Commentary

How very sweet it is for Edgar Renteria

In possible final game of his career, Giants' shortstop hits big HR and wins Series MVP

Originally Published: November 1, 2010
By Amy K. Nelson | ESPN.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Edgar Renteria's career began on the fields of Barranquilla, Colombia more than 20 years ago. But the way it will likely end, as the World Series MVP, is because of a meeting in Chicago toward the end of the season; a turning point that eventually helped the San Francisco Giants win their first World Series in 56 years.

"It's unbelievable, being in this situation," Renteria said.

[+] EnlargeEdgar Renteria
Matt Slocum/US PresswireEdgar Renteria was named World Series MVP after he batted .412 with two home runs in five games.

Indeed. With his three-run homer off Cliff Lee in the seventh inning, Renteria led the Giants to a 3-1 win in Game 5 over the Texas Rangers. At age 34 and after a season filled with injuries, Renteria was named MVP of the Series.

It capped an amazing journey for the veteran shortstop, who had one of the most famous hits in World Series history 13 years ago when he singled off Cleveland's Charles Nagy in the bottom of the 11th to win the Series for the Florida Marlins.

"Obviously, it's a different time now and he's older," said Tim Lincecum, the Giants' winning pitcher who was in middle school in '97, "but you can tell he wants it just as badly."

His teammates couldn't have been happier for Renteria, one of the most beloved players in the game. After all, it was in a meeting nine days before the regular season ended when Renteria set in motion what many consider the turning point of the Giants' season. Struggling to score runs and unable to catch the first-place Padres in the NL West, a team meeting was held in the right-field batting cage at Wrigley Field.

A few players spoke their minds, then Renteria asked if he could say something.

"I never talk, I just listen; if I want to say something to someone I just go one-on-one," Renteria said. "That day, I felt like I had to speak in front of everybody."

With tears in his eyes and the thought of retirement nearing, the soft-spoken Renteria stood in front of his teammates in the crammed cage.

"I've been playing this game a long time, and honestly," he said, "this could be my last year."

Renteria tried to say more, wanted to say how if they have the chance to put him in the playoffs, he knew the team was capable of more. He believed in them, and just wanted everyone to play hard. He got some of that out, but then was overcome by emotion. At the time, Renteria was weeping and was no longer able to speak.

One by one, teammates began to embrace him. Manny Burriss, a 25-year-old infielder with the team, looked around the cage.

Bruce Bochy I know how bad Edgar wanted it. I just couldn't be prouder for him. It's pretty incredible what he's done in his career.

-- Giants manager Bruce Bochy

"The entire room was crying," Burris said. "I was bawling. When a guy like Edgar, who has played that many years, is emotional, it's time to turn it up a notch. We're playing for more than just ourselves."

How inspired were the Giants? That night Juan Uribe -- who at the time had been in a 2-for-21 slump -- hit two homers, including a grand slam, in the same inning. The Giants rolled 13-0 over the Chicago Cubs. After that game, they then won six of their last nine games and beat the San Diego Padres at home in the final game of the regular season to win the division.

"It was emotional," veteran center fielder Aaron Rowand said. "Everybody has so much respect for Edgar. I really consider myself lucky and blessed to have been able to have played with a guy like him. He's been through it all; he's played a long time, he treats people right. If it is his last year, to go out on top like this he deserves every bit of it."

Renteria will always be most famous for his 1997 hit, once telling ESPN The Magazine about how Colombians view him. "When people think of me, they think of that hit. It opened the door for me."

On Monday night he couldn't express the differences between each experience, but if this is how his career ends, it will end as a World Series MVP. He hit two home runs (his homer in Game 2 gave the Giants a lead they never relinquished), batted .412, scored six runs and had six RBIs in the Series.

How special are Renteria's feats? He became only the fourth player to have two winning hits in World Series history. Yogi Berra, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio are the others.

"I know how bad Edgar wanted it," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "I just couldn't be prouder for him. It's pretty incredible what he's done in his career."

In between his two famous World Series moments, Renteria played for six teams and in 2,056 games, went to the playoffs seven times and was a five-time All-Star. His World Series history also includes making the final out as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals against the Boston Red Sox in 2004.

But since signing a two-year, $18 million deal with San Francisco in 2008, Renteria has mostly been thought of as a disappointment. He lost his job as a starter, then reclaimed it. But this season was his most difficult: he played in a career-low 72 games while making three separate trips to the disabled list because of a strained groin and strained biceps. He said he felt ashamed he couldn't live up to his contract, and had wanted to prove to Bouchy and general manager Brian Sabean he could be relied upon.

"It means a lot because they signed me for two years, and I wasn't able to do anything for them," Renteria said. "They've always had my back. So I just wanted to do something for them because the GM, the manager, they supported me a lot and they waited for me to do something."

Renteria did what he seemingly always does: he found a way to perform in the most intense moments. With runners on second and third in the top of the seventh inning and facing Lee, one of the fiercest postseason pitchers, Renteria worked a 2-0 count before slamming Lee's next pitch, a cutter, over the left-center fence.

"He was born to play baseball," Sabean said. "He's got a lot of strength, he's got a lot of inner pride. He's got a penchant for being able to make adjustments. We know he doesn't have the best range, but he has perfect positioning most nights. We know he doesn't have a lot of power, but he's able to hit a mistake.

"That comes from experience, and that comes from the fact that he was born to be a baseball player."

After the game, Renteria, who wouldn't confirm he's retiring, came out to the field of "MVP" chants, men waved the Colombian flag behind him during myriad TV interviews, and he smiled and spoke in both English and Spanish about his incredible journey.

And then he admitted that, just before the game, he turned to teammate Andres Torres and told him he was going to homer tonight.

"I got a good feeling," Renteria said, "something's going to happen."

Amy K. Nelson is a staff writer for ESPN.com. She can be reached at Amy.K.Nelson@espn.com.