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A closer look at the Cardinals-Cubs all-time series

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The Cubs do not lead the all-time head-to-head series against the Cardinals. Not in your lifetime, anyway.

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Here's a not so fun fact to revel in following the Cardinals series loss to the Cubs this week: After a century worth of dominance over the Cubs in the standings as well as in postseason hardware, the Cubs actually lead the all-time head-to-head series. This is not news (nor important) to most (although Cubs fans are often pretty quick to bring it up) but, if curious, the official tally according to Baseball Reference's Play Index, going back to April 12, 1892, when the two teams first met, gives the Cubs a 1,200 to 1,149 advantage.

That it's still relatively close after that many games speaks to the competitive nature of the rivalry. But not to trivialize the stat, because I've stated clearly that I value the regular season and all the history that comes with it, the all-time series between the Cardinals and Cubs is rather meaningless unless you are very old -€” like getting shout-outs from Willard Scott old. In fact, as you'll see below, it's almost a certainty that the Cardinals have a winning record against the Cubs in your cognizant lifetime.

(Let's get one thing straight before moving on -€” the Cubs aren't in my head because they're now all of a sudden good. This is not me feeling the need to try and knock them down a peg. Nor am I "shook" by their success. I'm just as petty and unhinged about them when they're bad.)

The Cubs lead the current season series 4-2 and plenty of humans, some of them possibly future baseball fans, were born between the 2015 and 2016 seasons and thereby live an existence in which the Cubs have the superior record during their lifetime. But luckily for them, they're probably not aware of this fact so I'm using 2013 as a starting point. It's incredibly generous to assume a three-year old can be a "cognizant" baseball fan but I'm trying to be as fair as possible. So using the Play Index, here are the head-to-head records starting from 2013 and heading into yesterday's game, going backwards:

Years

Games

Cardinals record vs. Cubs

W-L%

2013-2016

62

35-27

.565

2012-2016

79

45-34

.570

2011-2016

94

55-39

.585

(To expedite the process we're going to start subtracting ten years. Rest assured at no time in between did the Cubs have a better record than the Cardinals, although it got nervously close a few times in the 70s.)

Years

Games

Cardinals record vs. Cubs

W-L%

2001-2016

262

136-126

.519

1991-2016

395

203-192

.514

1981-2016

566

293-272

.519

1971-2016

746

378-367

.507

1961-2016

931

489-439

.527

Going back to 1961, the Cardinals have had the better head-to-head record, much better, in fact, so don't listen to a single Cubs fan under the age of 55 who tries to tell you overall that the Cubs have been "better."  Not in their lifetime. There's a reason why I don't sit around and brag about the Brock-Broglio trade. (Side-note: I actually brag about the trade quite frequently.)

And as you see, the Cardinals took a big jump from 1971 to 1961 and that's because they went 114-73 (.610) against the Cubs in the 60s. For the entire decade the Birdos were 884-718 (.552) overall with two World Series titles and three pennants to boot. It was a glorious time to be a Cardinals fan and it all came to an end at the Altamont Speedway.

Let's keep going:

Years

Games

Cardinals record vs. Cubs

W-L%

1951-2016

1,154

604-544

.526

1941-2016

1,374

740-628

.541

1931-2016

1,595

852-736

.537

1921-2016

1,813

956-849

.530

1911-2016

2,032

1,039-980

.515

1910-2016

2,054

1,046-995

.512

1909-2016

2,077

1,053-1,010

.510

1908-2016

2,099

1,056-1,029

.506

1907-2016

2,122

1,062-1,045

.504

1906-2016

2,144

1,068-1,060

.502

1905-2016

2,166

1,073-1,077

.499

Not surprising, the Cardinals dominated the Cubs in the 40s - the decade of the greatest Cardinals teams. More notable for this exercise, we have arrived at our destination -€” 1905. The same year Albert Einstein turned in his dissertation on what would become the theory of relativity. Theodore Roosevelt was president.

The Cubs hold the advantage over the Cardinals today simply because between 1892-1911 they won 236 of the 360 total games played. That's the difference right there. Go back the last 100 years and the Cardinals are better. Find the date range that includes you date of birth and the Cardinals are better. Make the year baseball was integrated as the starting point and the Cardinals are better. Or 1969 when they lowered the mound. In short, start at any moment in which the game resembled modern baseball and the Cardinals come out ahead.

So no, the Cubs don't have a better head-to-head record against the Cardinals. At least not since any of us have been alive and that's probably what counts. But if we want to be creative, perhaps two people can make that claim. Meet Goldie Michelson and Adele Dunlap. Two remarkable women who are reportedly the oldest living people in North America. Each born in 1902, almost four months apart, and again, using the idea that you have to be three-years old before you're aware of baseball, they can say that since 1905 they've been witness to the Cubs having a better record against the Cardinals. But only them. Trouble is, Goldie and Adele hail from the northeast and, like Jesse Spector, probably don't care all that much for this rivalry anyway.

Moral is no one should be trumpeting the Cubs all-time series lead over the Cardinals unless they witnessed it with their own eyes and sound mind, and no one probably did. In the modern age the Cardinals have been far and away the better franchise and we don't have to go back years before any of us were born or dig up old World Series titles to prove it.

Side note: