You gotta love them.
Whether it’s because of geographical proximity, a history of battled competition or the strong and often heated opinions of the fans, great rivalries develop over time. You can’t create a rivalry by simply writing that it is one. It has to be felt, proven, and solidified over years and years of heartbreaking losses, close calls, bad calls, heckling, and season-defining moments that can and will absolutely wreck you.
I’m not not talking from personal experience here. Definitely not not.
Growing up in Wisconsin, I quickly learned who I cheered for and who I didn’t. But that’s how most sports teams’ fandoms begin, right? They’re often a product of our environment, influenced by our hometowns, our family, and our friends. But that eventually blossoms into a deep source of pride and personal love.
At least that’s what happened to me.
Wisconsin sports were like a second religion for my family. Our “Sunday best” consisted of Packers green and gold and every Brewers Opening Day was considered a holiday. Just like learning my ABCs and arithmetic, I was taught from a very young age that when it comes to sports, Wisconsin and Illinois specifically, are on opposite sides of the coin. “Da Bears still suck,” the Chicago Bulls should always “Fear the Deer,” and when it comes to baseball, Brewers fans will happily look for any excuse to flying that “L” flag when playing Chicago.
*The Chicago Cubs have now entered the conversation*
While the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs aren’t the most well-known or oldest rivalry in professional sports, they are quickly becoming the fastest.
Milwaukee and Chicago are pretty close (that’s why it’s known as the I-94 series) so it’s common to see fans travel to support their team and get into it with rival fans. I lived in Milwaukee for just over five years and would take the train down to Wrigley to catch rivalry games as much as I could. Unfortunately, Cubs fans often do the same, filling our stadium with blue and white, and drinking all of our beer.
I still get triggered anytime Cubs fans refer to AmFam Field as ‘Wrigley North.’
Get outta here with that.
But how did this now infamous rivalry start? And why? To find the answers to these questions, we’re going back, back, wayyyyyyy back.
History of the Cubs and Brewers Rivalry
Two franchises battling for first place in their division. Two lakefront cities down the coast from each other with a built-in hatred based on a decades-old football rivalry between Chicago’s Bears and Wisconsin’s Packers. It’s the stuff that great rivalries are made of.
Fans of the Brewers and Cubs have had a friendly rivalry for years. The Brewers and Cubs have met just 377 times, but the rivalry has been extremely close.
These two teams had been playing each other during Spring Training for many years before their first-ever MLB game. On June 13, 1997, the Milwaukee Brewers came into Wrigley Field and won their first game over the Chicago Cubs. Major League Baseball moved the Brewers to the National League Central Division one year later, and the rivalry began to grow.
This rivalry really took off during the 2007 and 2008 seasons however as the Cubs and Brewers were in a tight battle for the National League Central Division crown. Milwaukee and Chicago finished in a first-place tie during the regular season, and the Brewers won game 163 to win the division and advance to the playoffs.
But it didn’t stop there.
During the 2018 regular season, the Brewers and Cubs played each other 20 times, including a one-game playoff for the Central Division title. The Cubs dominated the Brewers in the early part of that season, but the Brewers came roaring back in a big way. Chicago won eight of the first nine games against Milwaukee, while the Brewers countered by winning eight of the final 11 games between the rivals.
For the season, the Cubs won 11 games and the Brewers won nine. Milwaukee was victorious in the most important game of the 2018 season, though, beating the Cubs at Wrigley Field by a score of 3-1 to win the Central Division. To this day, that game is one that will forever live rent-free in my mind.
Despite everything that has happened on the field, there is also something that happened off of it that people believe help contribute to the rivalry.
Back in 2012, Brewers legend and Hall of Famer Robin Yount was quail hunting with friend and former Brewer and Cubs manager Dale Sveum when he accidentally shot him in the right ear.
An ‘Ope!” moment if I ever did see one.
Sveum was okay and laughed it off as a freak accident. But that didn’t stop fans of both the Brewers and Cubs to elevate their already large disdain for one another.
Predictions for the First Matchup of the Season
Our Milwaukee Brewers will take on the Chicago Cubs for their first matchup of the season with a three-game series beginning tonight, Monday, April 5th.
The Cubs definitely had the better opening series of the season between the two clubs, but they also went up against what might be the worst team in the MLB with the Pirates.
The Milwaukee Brewers on the other hand had a much more challenging time with the Minnesota Twins, who are expected to contend for an AL Central division title. The Brewers will need to get their bats going, and they have a good chance at stringing together base runners against Williams, who had a 6.18 ERA in a shortened 2020 and a 5.38 ERA in 2019. He also led the league in home runs allowed last season, so Milwaukee should be ready to swing and swing hard.
If we play our cards right, we’ll be able to significantly pad our W column beginning tonight, made all the sweeter that it will be done against one of our biggest rivals.
Or as Brewers manager, Craig Counsell put it so eloquently: “Rivalry? Whatever, man. Put me in the building and let me enjoy the game. Let’s have some fun and get some wins along the way.”
That sounds like a fabulous plan, sir.