Brad Lidge retires a Phillie, reflects on memories

brad-slidge-slide-ap.jpg

Brad Lidge retires a Phillie, reflects on memories

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.”

Instant Replay: Mets 5, Phillies 3

Instant Replay: Mets 5, Phillies 3

BOX SCORE

Ryan Howard gave the fans a treat with a two-run home run in his penultimate game in a Phillies uniform, but that was the extent of the highlights Saturday afternoon as the Phils suffered a 5-3 loss to the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park.

With the victory, the Mets clinched a spot in the NL playoffs as a wild-card team.

The Phillies clinched their sixth straight loss and eighth in the last nine games.

They are 70-91 heading into the final day of the season.

Starting pitching report
Phil Klein worked four innings for the Phillies and gave up one run.

Mets starter Bartolo Colon went five innings and gave up just two runs. Both runs came on Howard’s homer in the fifth.

Bullpen report
Patrick Schuster and David Hernandez gave up runs in the sixth as the Mets broke a 2-2 tie. Hernandez allowed a two-run homer and took the loss.

The Mets’ bullpen pitched four shutout innings. Jeurys Familia closed it out for his 51st save.

At the plate
Howard’s homer was his 25th of the season, tying him with Maikel Franco for the team lead. It was the 382nd homer of his career, tying him with Jim Rice and Frank Howard for 67th on the all-time list.

Howard has six doubles, 13 homers and 32 RBIs in 47 games since July 3.

Darin Ruf smacked a pinch-hit homer in the seventh inning.

The Mets scored single runs in the fourth and fifth innings. James Loney put them ahead for good with a two-run homer in the top if the sixth. It broke a 2-2 tie. Asdrubal Cabrera drove in an insurance run with a single in the top of the ninth.

Up next
The Phillies close out the season Sunday afternoon against the Mets. Jerad Eickhoff (11-14, 3.72) pitches for the Phillies. Gabriel Ynoa (1-0, 7.90) will start for the Mets in place of Noah Syndergaard, who will be held until the wild-card game.

The game will start at 3:05. The Phillies will honor Howard at 2:30.

Jimmy Rollins salutes former Phillies teammate Ryan Howard

Jimmy Rollins salutes former Phillies teammate Ryan Howard

Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley were all drafted and developed by the Phillies. They came to the majors and became the best first baseman, shortstop and second baseman in franchise history.
 
And, of course, they were a huge part of the core of the team that won the 2008 World Series.
 
Time moves on and so do great players.
 
Rollins was traded in December 2014 as the team began a rebuild. Utley was traded in August 2015. On Sunday, Howard, the last piece from that championship season, will play his last game with the Phillies.
 
Rollins took some time Saturday to pass along some thoughts on his friend’s time in red pinstripes.
 
“When Ryan first arrived in Philadelphia, he was merely filling in for Jim Thome in the eyes of many, but he did not let that opportunity to shine pass him by,” Rollins wrote in an email. “He quickly became feared as he won Rookie of the Year and MVP in consecutive years and reached 200 home runs quicker than anyone in the history of the game. He loved the pressure and wanted to be the man at the plate when the game mattered most.”
 
The Phillies won five division titles from 2007 to 2011. Howard led the majors in homers twice and RBIs three times.
 
“During our run, we leaned on him many times for big hits and clutch home runs and he found ways to deliver,” Rollins said. “Ryan never stopped working to better himself and his craft, whether it was getting to the field early for extra defensive work or finding that sweet home run stroke. Although he hit a lot of them, he was more than just a power hitter -- he was a great teammate.
 
“We all hoped to bring more than one championship to Philadelphia, but without Ryan that one may not have been possible. So, many thanks to 'Big Piece' for being such a big piece of the best years of my career in the City of Brotherly Love!”