ARLINGTON -- The soft-spoken shortstop whose season had been marred by injury and whose long career was clearly coming to a close suddenly spoke up that September day in Chicago.
Edgar Renteria's Giants had just endured a shutout loss to the Cubs and were a half-game back of the Padres in the NL West, with 10 games left on the season slate.
The 34-year-old Renteria could feel his teammates tensing up, could see their October dreams drifting off path. A 15-year career had taught him how to read the ebbs and flows of the season, and with his body aching and the clock ticking, he didn't want this opportunity to go to waste.
"He got emotional with us and said that his career was closing down and he wanted another opportunity to do something special," injured teammate Mark DeRosa remembered. "His words, I think, resonated for hours with the guys. Because he's a man of few words."
Few words, yes. But many big hits.
We might have seen the last of Renteria on Monday night. But if this was, indeed, the end, as he has hinted so frequently in recent weeks, then he went out in the most magnificent way a player can -- a champion and a World Series MVP.
Renteria's two-out, three-run home run off Cliff Lee in the top of the seventh inning of Game 5 of the Fall Classic silenced Rangers Ballpark and gave Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson all the backing they'd need in a 3-1 victory that brought San Francisco its first World Series title. It also capped a Series in which Renteria hit .412 (7-for-17) with two homers and six RBIs.
But this, of course, was no first for Renteria. His two-out, 11th-inning single off Charles Nagy was the game-winner for the Marlins in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series against the Indians. It remains the stuff of postseason legend, and Renteria simply added to his mystique here.
Only three other players have notched game-winning hits in two World Series-clinching games, and you might recognize their names: Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Yogi Berra.
Edgar Renteria, welcome to the list.
"It's unbelievable," he said. "It's unbelievable being in that situation, and I enjoyed both World Series."
What a Series this was for Renteria, who wasn't even a regular in the Giants' lineup as recently as Game 1 of the NLCS against the Phillies. Pablo Sandoval's struggles and Juan Uribe's brief wrist injury forced manager Bruce Bochy to stick the veteran, oft-injured Renteria in the lineup. And suddenly, Renteria took a trip back in time. He was flawless in the field, productive at the plate and the physical embodiment of a Giants team that shocked the baseball world in an amazing World Series run.
"He's a pro's pro and a beautiful person," general manager Brian Sabean said. "He deserves it."
Sabean drew plenty of criticism for signing Renteria to a two-year, $18.5 million deal before the 2009 season. The critics argued that Renteria was clearly in decline and not deserving of such a commitment.
Frankly, it was hard to argue back. Renteria hit just .250 with a .635 OPS in 124 games in '09. This season, groin, hamstring and shoulder injuries forced him to the disabled list three times and limited him to a career-low 72 games. He appeared in just 17 of the Giants' final 57 regular season games.
Behind the scenes, Renteria began telling himself and anybody who would listen that this was it. The man once known as the "Barranquilla Baby" was a baby no more, and it was just about time to leave the game behind and give the body a break.
But Renteria still desperately wanted one last shot at the postseason stage. And now we know why.
NO SHORT-AGE OF PRODUCTION
Edgar Renteria becomes the fifth shortstop in history to win World Series MVP honors.
"When we made it to the World Series," he said, "I just took it out of my mind and just [put my] concentration on playing the game and concentration on what I had to do to help this team win. I think that's why everything worked out good."
Said Bochy: "I know how bad Edgar wanted it."
Renteria wanted it enough to play with a completely torn left biceps muscle suffered during a pinch-hit appearance in Game 1 of the NLDS. He wanted it enough to stay sharp through the monotony of pregame workouts and batting practice sessions on those days his name was not in the starting lineup.
Once he was finally back in the lineup, Renteria began to prove he still had value. He had a key hit to set up a run in a Game 3 win of the NLCS. But in the World Series, he took his contributions to new heights.
Renteria's solo shot in the bottom of the fifth inning of Game 2 broke a scoreless tie, and the Giants, properly ignited, went on to a 9-0 win that gave them a 2-0 Series lead.
And mere hours before Game 5, with San Francisco on the cusp of a title, Renteria had a premonition that he shared with teammate Andres Torres in the indoor cages.
"He told me, 'I'm going to hit a home run tonight,'" Torres said. "He told me twice. Can you imagine that?"
Hard to imagine, especially with Lee on the hill and so much on the line. But these are the moments in which Renteria rises above.
"He's a guy who trusts himself," DeRosa said. "He's played the game so long that nothing's going to happen on the field that he hasn't been through. He's a guy who lives for the big moment."
The big moment came with Lee and Lincecum locked into a classic duel. It was a scoreless tie with two out in the top of the seventh. Cody Ross and Uribe had singled to open the inning, and Aubrey Huff had moved them over with the first sacrifice bunt of his career. But Pat Burrell went down swinging, and Lee was one out away from getting out of the jam.
Quickly, though, Renteria worked the count to 2-0. And when Lee hung him a cutter, Renteria pounced and pounded it out to left-center field.
"I got confident, looking for one pitch, and if he throws it I'm going to hit it back to the middle," Renteria said. "So he tried to throw the cutter, and the cutter stayed in the middle, and that's why it went out."
It went out 4,755 days and five teams after that base hit just barely drifted over Nagy's outstretched glove and bounced into the outfield to give the Marlins their first title in '97.
It went out and gave the Giants a win that was 56 years in the making.
It went out, and made Renteria a winner again.