JUPITER, Fla. -- More than three years after he was traded away, Jim Edmonds' name still resonates in the Cardinals' clubhouse.
An all-time great defensive center fielder -- as well as author of some of the biggest hits in the franchise's recent history and a beloved teammate -- Edmonds is still revered by the players who shared his glory years in a St. Louis uniform. When the club announced Friday that Edmonds was retiring, his old teammates remembered all of the aspects that made Edmonds such a franchise icon.
"He was an unbelievable clubhouse presence and an unbelievable player," said Chris Carpenter, who played with Edmonds from 2004-07. "Best center fielder I've ever seen. He had that extra level, too, you know? In those big games, he could kick it up that one extra notch and do something special. He had an unbelievable career."
Asked whether he thought first of Edmonds the player or Edmonds the teammate, Adam Wainwright couldn't pick one.
"Both, really," said Wainwright. "I think, obviously, his center field play, his hits, the guy had as accurate an arm as anyone I've ever seen. The outfield, he could play with anyone, everybody knows that. But also, when somebody needed to step up on a chair and say something to the team, Jimmy was there to do that. He gave us a pretty good pep talk before the '06 playoffs, and it worked out pretty good. Maybe he could come in here and give us a pep talk before the season."
Wainwright spent less time with Edmonds than some of his teammates did, playing with him in 2006 and 2007. But like the others, he had been looking forward to a possible return engagement. Edmonds had agreed to a Minor League deal for one more year in St. Louis, before his injured left Achilles tendon forced him to hang it up.
"He was a great teammate," said Yadier Molina, who played in three postseasons with Edmonds. "I loved playing with him. He had a good career offensively and defensively. Great person. I was looking forward to it."
Albert Pujols looked up to Edmonds when Pujols was a rookie in 2001, and was hoping for another chance to play with him.
"I was pretty excited when I heard the news that he was going to come down here and be part of this organization again," Pujols said. "I think that's how it should be. If it would have worked out, I think he should have been a Cardinal. He did so many great things for this organization, and I enjoyed every single year that I played with him. He was really a mentor to me in my career, and we're still in touch. He's a good friend."
Pujols, like manager Tony La Russa, particularly noted Edmonds' amazing knack for positioning in the outfield. Edmonds studied not only opposing hitters but his own pitchers, to make sure he was in the best possible spot for every at-bat -- an attribute that benefited Pujols, as well.
"When I had the opportunity to play left field and right field, not that much but for a little bit, he helped me to get better out there," Pujols said. "He didn't have to, but he knew if I could get better, it was going to help the ballclub."
Edmonds' big moments in a Cardinals uniform were numerous, probably topped by his walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 2004 National League Championship Series. He developed a reputation not only as an excellent player, but one with a superb sense of the moment.
"He was a guy that knew how to play the game," said hitting coach Mark McGwire, who played with Edmonds in 2000 and 2001. "He was one of the rare guys that you play with that you get into a situation [in] the playoffs or something clutch, and he knew how to just turn that switch on and be really good. You don't find those players too often. He had a really, really, really nice career."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.