With all of the talk about the new stadium and the possibility of the Rams leaving St. Louis, many are reminiscent of St. Louis’ original NFL team, the St. Louis Cardinals. Many remember when St. Louis was a two-bird city. We had the St. Louis Cardinals, and the St. Louis Cardinals (one baseball, and one football).
So what is the story behind our first NFL team?
Chicago Cardinals owner Violet Bidwill had married St. Louis businessman Walter Wolfner in 1949, two years after inheriting the team from her late first husband, Charles Bidwill. When it became obvious that the Cardinals could no longer hope to compete with the Chicago Bears, a move to St. Louis seemed to make sense.
The NFL conducted a survey of St. Louis and concluded that it was capable of supporting a team. The league’s 12 owners unanimously approved the move, ending their 62-year stay in Chicago. During the Cardinals’ stay in St. Louis, two major Cardinal teams (football and baseball) called the city home. Sports fans and local news broadcasters called them “the football Cardinals” or “the baseball Cardinals” to distinguish the two. To avoid confusion, the NFL contemplated changing the Cardinals’ name, but then dropped the idea (though in the early years of the NFL, numerous teams were intentionally named after local baseball teams, directly or indirectly). They shared Sportsman’s Park with the baseball team. However, St. Louis hadn’t had a pro football team since the early days of the NFL, and tickets were difficult to sell. The Cardinals initially held practices in the city park. Their first home game was a loss to the Giants on October 2, 1960, and they finished the year at 6-5-1. In 1961, they broke even at 7-7 (the NFL had expanded to a 14-game season to compete with the upstart AFL) and fell to 4-9-1 in 1962. Improving to 9-5 in 1963, the Cardinals almost reached the playoffs, but a loss to the Giants prevented that.
During the Cardinals’ 28-year stay in St. Louis, they advanced to the playoffs just three times (1974, 1975 & 1982), never hosting or winning in any appearance. In spite of what was considered lackluster performance in St. Louis, their overall record there, of 187 wins, 202 losses, and 13 ties (.481 winning percentage) is easily the highest winning percentage for any of the three locations that the Cardinals have been associated with.
In 1995, the Rams moved from Anaheim to St. Louis, where they have played since