1. Both the Cardinals and Red Sox once had different nicknames.
A founding member of the American Association in 1882, the Cardinals were originally known as the St. Louis Brown Stockings. They shortened it a year later to the Browns and kept that nickname after the collapse of the American Association precipitated their move to the National League in 1892. They then spent 1899 as the St. Louis Perfectos prior to becoming the Cardinals in 1900. A different St. Louis Browns team formed in 1902, but it moved away in 1954 and became the Baltimore Orioles. The Red Sox, meanwhile, were a founding member of the American League in 1901. Originally known as the Americans, they took on their current nickname following the 1907 season.
2. The Cardinals and Red Sox have played each other three times before in the World Series.
The Cardinals and Red Sox first met in the Fall Classic in 1946, with St. Louis winning it four games to three. In Game 7 of that series, future Hall of Famer Enos Slaughter famously made a “Mad Dash” home to score the winning run. The two teams played for the title again in 1967, and once again the Cardinals emerged victorious four games to three. This time around, future Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson stymied Boston’s so-called “Impossible Dream” season by picking up complete-game wins in Games 1, 4 and 7. The Red Sox finally got their revenge in 2004, sweeping the Cardinals behind the bats of David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez and the arms of Pedro Martinez and Curt Shilling.
3. The Cardinals and Red Sox tied for the best record this year.
Both the Cardinals and Red Sox finished the 2013 regular season with 97 wins and 65 losses. They then continued their success in the playoffs, advancing to the first World Series since 1999 to pit the team with the best record in the American League against the team with the best record in the National League.
4. Fenway is Major League Baseball’s oldest ballpark.
Tonight’s game takes place at Boston’s Fenway Park, which first opened its doors in 1912. Only the Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field, built in 1914, comes close to being as historic as Fenway. The third-oldest major league ballpark, Dodger Stadium, dates back merely to 1962. And of the 27 others, more than half have come into existence since 2000.
5. The Cardinals once represented the entire south and west.
At the time of the first World Series in 1903, the Cardinals and St. Louis Browns were the westernmost and southernmost teams in baseball. Of the 14 other clubs, three resided in New York, two in Boston, two in Philadelphia, two in Chicago, and one each in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Detroit, Cleveland and Washington, D.C. Not until the Philadelphia Athletics moved to Kansas City in 1955 did the Cardinals lose their distinction as the westernmost team, and they remained the southernmost team until the Brooklyn Dodgers relocated to Los Angeles following the 1957 season.
6. The Red Sox went 86 years without a championship.
Boston won the first World Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates and then picked up four additional championships in 1912, 1915, 1916 and 1918. A lefty pitcher named Babe Ruth played a large role in two of those, at one point hurling 29 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings in World Series play. In 1920, however, Boston’s cash-strapped owner Harry Frazee sold Ruth to the rival New York Yankees. He would go on to become arguably the greatest hitter in baseball history, socking 714 home runs and batting .342 over the course of his career. The Red Sox, on the other hand, floundered. They did not win a single title for 86 years, finally breaking the so-called “Curse of the Bambino” in 2004. Among major professional sports teams in North America, only the Chicago Cubs (105 years and counting) and the Chicago White Sox (88 years) have had longer championship droughts.
7. The Red Sox are the only major league club to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series.
Boston’s 2004 season looked like it would end the way so many others had when the team fell behind the Yankees three games to zero in the American League Championship Series. The Yankees then took a 4-3 lead into the ninth inning of Game 4, but their star closer Mariano Rivera gave up the tying run on a walk, a stolen base and a single. A few innings later, Boston won on a walk-off homer, and it rode that momentum to three straight additional victories against the Yankees. Until then, 238 teams in the four major North American leagues had reportedly fallen behind 3-0 in a best-of-seven series, and only two—the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 1975 New York Islanders—had come back to win.
8. The Cardinals have the second most championships of any team.
The Yankees have won 27 World Series championships—all after acquiring Ruth—by far the most of any team in the majors. But the Cardinals have not done too shabbily themselves. They stand in second place with 11 titles, prevailing in 1926, 1931, 1934, 1942, 1944, 1946, 1964, 1967, 1982, 2006 and 2011. Despite their 86-year losing streak, the Red Sox are also high on the list. Their seven titles put them in a tie for fourth most championships with the Giants.
9. One winning Cardinals team was called the Gashouse Gang.
The Cardinals filled their roster in the 1930s with hard-nosed eccentrics such as Pepper Martin, Joe “Ducky” Medwick and the Dean brothers, Dizzy and Daffy, who became known as the “Gashouse Gang” for their apparent resemblance to hooligans from New York’s gashouse district. This squad reached its pinnacle in 1934, when Dizzy and Daffy Dean won 49 combined games in the regular season and two games apiece in the World Series against the Detroit Tigers. In Game 7, Medwick was forced to leave the field after Detroit fans upset about a hard slide into third began pelting him with bottles and garbage, but St. Louis won the contest anyway 11-0.
10. The Red Sox were the last team to integrate.
Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, winning the inaugural Rookie of the Year award that season on the strength of his .297 batting average, 12 home runs and 29 steals. Integration happened relatively quickly thereafter, particularly in the National League, where African Americans claimed nine of the 11 Most Valuable Player awards issued from 1949 to 1959. The Red Sox, however, continued to hold out despite their abysmal record over that time period. Finally, in 1959, they called up black infielder Pumpsie Green, who made his debut on July 21 as a pinch runner.