The 2017 Memphis Redbirds will take the field for the first time — resplendent in new uniforms — Thursday night when they host their parent club, the St. Louis Cardinals, in an exhibition game at AutoZone Park. The “Battle of the Birds” will mark the tenth time the Cardinals have played at Third (now B.B. King) and Union. Here’s a brief history of the Cards in their Memphis nest, and how their ensuing season unfolded each year.
• 2000 — Redbirds 10, Cardinals 6
St. Louis took an early 4-1 lead, but the baby ’Birds battled back to win a high-scoring affair. More than 15,000 fans packed the stadium for this April Fool’s Day tilt. Cardinal second-baseman Fernando Vina picked up the first hit in the stadium’s history and Cardinal catcher Eli Marrero hit the first home run (in the second inning). The Cardinals went on to win the National League Central Division but fell to the New York Mets in the National League Championship Series.
• 2002 — Cardinals 3, Redbirds 3
That’s exhibition baseball for you: a tie. The Cardinals had a memorable season, for reasons that ran to extremes. Hall of Fame broadcaster Jack Buck and starting pitcher Darryl Kile died within days of each other in June, but St. Louis won 97 games and returned to the National League Championship Series. They fell to the San Francisco Giants in five games.
• 2004 — Redbirds 7, Cardinals 3 and Cardinals 5, Redbirds 1
The teams split a pair of games to start a magical season for St. Louis. Before the second game, a red seat in AutoZone Park’s rightfield stands was dedicated to the championship-winning home run ball that landed there — off the bat of Albert Pujols — on September 15, 2000. The Cardinals went on to win 105 games and their first National League pennant since 1987. They were swept by the curse-shedding Boston Red Sox in the World Series.
• 2007 — Cardinals 6, Redbirds 2 and Cardinals 5, Cleveland Indians 1
The first exhibition was merely prelude to the inaugural Civil Rights Game. The Cards (reigning World Series champions) and Indians each wore uniforms that saluted the Negro Leagues. Buck O’Neil, Spike Lee, and Vera Clemente (widow of Roberto) were honored with Beacon Awards before the first pitch. St. Louis finished the season with a record of 78-84, the franchise’s only losing campaign this century.
• 2009 — Cardinals 13, Redbirds 1 and Cardinals 7, Redbirds 3
This proved to be a fun season throughout the Cardinal system, as the franchise’s top three clubs (St. Louis, Memphis, and Double-A Springfield) all made the playoffs for the first time since 1985. The Cards lost to the L.A. Dodgers in a Division Series but the Redbirds won their second Pacific Coast League championship.
• 2015 — Cardinals 8, Redbirds 1
A Matt Holliday home run sparked the parent club to victory in its most recent trip to Memphis. St. Louis went on to win 100 games, but lost to the archrival Chicago Cubs in a Division Series. Outfielder Stephen Piscotty played 87 games for Memphis before being promoted and finishing the season in leftfield for St. Louis.