Attendance begs questions about Cards-Cubs rivalry

Attendance begs questions about Cards-Cubs rivalry

CHICAGO -- With roots dating back to the 19th century, the Cardinals-Cubs rivalry has long been considered one of baseball's most famed. But with the Cardinals having developed additional division rivalries and the Cubs in a rebuilding mode, is this rivalry losing some luster?

The Cardinals' two-game series at Wrigley Field drew just 56,515 fans, an average of 28,258 per game. That's substantially below the ballpark's current capacity (41,019) and more than 4,000 fewer than the Cubs' season average through its first 18 home dates.

Wednesday's announced attendance -- which counts tickets sold, not turnstile numbers -- of 26,354 was the lowest for a Cubs-Cardinals game at Wrigley Field since a May 1, 1998, game in which 25,598 tickets were sold.

"I didn't even really notice," said manager Mike Matheny when told of the low attendance. "It always seems to be pretty intense. That was a typical game for me in Chicago -- where it's tight, anything can happen at any moment. That's always been what I expected here and what I'll probably continue to expect here."

The waning attendance is not a new phenomenon. After drawing an average of 41,227 fans to six Cubs-Cardinals games at Wrigley Field in 2008, the average game attendance dropped each of the next four years. Last season, the Cubs averaged 37,324 when the Cardinals were in in town.

It is imperative to note, though, that the drop in series attendance figures does also coincide with an overall decrease in attendance at Wrigley Field since the 2008 season. That's largely explained by the Cubs' performance in recent years, because this is a team that has finished fifth in the division each of the past three seasons.

In the meantime, the Cardinals have seen a pair of other division teams -- the Reds and Brewers -- rise in rivalry status during that time span. That's not to suggest that Cardinals' rivalry with the Cubs is disappearing, but it certainly isn't anywhere near its peak.

"It all comes back to what's been the standing tradition," Matheny said. "And this is a long-standing tradition rivalry compared to the other ones that have been formed."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.