On a team laden with veteran leaders, he was the unofficial captain. In a lineup loaded with superstars, he was the man they wanted at the plate in the biggest situations.
Edgar Renteria was rarely one of baseball’s most heralded players, but for the bulk of his 16 seasons in the big leagues, he was one of the game’s best. Five times an All-Star, twice a World Series champion, Renteria is now on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time. Renteria is best known for his six seasons in St. Louis, when he turned promise into stardom and was a core member of four postseason teams. But he pushed teams toward championships throughout his career. At 21, in his second big league season, he knocked the game-winning hit for the Marlins in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series. At 34, in his second-to-last year, he was World Series MVP for the champion Giants.
A lifetime .286 hitter, Renteria amassed 2,327 base hits and scored 1,200 runs. He won two Gold Glove Awards and three Silver Slugger Awards, and he was a three-time All-Star starter at shortstop. All while maintaining a combination of quiet grace on the field and a warm, funny presence in the clubhouse that made him a beloved clubhouse figure throughout his career.
“Edgar is one of my all-time favorite teammates,” said outfielder Aaron Rowand, who played with Renteria in San Francisco. “He’s one of the greatest dudes. Everybody should be lucky enough to have played with a guy like him.”
Signed at 15 out of Colombia by the Marlins, Renteria made his big league debut at 19 in 1996. He immediately showed he belonged, finishing second in National League Rookie of the Year Award balloting. He was an effective regular with the Marlins for three seasons, making his first All-Star team in 1998, then took off after a December 1998 trade to the Cardinals. He blossomed into a star in St. Louis, posting a .290/.347/.420 line as an all-around threat for manager Tony La Russa’s clubs.
Renteria was named unofficial captain, despite the presence of numerous more established veterans. And even in a lineup with Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds, Renteria was well-known in the clubhouse as the man that teammates would want up in a game-critical moment.
A free-agent departure to Boston didn’t suit him, but a return to the NL with Atlanta definitely did. He posted two strong seasons with the Braves before another trade sent him to Detroit. A free-agent deal with San Francisco saw him win his second ring (and be named MVP of the Fall Classic), and his career came to a close in Cincinnati in 2011. Throughout, Renteria was a strong hitter, an exceptional baserunner, a quality defender and a valued teammate.