PHILADELPHIA -- Charlie Manuel can still see it in slow-motion. Brad Lidge's final slider of 2008, in the former manager's eyes, moved across a plane that the Rays' Eric Hiske certainly couldn't reach. It became the pitch that secured the closer's 48th save in 48 opportunities and quenched the Phillies'
PHILADELPHIA -- Charlie Manuel can still see it in slow-motion. Brad Lidge's final slider of 2008, in the former manager's eyes, moved across a plane that the Rays' Eric Hiske certainly couldn't reach. It became the pitch that secured the closer's 48th save in 48 opportunities and quenched the Phillies' 28-year World Series championship drought.
"To me," Manuel said, "that was the greatest play of the game right there."
Every fan who entered Citizens Bank Park on Sunday received a bobblehead of the ensuing image -- Lidge, on his knees, arms and face pointed to the sky. Lidge assured Saturday that he didn't feel a thing beneath the mountain of celebration that piled on top of him seconds later. He went numb.
The giveaway paired with a pregame ceremony for the 10th anniversary of that 2008 World Series run. Lidge, Manuel and dozens of other former teammates gathered where it all happened to reminisce. Those who couldn't attend -- Chase Utley, Cole Hamels, Matt Stairs and Chris Coste -- appeared in video messages played on Phanavision.
Both the clubhouse and coaching staff received applause. As public address announcer Dan Baker rolled through the roster, the cheers grew louder. The first player to hear a raucous ovation was the one whose 2008 season can be described as perfect.
"I had no chance," Lidge said in an address to the crowd, "if I didn't have these guys behind me."
The championship run cemented the 2008 roster as Phillies legends, but it was what happened to the team the year prior, several players said during a session with reporters Saturday afternoon, that got them there. Before '07, Jimmy Rollins said the Phillies were "the team to beat in the NL East." The slogan found its way onto T-shirts and posters all over.
"We all thought it, and we talked about it as a team, but we never said it publicly," former starter Brett Myers said. "And when [Rollins] said it, we were like, 'He's right. We are.' We felt like we really were. We felt like we had the talent and the ability to go and win a World Series."
Then they lost. The Phillies surged from seven games back with 17 to go to overtake the Mets in September and win the division, only to be swept by the Rockies in the National League Division Series. The players thought they were the better team.
"I never saw clubhouse after a loss as somber as that clubhouse," former starter Jamie Moyer said. "Literally, people crying, people angry."
That winter, Manuel said, he wondered how his club would respond. He got his answer in Spring Training. They still thought they were the team to beat.
"When the position players came in," Moyer said, "you just felt this aura of, like, 'Woah, get out of my way. Nobody's stopping us.'"
Nobody did. Rollins made a diving stop to start a double play with Utley and Ryan Howard to clinch the division with win No. 91 during the season's final series. Shane Victorino's grand slam off Carsten Sabathia the NLDS sealed their trip to the League Championship Series, where Stairs sent one "deep into the night" at Dodger Stadium and the Phillies won their first pennant since 1993. Their Game 5 win in the World Series, spanning two nights because of rain, made Philadelphia wait for the final out and a Halloween parade down Broad Street.
Ten years later, most players from the championship team are out of the game. Victorino officially retired with the Phillies on Friday. Moyer, his grey hair in a small ponytail, just became a grandfather. Myers coaches his son's team and records country music. Jayson Werth, man bun and all, arrived straight from the Bluegrass World Series, a chance for MLB retirees to play again.
Werth's appearance was his first in front of a Phillies crowd since he left the division-rival Nationals. For years, his visits as an opponent have been met with boos, and he himself has not stayed silent about his rocky departure from Philadelphia.
But Werth was an integral part of the World Series team. He wasn't sure what to expect this time around. When Baker announced his name, he sprang from the dugout steps and hoisted his arms above his head, his right hand engulfed by the red Hulk fist he donned at the parade. He heard cheers. They were loud.
"First time I've been here with a smile on my face in a while," Werth said.
Baker announced the lineup in reverse batting order, which meant Rollins, in the leadoff spot, was last. The shortstop moved more slowly than when he anchored the Phillies' infield. It's been 10 years.
"We only got one championship, but we got it," Rollins said. "That was our promise."
Joe Bloss is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia.