Jim Edmonds

September 4, 2004: Jim Edmonds hits his 300th career home run

Hours after becoming the third player in Cardinals history to hit his 300th career home run wearing the birds on the bat, Jim Edmonds returned to the clubhouse at Busch Stadium and discovered a voicemail from a man who had become synonymous with home run milestones – Mark McGwire.

“He said, ‘Congratulations, you only need 283 more and you catch me,’” Edmonds said. “I don’t think I’m going to make it.”[1]

A graduate of Diamond Bar High School approximately 20 minutes from Anaheim, Edmonds was drafted as an 18-year-old by his hometown Angels in the seventh round of the 1988 draft. There, he made his name as a talented defensive center fielder, not as a power hitter.

After debuting with the Angels in 1993, Edmonds entered the 1995 season with just five major-league home runs. To that point in his career, his highest-powered season had come in 1992, when he hit 14 home runs between Double-A Midland and Triple-A Edmonton.

“I got a lot stronger and I changed my swing,” Edmonds said. “I went home in ’94 and said, ‘This is what I’ve got to do.’ I wanted to learn to pull the ball a little bit more. It just happened overnight. Very surprising. I knew I had power. I just wasn’t able to hit the ball in the air to right-center field as much. That’s where I changed. I wasn’t trying to hit 30 home runs. I was just trying to get the ball up in the air with some backspin.”[2]

His work paid off. In 1995, Edmonds hit 33 homers and was named to his first all-star game. He hit at least 25 homers in each of the next three seasons before an injury limited him to just five homers in 1999.

Just before the 2000 season began, the Angels traded Edmonds to the Cardinals for Kent Bottenfield and Adam Kennedy. Two weeks later, he hit his first home run as a Cardinal after totaling 121 with the Angels. It was the first of 42 blasts Edmonds hit that season as he set a new career high and placed fourth in the National League MVP voting. He followed that campaign with 30, 28, and 39 homers in successive seasons.

Heading into the Cardinals’ September 4, 2004, contest against the Dodgers, Edmonds was on the cusp of 40 home runs for the season and 300 for his career. The National League Central Division leaders, the Cardinals entered the game on a seven-game win streak that upped their record to 90-44 and extended their lead over the second-place Cubs to 16 ½ games.

“On a team of many indispensable parts, nobody has been more central to the Cards’ success than center fielder Jim Edmonds,” wrote Belleville News-Democrat sports editor Joe Ostermeier.[3]

The Saturday night game against the Dodgers represented more of the same. Edmonds, who had hit nine homers in his last 10 games, wasted no time getting the Cardinals on the scoreboard. After Dodgers starter Kazuhisa Ishii walked Scott Rolen to lead off the second inning, Edmonds pulled a 2-1 pitch over the right-field wall to give St. Louis a 2-0 lead.

“I don’t really know what to say,” Edmonds said. “I never thought I would be in this situation. I never thought I would have 50 home runs or 100 home runs, let alone 300. Obviously, playing in a city with Mark McGwire having 500 and something (583) and now (Barry Bonds) playing with almost 700, 300 is not a big deal. But it’s pretty cool.”[4]

Edmonds joined Stan Musial and Gary Gaetti as the only players to hit their 300th career home run with the Cardinals.[5]

“That’s a huge deal,” said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who earned the 2,100th win of his career. “Three hundred bombs? Some of us never got 30 balls out of the infield. He’s had just a huge, huge season. He’s been terrific in the Cardinals uniform. It’s a tremendous plateau.”[6]

Edmonds’ single-season total also made a little history, as it marked the first time in franchise history that the Cardinals had two 40-home run hitters in the same season (Albert Pujols finished with 46 home runs).

In the sixth inning, Ishii again ran into trouble, walking two batters before Rolen hit an RBI single to center field. It was just the Cardinals’ second hit of the game.

Right-hander Elmer Dessens entered the game in relief for the Dodgers, but a misplayed fly ball by center fielder Steve Finley allowed two more runs to score and extended the Cardinals’ lead to 5-0.

“We caught a break,” La Russa said. “Finley is a Gold Glove kind of center fielder. I’m not sure what happened on that ball. That’s two important runs. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. Lately, we’ve been both.”[7]

Cardinals starting pitcher Jason Marquis left the game after striking out nine over seven shutout innings. The game extended his win streak to 11 games, the longest by a Cardinals pitcher since John Tudor won 11 in a row in 1985.[8]

Dodgers third baseman Adrian Beltre hit an RBI double off reliever Dan Haren in the top of the eighth inning to cut the Cardinals’ lead to 8-1, but Ray King and Julian Tavarez combined for the final four outs. Beltre’s RBI was his 100th of the season, joining Pedro Guerrero and Ron Cey as the only Dodgers third basemen to reach triple digits in a single season.[9]

The Cardinals went on to win 105 regular-season games and easily won the NL Central on their way to the National League pennant. Edmonds finished the season with 42 home runs to go along with 111 RBIs and a .301 batting average.

In eight seasons with the Cardinals, Edmonds hit .285/.393/.555 with 241 home runs and 713 RBIs. He was inducted into the Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2014.

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[1] Dan O’Neill, “Hitting 300th HR is ‘pretty cool’ for Edmonds,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 5, 2004.

[2] Mike Eisenbath, “Meet Jim Edmonds: All the tools – and baggage, too,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 26, 2000.

[3] Joe Ostermeier, “Edmonds center of Cards’ success,” Belleville News-Democrat, September 5, 2004.

[4] David Wilhelm, “Birds cruise past Dodgers again,” Belleville News-Democrat, September 5, 2004.

[5] Dan O’Neill, “Hitting 300th HR is ‘pretty cool’ for Edmonds,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 5, 2004.

[6] David Wilhelm, “Birds cruise past Dodgers again,” Belleville News-Democrat, September 5, 2004.

[7] David Wilhelm, “Birds cruise past Dodgers again,” Belleville News-Democrat, September 5, 2004.

[8] Joe Strauss, “Cards get two hits, one victory,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 5, 2004.

[9] Jason Reid, “Dodgers Are Deficient With Test Score of 5-1,” Los Angeles Times, September 5, 2004.