La Russa miffed at Edmonds, who says he was kidding

Updated: July 4, 2008, 11:15 PM ET
Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals manager Tony La Russa wasn't exactly overjoyed to see his former star center fielder back in town wearing a Chicago Cubs uniform.

Miffed by Jim Edmonds' comments that he was happy to be with the Cubs and tired of talking about his past, La Russa said Friday he'd ignore the four-time All-Star in his first visit as a member of the team's biggest rival.

La Russa
La Russa

Jim Edmonds

Edmonds

"I wouldn't clap or boo or anything," La Russa said before a three-game series matching the NL Central's top two teams. "He wants to put his Cardinal days behind him, so I think you've got to respect that, and just ignore him."

Edmonds said La Russa, his manager for the best eight seasons of his career, would do so at his peril. The two have always had a good relationship.

"If he ignores me, I'm going to punch him in the mouth," Edmonds joked. "I think he's trying to stir it up. He gets a little excited about this rivalry."

Virtually everyone in a sellout crowd at Busch Stadium stood and gave Edmonds a prolonged ovation before his first at-bat leading off the second. Edmonds stepped out of the box and doffed his helmet before Braden Looper struck him out on a 2-2 pitch.

The majority of the fans in the center field bleachers stood and applauded when Edmonds took his position for the first time.

La Russa and Edmonds had their differences in St. Louis, but never anything serious such as the rift that led to Scott Rolen's trade to Toronto in the offseason. Edmonds said he's always considered La Russa something of a father figure.

"I respected everything about him, and I have nothing bad to say," he said. "I feel bad that he got some bad information and I'll tell you that.

"The thing that disappoints me is he believes I would say anything about the organization in a negative light."

Edmonds was a star player on teams that went to the postseason six out of his eight seasons in St. Louis, winning the World Series in 2006. The 38-year-old was beloved for his wall-climbing catches and flair for dramatic plays, peaking with a game-winning homer and game-saving diving grab in the 2004 NL championship series against the Astros.

Edmonds requested a trade after last season when the Cardinals told him he'd be a part-time player in the final season of a two-year contract. He flopped with the San Diego Padres, who released him, but has thrived in Chicago.

The type of reception he'll get has been a major topic in St. Louis leading up to the series.

"I'm curious myself," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "A lot of players change teams now, it's not a unique thing. I think he'll be well-received."

Former teammate Albert Pujols said he had not thought about the situation.

"Whatever he had to say, it doesn't matter to me," Pujols said. "He was a great teammate and he's an even greater person."

Edmonds, who was hitting .294 with eight homers and 24 RBIs in 36 games, didn't deny telling Chicago reporters the next time they wanted to stop tying him to the Cardinals it would be fine with him. Like his comment threatening violence to La Russa, he said he was kidding.

"I was trying to fit in with Chicago and everybody kept asking me questions about trying to fit in," Edmonds said. "So if that was what it was, obviously that was taken out of context."

It was enough to get La Russa's blood pressure up. La Russa said he'd say hello to Edmonds when the two crossed paths and said the Cardinals should honor Edmonds after he retires, but certainly not now.

"Are we indebted to him? For what?" La Russa said. "Didn't he play in a bunch of postseasons? How many of the postseasons was he in before he got here? None.

"He got to a World Series, too, and he was paid for it. I mean, there isn't anything he gave us that we didn't give him back, is there?"

Speaking to reporters in the Cubs' dugout, Edmonds said the whole situation has been "blown out of proportion."

"All I tried to do was get the media in Chicago off my back from asking me questions about how I feel to be a Chicago Cub," Edmonds said. "I think somebody's put a spin on it and made it a little bit more than it should have been."

He also looked back fondly on his time with the Cardinals and the team's adoring fans. He still owns a restaurant, F15teen after his uniform number, about a mile west of Busch Stadium.

"At it's best, it doesn't get any better," Edmonds said. "I don't think you even have to be a star, that's what's so special about this city.

"It leaves a special place in your heart and being a so-called celebrity makes it even better."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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