They have creases across their worn faces where their teammates don't, and they regularly make choices that their teammates wouldn't. Shortly after the St. Louis Cardinals dismissed the San Diego Padres on Tuesday afternoon, Larry Walker stood in front of his locker at Busch Stadium, proudly wearing a tie-dyed, gray T-shirt sporting a neon image of guitar god Jimmy Page. Only a few feet away, Reggie Sanders stood in front of his locker, donning a rock-and-roll T-shirt of his own, this one featuring Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne's old band.
And across the clubhouse was Jim Edmonds, the man who started things for the Cardinals in their 8-5 win. "Jimmy," Walker said, "he's the one with flair."
The Cardinals have a decided advantage over the Padres and lead the National League Division Series one game to none headed into Thursday's Game 2, in large part because all three of these men have the flair of veterans. Not many teams head into a season filled with such expectations as the Cardinals had this year -- winning the city's first World Series since 1982 -- with an outfield that, by season's end, would total 110 years old. But St. Louis didn't flinch.
"Even though they've got some age," St. Louis Manager Tony La Russa said, "they're all fiercely competitive."
Edmonds is 35, the baby of the bunch, and all he did Tuesday was homer in his first at-bat, double in his second and single in his third. Sanders is 37, a journeyman coming off an injury, and all he did Tuesday was drive in six runs, four on a grand slam. Walker is 38, likely in his last season, yet he sprinted back in right field in the ninth inning, snaring a dangerous line drive, drawing a standing ovation from the Cardinals faithful.
"They're all such good athletes," San Diego Manager Bruce Bochy said, "and they play both sides of the ball so well."
They have also, over time, learned how to lean on each other. Sanders and Walker each battled injuries this season, as Sanders had a broken leg that cost him two months and Walker a neck problem that limited him to 100 games. Yet they drove to work together, supported each other.
"If you can't feel relaxed around Reggie Sanders, you're a nervous and self-conscious person," Walker said. "They could lock you into a room of strangers, and you would feel like you were his brother right away."
Walker began his pro career in 1985, playing in Utica, N.Y. Three years later, Sanders and Edmonds cracked into pro ball, Sanders in Billings, Mont., Edmonds in Bend, Ore. Edmonds is perhaps the most prominent player, traded from Anaheim to St. Louis in 2000, when some people said he wasn't always engaged and let minor injuries sideline him. Since his arrival with the Cardinals, St. Louis has won five NL Central titles in six seasons, and Edmonds has won a Gold Glove award each year.
"I think he runs a lot on emotion," La Russa said. "People see the at-bats and say, 'Jim is not quite himself,' where he's either physically or mentally fried. But he's a great player. He's had a great career in St. Louis, and his teammates enjoy him."
Sanders joined Edmonds last year, and his pleasure this season comes in part because he's back where he was a year ago, the first time he has played on the same team in consecutive seasons since 1997-98 with Cincinnati.
"You just appreciate it more," he said. "You know, now, that it's about results, and you have a better idea of how to get them."
Walker came to the Cardinals in a trade with Colorado last August, and though he won three batting titles and the 1997 NL MVP award with the Rockies, he largely toiled on bad teams. "Last year, I came over here and rode a high into the playoffs," he said. "This year, I'm more where I am normally, just calm. I'm ready."
Tuesday afternoon, as Sanders prepared to hop in his Hummer and tote Walker home, he was asked what they might listen to. "Larry likes Mariah Carey," Sanders said, and shot a look Walker's way. Walker rolled his eyes. "Let's rock," he said, and no doubt they did.