Brad Lidge officially retired as a member of the Phillies on Thursday. (AP)
The memory is still clear as can be for Brad Lidge.
From the grip he had on the baseball, to the screaming pile of players on top of him and Carlos Ruiz, the final pitch (and its subsequent result) of the 2008 World Series remains a vivid series of events to Lidge.
And even though he said it’s a feeling that’s “indescribable,” he did his best to recall that moment when he formally retired as a Phillie during a press conference Thursday at Citizens Bank Park.
“Chooch and I, we actually had the chance to talk a few days ago. We were saying when we were at the bottom of that pile neither of us could really breath, our faces were pushed next to each other, but we were still screaming,” Lidge said with a smile on his face.
“It was just that feeling, it didn't matter if the weight of the world was on you or whatever, but it felt like no one was on you at that point.”
That pitch to strike out the Rays' Eric Hinske is still etched into the minds of Phillies fans, but for good measure it was brought back to light prior to the team's Thursday night game against the Giants.
After the pitch was shown on the jumbotron, Lidge, welcomed by a roaring applause and standing ovation, walked from the bullpen to the mound and tossed out the first pitch to, none other than, Carlos Ruiz.
But it was more than just one moment or one pitch that brought Lidge back to Philly to retire.
He could have retired with the Astros and Lidge would have a solid case to back it up.
Lidge was drafted by Houston in the 1998 draft and spent five full seasons with the Astros after working through the club’s minor-league system.
But Lidge said the memories made over four years in Philly outweighed his longer stay in Houston, presenting him a simple decision on where to retire.
“Even though I did spend a little more time in Houston, this organization, what we accomplished in 2008 and the people here are so first-class that this decision became pretty easy for me,” Lidge said.
Those experiences included a perfect 2008 season for Lidge, converting 48 saves in 48 save opportunities both in the regular season and postseason. Coming off a torn meniscus he suffered that spring training, Lidge earned the MLB Comeback Player of the Year award and was eighth in NL MVP voting.
But one of Lidge’s fondest reflections on that 2008 campaign was the collective effort put forth by the Phillies.
Lidge said it helped staying in the present every time he took the hill, but it was the backing of his teammates that propelled him and the team through the season.
“There was nobody in the clubhouse who felt they were outside of or above anybody else,” the Sacramento native said. “On that team there were so many All-Stars, but everybody was playing together. The clubhouse was so tight that year it was incredible.”
Sitting next to Lidge at the press conference was current Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., who doled out high praises of his former closer from both a front-office and fan perspective.
“What he did in 2008 was historical for our franchise [and] historical for our city. It was probably one of the greatest moments I've ever been around as a person who's been involved in athletics for a long, long time,” Amaro said. “As a fan and as an assistant GM that year, it was a very, very proud moment.”
Lidge didn’t fail to mention the connection he had with the city of Philadelphia during his time here.
The 36-year-old, dwelling on the aura of closing games in front of Phillies crowds, said the supporting fans were with him and behind him when the ninth inning rolled around.
“The ninth inning kind of makes people feel alive a little bit. ... You're going through it as a player, but the fans are going through it,” Lidge said. “They're kind of going through it with me. That kind of creates a bond there that's maybe different than other positions.”