Edmonds, 40, played in 17 Major League seasons for six clubs but is best remembered for his eight outstanding years in St. Louis. Known as "Jimmy Ballgame" or "Hollywood," Edmonds had a reputation that outstripped even his considerable ability, as he made highlight reels regularly for both spectacular defensive plays and big hits at big moments.
He had hoped to play one more year with the Redbirds, but an injury to his left Achilles tendon ultimately prevented him from doing so. He had a procedure performed on the ankle in January, but his recovery did not go as well as he had hoped, and it had become clear that he was a long way from being ready to play. Beyond that, Edmonds worried that if he did play, he might be at risk for a total rupture of the tendon.
"After speaking with Dr. [George] Paletta [the Cardinals' team physician] and a number of doctors about the potential risk of future permanent damage, I have decided to retire," Edmonds said in a statement issued by the club. "Although I feel that I can still play and contribute, the risk of permanent injury is too much for me to chance. As much as I regret this announcement, I feel that it is for the best."
Edmonds finishes with 393 home runs in 2,011 Major League games with the Angels, Cardinals, Padres, Cubs, Brewers and Reds. He hit .284 with a .376 on-base percentage, .527 slugging percentage, 1,949 hits, 998 walks and 1,251 runs scored. He is an eight-time Gold Glove winner and a four-time All-Star.
"It was an unbelievable career," said general manager John Mozeliak. "He was just a great personality with tremendous baseball talent. He could fill a highlight reel. The impact he had during his tenure here was [that] we won a lot of baseball games. He was a key part of that, and I think his legacy with the St. Louis Cardinals will be in line when you think about historic names."
Edmonds came up with the Angels in 1993 as a slick-fielding but relatively light-hitting center fielder, but he broke out with 33 homers in 1995. He was an accomplished but somewhat inconsistent performer in Anaheim, and during Spring Training in 2000, he was dealt to the Cardinals. As soon as he arrived in the National League, his career took off. In eight years as a Cardinal, he put up a .285/.393/.555 line and hit 241 homers.
He made perhaps the two biggest plays of the classic 2004 NL Championship Series, helping St. Louis to its first pennant in 17 years. He hit a walk-off home run in the 12th inning of Game 6 of that series, forcing a seventh game at Busch Stadium. Then, in the second inning of Game 7, he made a spectacular diving catch of a Brad Ausmus liner, keeping the Cardinals within one run so they could come back to win.
Two years later it was Edmonds who began a custom of awarding a game ball after each Cardinals postseason win, taking elder-statesman status on a team that went on to win the World Series.
"It's hard for any of us to imagine, because we don't have his talent," said manager Tony La Russa. "He was really an outstanding player and especially at the big moment. And when you can no longer do that, that's the level of disappointment, which is what I feel for him. But I prefer to remember his outstanding career."
Edmonds was dealt to San Diego before the 2008 season as St. Louis attempted to reshape its payroll. Released by the Padres, he signed on with the Cubs for the end of '08 before missing the entire 2009 season. His swan song was an impressive '10 comeback with the Brewers and Reds, but his injury kept him from playing in the postseason with Cincinnati last year.
He had hoped to make one more go of it for the team with which he's best identified, but it became increasingly clear in recent days that his physical condition was a serious worry. La Russa told reporters on Friday morning that the club would have some news regarding Edmonds later in the day, and shortly after 9 a.m. CT, the formal announcement was made.
Mozeliak said that the Cardinals hope Edmonds will continue to spend time around the park but that no formal offer of a post-playing job had been extended yet.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.