Had his life spanned a more recent era of Cardinals baseball, Jack Buck’s Hall of Fame speech might’ve included his gratefulness for the arm of Chris Carpenter or Adam Wainwright, and he probably would have touted the bat of Albert Pujols. But I think there’s little doubt that he’d have been thankful for the glove of Jim Edmonds.
I grew up watching Cardinals baseball in the 1980’s, and in doing so developed a love for defense at a very young age. You don’t spend your childhood watching Ozzie Smith win 13 straight gold glove awards and not take notice as to how important solid defensive skills are. Edmonds brought back to the forefront an important piece of the game that, much like bunting for a hit, seems to have faded in recent years: He brought back a focus on defensive excellence.
“80% of the earth’s surface is covered by water, the other 20% is covered by Jim Edmonds.”
That’s one of my favorite sayings, and I grin every time I hear it, because it truly seemed that way–a ball hit into the air & anywhere near centerfield was far from safe. And if you’re thinking of hitting a HR over the 400’ sign on the CF wall, you’d better hit the ball at least 408’, or there’s a good chance Jimmy’s bringing it back! I can recall twice seeing a player on television mouth “Oh my gosh!”. My favorite was Pettitte’s (obviously), but Edmonds did it too…after he amazed even himself by robbing a homerun (in, I believe, Cincinnati). Watching Edmonds made me truly appreciate the Endy Chavez catch–the finest catch I have ever seen…and that coming from a guy who watched Jim Edmonds play every day.
Eight gold glove awards, two top-five finishes in MVP voting, four All-Star appearances, one big game six homerun, and countless catches that left many-a-jaw on St. Louis area floors over the years are just a few of the ways we’ll remember “Jimmy Ballgame”. A member of the “MV3”, Edmonds was no slouch at the plate & could handle the lumber with the best of them. A beautiful left-handed swing, comparable to Griffey Jr, and that famous upper-cut made Edmonds’ stance & swing recognizable to millions.
Towards the end of his career, he bounced around the National League Central division, spending time with the Brewers, Cubs & Reds after he left the Cards & headed to San Diego. If not for “the catch”, it’s possible that some may even forget that Edmonds actually spent seven years in the American League West as an Angel (‘93-’99). But he will be remembered by most for his years in St. Louis as the Cardinals’ centerfielder, and I suspect there would be little question as to which team logo he’d choose to wear on his cap, should he one day enter Cooperstown (a conversation for another time).
For different reasons than his former teammates, Aaron Miles & Scott Spiezio, when Jim Edmonds took the mound this past Thursday, it was for a ceremonial pitch–the first pitch of the 2011 season. He was very well-received by the fans at Busch that afternoon, and I suspect he’ll always be welcomed & appreciated in Cardinal Nation.
Thank you, Jim Edmonds for the memories, the highlights, and for keeping the flame of exciting & superb defense alive for another generation of Cardinals fans!