250 miles separates one of the most famous rivalries in Major League Baseball. The Kansas City Royals on the western edge of Missouri and the Cardinals of St. Louis in the east.
The two teams split the state in half, and their matchups are always highly anticipated by their die-hard fans. Whether at Busch Stadium or Kauffman, each team’s house reverberates with chants of insults to the other side.
St. Louis Cardinal fans pride themselves on being the “best fans in baseball,” while Royals fans epitomize the underdog spirit like no other in the league.
Missouri’s baseball rivalry is just as intense as the one currently going on the Senate floor where a MO sports betting bill has been stymied by casino operators.
There are still a few more days until the legislative session ends, May 13, so we’ll be biting our fingernails while hoping a resolution between opposing sides enables a launch of sports betting in Missouri.
The great divide
Both teams are in MLB but they belong to different divisions. The Royals play in the American League and the Cardinals compete in the National League.
They do, however, come up against each other from time to time – four games each season – in what’s known as the Show–Me State Series or I-70 Series, and fans on both sides amp themselves up for these contests.
But what’s really behind the feud between these two fanbases? How truly different are they from one another?
Sportswriters and pundits have analyzed and debated this issue for years. Here are some facts and figures that could help shed some light on the matter.
Little to no love lost
Hostilities officially began after the two teams met in the 1985 World Series, making this a fairly young rivalry. The Royals snatched the championship that year, upsetting the heavily favored Cardinals four games to three in a seven-game series.
After that astonishing win, the Royals faced a long period of drought, not appearing in the MLB postseason for another 29 years. Meanwhile, the Cardinals kept on winning.
To date, the Red Birds have 11 World Series under their belt, something they keep harping on about and hold over the heads of Royals fans every chance they get.
That’s one feature the Royals hate about the Cardinals, their cockiness. When the Royals came up against the NY Giants in the 2014 World Series and lost, it was the Cardinals fans who added insult to injury. The gloves were off after that.
To be fair though, the Royals are a much younger team than the Cardinals -nearly 100 years younger. They will probably not come close to achieving as many world series wins as the Cardinals. But they are more recent champions, taking the title in 2015, which has to stick in the craws of Cards fans a little.
On the flip side, Red Bird fans don’t appreciate the hoopla Royals fans make every time Kansas City wins a game against St. Louis, implying they take things too far.
But when the Cardinals beat the Royals it’s no big deal because, well, that’s the natural course of things. It’s a vicious cycle with no end in sight which is probably a good thing for all baseball fans.
Cardinals beat the Royals in game attendance & TV ratings
One of the reasons Red Bird fans are considered to be the most passionate in the sport has to do with their consistent game attendance and high TV ratings.
According to Nielsen Media Research data, the Cardinals local TV rating ranked first among Major League Baseball teams in 2021. The regional sports network, Bally Sports Midwest broadcast averaged a 6.2 household rating in the St. Louis DMA, up 16% from a 5.4 rating in 2020.
Data from Nielsen also suggest that six teams suffered a decline in TV ratings, including the Royals who are down about 2%.
The Cardinal’s total home attendance stood at 2.1 million last season. That’s an average of 26,281 fans per game at Busch Stadium.
Before the pandemic hit, attendance at Cardinals games averaged 3.4 million over ten years. 2015 saw the highest game attendance during that period with 3.5 million.
In comparison, total home attendance for the Royals in the 2021 season came to 1.2 million, an average of 14,316 fans per game. These figures reflect a decline of 22% from 1.48 million in 2019 when the Royals ranked 27th.
The Royals finished 21st in attendance among the MLB’s 30 franchises, a significant drop from previous seasons.
Focusing on the last decade of the Royals’ game attendance numbers we get a bell-shaped curve. The numbers stood at 1.7 million in 2013 then shot up to 2.7 million in 2015. That had probably everything to do with Kansas City being on the cusp of winning the World Series.
After that, interest in the Royals waned with attendance dropping to 1.4 million in 2019.
An estimated 45 million baseball fans took in Major League games last season signaling a marked improvement from 2020.
Comparing Cardinals vs. Royals market valuations
Despite the losses experienced during the pandemic, MLB franchises are still worth a tidy sum. Contrary to expectations, the league’s 30 teams appreciated in the last 12 months.
At $2.45 billion, the Cardinals are the seventh most valuable franchise in the league. The Royals on the other hand are ranked near the bottom at 28th. The NY Yankees lead the league’s valuation at $7 billion.
Each year, Forbes estimates the market values of all 30 MLB franchises. The table below summarizes the teams’ values as well as their revenue, operating income, and player expenses for 2022.
|St. Louis Cardinals||Kansas City Royals|
|Revenue per Fan||$73M||$63M|
Cardinals have larger fanbase, sell more merch
For a better understanding of where the money goes, the team’s market values are divvied up into four main portions:
|St. Louis Cardinals||Kansas City Royals|
When it comes to merchandise sales, Kansas City can’t stack up against St. Louis. The Cardinals simply have a much larger fanbase and therefore more money to buy gear.
During last year’s season, All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado had the 10th-highest selling jersey according to sales data listed on MLB.com.
But, demand for Royals merch is on the rise
But demand for Royals merchandise has been steadily rising ever since consumer demand for MLB jerseys and caps increased by 38% leading up to opening day 2021.
Data from Pattern, the world’s leading e-commerce accelerator, shows Royals fans’ demand for hats and other apparel during the week of opening day 2021 rose by 329%.
And his season, the consumer demand trend seems to be on pace to match last year’s spike.
So when the two sets of fans meet again in Busch Stadium, we won’t expect them to lay off the taunts and insults, let alone the fierce rivalry. But at least now they’ll have some facts to go on.