diamondbacks, Tigers and Yankees (all 0/1)

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Did you notice the 0 for times leading outright after the Phillies' name? Of their 6 ties for the most, only 1, in 1911, came with as many as 3 top-10 games. They shared the lead with 2 in 1944, 1950, 1958, 1999 and 2016.

There have been 29 seasons in which no team attracted more than 2 of the top-10 crowds. Seventeen came in the 93 seasons before the advent of 3 divisions, followed by the start of interleague play, and 12 in just the 27 seasons since (excluding 2020, when there were no crowds).

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Here are the number of times each opponent led or tied for most top-10 crowds again, omitting seasons in which they shared the lead with 2 games:

28: Giants (22/6)

20: Cardinals (14/6)

13: Dodgers (10/3)

13: Pirates (10/3)

12: Mets (5/7)

11: Reds (11/0)

10: Braves (7/3)

6: Astros (3/3)

3: Expos (1/2), Rockies (0/2) and White Sox (0/3)

2: Brewers (0/2)

1: Diamondbacks, Phillies (0/1), Tigers and Yankees (all 0/1)

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Here are the last seasons in which each of those teams led or shared the lead in top-10 crowds, excluding seasons in which they had 2 such games:

Cardinals: 2021 (tied; last led in 2014)

Giants: 2015

Dodgers: 2003

Reds: 2018

Braves: 1974 (tied; last led in 1961)

Pirates: 1990

Mets: 1998

Astros: 2002

Expos: 1989

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LEADERS IN TOP-10 CROWDS BY GAMES

Since 1901, there have been a total of 1,207 crowds at Cubs home games that made the top 10 in a season, including 7 that tied for 10th largest in a given year.

Here is the breakdown of those crowds, by opponent:

195: Giants

190: Cardinals

153: Pirates

149: Dodgers

126: Reds

105: Braves

79: Phillies

56: Mets

28: Astros

26: Expos/National (20/6)

17: Padres

16: Rockies

15: Brewers and White Sox

8: Diamondbacks

5: Marlins and Tigers

4: Yankees

3: Twins

2: Athletics, Orioles and Rangers

1: Blue Jays, Guardians, Rays and Red Sox

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That is a total of 26 different opponents.

The 3 teams that never have played in front of a top-10 crowd at Wrigley Field are the Angels, Mariners and Royals. The Cubs have hosted Los Angeles 10 times; Seattle, 11; and Kansas City, 17.

Note that the Mets' 56 games are twice as many as the number for any other expansion team. Of course, the Mets are the only expansion team against whom the Cubs developed a long-lasting, intense competition.

The 15 featuring the Brewers are among exactly 200 games they have played at Wrigley Field. The 15 against the White Sox are among just 67 games.

The Marlins and Rockies joined the National League in the same year, 1993, yet the Rockies have drawn large crowds more than 3 times as often -- and in 103 total games, 6 fewer than the Marlins.

The Diamondbacks' 8 are among only 80 games.

The Tigers' 5 are among just 13; the Yankees' 4, among 11.

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LEADERS IN TOP-10 CROWDS BY PERCENTAGE OF GAMES

Here are the top teams by percentage of all 1,207 games:

16.2: Giants

15.7: Cardinals

12.7: Pirates

12.3: Dodgers

10.4: Reds

8.7: Braves

6.5: Phillies

4.6: Mets

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LEADERS BY PERCENTAGE OF GAMES, 1901-61

It's a far different story before expansion, when the Cubs played in front of 617 top-10 crowds. Here are the percentages for 1901-61, with number of games for each team in parentheses after its name:

25.8: Giants (159)

16.0: Pirates (99)

14.4: Cardinals (89)

14.4: Dodgers (also 89)

11.2: Reds (69)

10.7: Braves (66)

6.5: Phillies (46)

As you can see, the Giants attracted 60 more top-10 crowds than any other team, and nearly 3.5 times as many as the Phillies, whose 43 were only half the number of any of the 4 teams with the most games!

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LEADERS BY PERCENTAGE OF GAMES, 1962-2021

Here are the percentages and number of games for the pre-expansion teams in 1961-2021:

17.1: Cardinals (101)

10.2: Dodgers (60)

9.7: Reds (57)

9.2: Pirates (54)

6.6: Braves (39)

6.1: Giants (36)

5.6: Phillies (33)

The Mets, at 9.5 percent and 56 games, rank fourth overall in the Expansion Era, between the Reds and Pirates.

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TEAM RANKS, 1901-61 AND 1962-2021

The Phillies, last at No. 7, are the only team that has the same rank in percentage of top-10 games both before and after expansion.

Here are the ranks for each, through 1961, then since 1962:

Giants 1, 6

Pirates 2, 4

Cardinals 3T, 1

Dodgers 3T, 2

Reds 5, 3

Braves 6, 5

Phillies 7, 7

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