Originally posted on Fox Sports Midwest  |  Last updated 10/12/11
ST. LOUIS Jim Edmonds walked into the St. Louis Cardinals clubhouse, silence hanging over the room. Players prepared to take the field before Game 6 of the 2004 National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium. They trailed the Houston Astros three games to two and were one loss from elimination. Among teammates, nothing needed to be said about the days stakes. Edmonds slipped on a white jersey. It was Oct. 20, 2004, two days after the Astros won their third game in as many days. The Cardinals were a major-league best 105-57 in the regular season, one victory short of the franchise record set in 1942. The 34-year-old center fielder thought the Cardinals had the talent to win their first World Series since 1982. But one more loss would keep them at home. That, Edmonds said, was our best team. That October night and into the next, Edmonds created his own postseason legacy. He hit a two-run, game-ending home run in the 12th inning to right-center field off reliever Dan Miceli to push the Cardinals past the Astros in Game 6. A day later, he made a diving catch in the second inning that robbed catcher Brad Ausmus of possible two RBI in St. Louis Game 7 triumph. Edmonds plays remain some of the most memorable from St. Louis first National League pennant since 1987. The Boston Red Sox went on to sweep the Cardinals in the World Series, but Edmonds remembers the 2004 NLCS as a time his city came together. For a brief moment, we gave the city some joy and some fun, Edmonds said. We had a lot of fun doing it. I think if you were to ask some people in St. Louis, I think they remember how exciting those games were. I definitely think that brought everybody to their feet and gave them something to remember for a long time. The 2004 NLCS is remembered for being competitive. The NL Central rivals met after the Cardinals beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in four games and the Astros beat the Atlanta Braves in five in each teams National League Division Series. St. Louis won the first two games against Houston at Busch Stadium, and the Astros took the next three at Minute Maid Park. By the time Edmonds entered the clubhouse before Game 6, he was familiar with postseason pressure. He joined the Cardinals after the Anaheim Angels traded him in March 2000. He was part of three straight playoff teams from 2000 to 2002, two of which made NLCS appearances. (The Cardinals lost in five games to the New York Mets in 2000 and the San Francisco Giants in 2002.) Those experiences kept Edmonds calm before facing elimination against the Astros in 2004. The Cardinals' performance in the regular season made him believe a victory was possible each time he stepped onto the field. He considered the Cardinals team that year to be the best he had seen during his time in the Gateway City. St. Louis spent 122 days atop the NL Central. It led the division by as many as 17 games. It was a little bit older, a more-experienced team, Edmonds said. The years before, we were in the playoffs young. Finally, we had put it all together. Late in Game 6, the Cardinals had to do so again. They were tied with the Astros at 4 going into the bottom of the 12th inning. First baseman Albert Pujols walked on four pitches from Miceli to start the inning, and third baseman Scott Rolen popped out to catcher Raul Chavez behind home plate. Then Edmonds stepped into the batters box with 52,144 fans on edge. He had struggled against Astros pitching that night, going 1-for-5 with two strikeouts before his appearance in the 12th inning. His lone hit was a two-out single to right field in the first inning off starter Peter Munro. As he waited for Micelis first pitch, Edmonds thought back to advice from Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. Throughout the season, La Russa had preached a simple lesson: Make contact with the ball, reach base and dont press. Edmonds approached the plate wanting to hit a double to give Pujols a chance to score. Edmonds fouled away Micelis first pitch. Then Miceli wrinkled his lips as he threw the second. The ball approached Edmonds. Chavez reached forward with his glove. But the catcher closed his mitt without anything inside. Edmonds finished a smooth swing. He dropped his bat and gazed at the ball sailing over the right-field wall. He shook both fists and bounced toward first base. Nearby, Pujols jogged toward second base, his arms outstretched and his head turned toward the outfield. The crowd roared. A flair for the dramatic, announcer Wayne Hagin said that night, fans still cheering as he spoke. Here comes Edmonds to the plate. They greet him there! A game-winning home run, and we will see you tomorrow night. It was electric, said Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak, who was assistant general manager at the time. Everybody that was a part of that team, when you look back on it, so many people contributed. But that night happened to be Jims night. He put the club on his back. Ill never forget it, La Russa said. I dont think a lot of our guys will, because it finally led us to winning a National League pennant. Meanwhile, not far from where teammates mobbed Edmonds, Houstons dugout turned quiet. The Astros knew the Cardinals had life. I remember he hit it, and I was like, Man, its too bad, said reliever Brad Lidge, who threw three innings for the Astros that night. You have to tip your hat. Edmonds had a great career. It seems like he did a lot of that walk-on stuff. Added Lance Berkman, who played right field for the Astros: It was a great series probably one of the best, if not the best series, Ive been a part of. The next night at Busch Stadium, Edmonds catch in Game 7 preserved what was accomplished with his home run in Game 6. With one out and the Astros leading 1-0 against starter Jeff Suppan, Edmonds athletic play to retire Ausmus kept second baseman Jeff Kent on second base and shortstop Jose Vizcaino on first. Pitcher Roger Clemens struck out on four pitches to end the scoring threat. The Cardinals clinched a World Series berth seven innings later by winning 5-2. Its something you find down deep inside that makes you run harder or react quicker and pay more attention in the playoffs, Edmonds said. It puts the thought process in your head, If I dont make this play, were going to go home tomorrow and be disappointed. Sometimes, the season is so long, and its such a drag. When you get into the playoffs, it makes it all worthwhile. Its the most special feeling. Edmonds' play in the 2004 NLCS helped the Cardinals continue their special October. He gave St. Louis two memories it will remember for a long time.
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