posted on September 24, 2009 00:00
It was the 4th of July last year, and I was waking up bright and early at 1 p.m. in Las Vegas...fresh off of surviving 12 hours of playing poker in Day 1 of the World Series of Poker.
By the time I got out of bed, I had a bunch of congratulatory messages...including one from Jim Edmonds. And, then I noticed there were a few more from Edmonds.
The texts that started out about the World Series of Poker had gotten to, "Where the hell are you?" "Are you not up yet?" "What the hell are you doing?"
Usually those were the kinds of texts I'd send Edmonds to try and get him to come on The ITD Morning After.
But, the roles were reversed on July 4th, 2008.
He was nervous, and he wanted to spend some nervous energy by talking with someone...obviously...anyone.
July 4th, 2008 was his first night returning to St. Louis since leaving the Cardinals via trade in the offseason. Normally, a former Cardinal star's return to Busch Stadium is the equivalent to a band coming out for an encore.
But, in this case, it was different.
Edmonds was coming back as a Cub.
And, he was worried he was going to get booed.
I recall exchanging texts with him telling him he had nothing to worry about, but I could tell that wasn't helping him. He loved St. Louis, and the fear of being booed by "his" fans was taking its toll on him.
But, the nervous energy that led him to anxiously text hungover, half-assed sports talk radio hosts in Las Vegas was gone by 4 p.m. All the attention had gone from fear of the fans' reaction to the stunning words of one man: his former manager.
Tony La Russa gave Edmonds the biggest surprise he'd given him since starting him against a left-handed pitcher.
La Russa dropped a bomb in his pre-game press conference. When asked about Edmonds' comments in which he asked the Chicago media to stop asking him about his time as a Cardinal so he could focus on his new career as a Cub, La Russa, perhaps in some textbook Tony gamesmanship let loose:
(From the July 5, 2008 AP)
"I think we ought to follow his lead," La Russa said. "His quote was roughly, within a couple of words, 'I've had enough of people asking me about the Cardinals. I'm a Cub now.'
"So I would treat him like he never played here. I would wait until the end of his career and I would remember he was a Cardinal. I would ignore the fact that he was ever here (for now) because that's what he wants. I would honor his request. Forget the Cardinal days until his career is over."
In two separate group interviews, Edmonds called La Russa's comments "asinine" and "ridiculous," and at one point called him a derogatory name.
Edmonds was furious.
A man he had privately considered a father figure had chosen Jedi mind tricks over allowing one of his former stars to have that famous Cardinal homecoming. And, Edmonds wasn't going to let Tony forget it. A few weeks later, when Edmonds hit a home run against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field, he flipped his bat directly at the visiting team's dugout and gave "someone" a stare.
It didn't calm down in the offseason.
Edmonds was so upset seven months later that he said earlier this year on The ITD Morning After that he never planned to speak to La Russa again. And, despite being around the ballpark a number of times this year, Edmonds and La Russa hadn't said a word to each other.
Until Saturday night.
Away from the ballpark.
But, in front of dozens of former teammates.
In a moment that those who were there say they'll never forget---not just because of the starpower involved in a public reconciliation...but because of how quiet the room got when it happened---Tony La Russa showed up by himself at the celebration of Jim Edmonds' F15teen Steakhouse And Lounge's Second Anniversary.
Numerous Cardinals and Cubs were on hand at 19th and Locust downtown to enjoy F15teen's delicious steaks and toast their former teammate's business success. Standing at the entrance of the restaurant were Cub pitcher Ted Lilly and Cardinal third baseman Mark De Rosa. The former teammates were engaged in a conversation when La Russa, carrying a bottle of wine, walked in. Both players, knowing the recent history of the manager and the proprietor of F15teen, looked shocked.
Tony greeted Lilly and De Rosa, and then he asked where Edmonds was. The ballplayers pointed in Edmonds' direction, and Tony made his way over to his former player.
Edmonds, with his back turned and in a conversation with Troy Glaus, received a tap on the shoulder, and to his surprise, turned around to see La Russa extending his hand.
The details of the conversation were private, and while Edmonds did confirm that the meeting took place, he didn't want to be quoted. However, those who were close to the two for this awkward yet happily-ever-after moment in Cardinal history said La Russa handed the bottle of wine to Edmonds, congratulated him on F15teen's second anniversary, and essentially apologized.
One of the patrons who confirmed this story said La Russa appeared to get emotional as he talked to Edmonds for the first time in nearly 20 months. Edmonds invited La Russa to stay for dinner, but Tony said he had a previous engagement in Clayton that he had to get to. He said he just wanted to stop by and "make things right."
With that, La Russa shook Edmonds' hand and walked out.
With that, Jim Edmonds' St. Louis baseball career ended properly.
And, with that, Tony La Russa had just made his best---and most difficult---move as Cardinal manager.
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