PHILADELPHIA -- Brad Lidge falling to his knees, raising his arms toward the heavens and celebrating the Phillies' 2008 World Series championship on a chilly October night at Citizens Bank Park is one of the most iconic images in Philadelphia sports history.
Maybe Philadelphia history.
It is an image and a moment that will be remembered for a very long time.
Lidge announced recently that he is retiring from baseball. He spent 11 years in the big leagues, but that 2008 season with the Phils proved to be his most memorable. Lidge went 2-0 with a 1.95 ERA and 41 saves in 41 opportunities. He made the All-Star team. He finished fourth in National League Cy Young Award voting and eighth in NL MVP Award voting. Lidge had a 0.96 ERA and seven saves in seven opportunities in the postseason, including that unforgettable save in Game 5 of the 2008 World Series.
MLB.com caught up with Lidge recently, and asked about his retirement, his future, his magical season with the Phillies and, since it's the holidays, his favorite Christmas memories.
MLB.com: What went into your decision to retire?
Lidge: I had surgery for a torn abdomen [on May 1]. I came back from that and really had lost even more velocity [on my fastball]. That was my ninth surgery. I started to get diminishing returns. I hadn't pitched a full season in three years. We weren't really getting any strong offers at all to finish the season [with another team]. I realized there wasn't going to be any kind of guarantee this year, either. I'm another year older, another surgery, and my fastball just isn't the same as it was a few years back.
It was the right time. It wasn't exactly how I wanted to go out, but physically ... I was having some adverse reactions to all of the anti-inflammatories I was taking. Stomach issues. Even heart issues. It became pretty apparent to me that it was the right time. It's still really hard, because I still feel like I can get out there and do well, but I also know in the back of my mind that the injuries are stacking up. The risk from all of the other stuff just isn't worth it anymore.
MLB.com: I imagine you are going to miss the game a lot, right?
Lidge: It's going to be a very unusual spring. I'm starting up a Master's program in February, which I intentionally scheduled to start in February so I had something else on my mind. I'm sure I'm going to be missing it a ton. I'm definitely going to come down to Spring Training. Probably to Clearwater for sure, and maybe Viera as well, just say "Hi" to some of my teammates -- well, old teammates, I guess. It's going to be tough. It's a wrenching decision, really.
MLB.com: Is it getting any easier as time goes on, or is it still tough?
Lidge: Right now it's not too bad, because there's no baseball going on. Everybody is in the offseason, and I'm talking to the guys like I normally would in the offseason. But I can tell you, once Spring Training does happen and I'm still watching MLB Network, it's going to be really tough. I'm going to be missing it a lot. I'm at peace with my decision, but it's going to be really hard.
MLB.com: What are you studying for your Master's?
Lidge: Archeology. I just finished my Bachelor's in religious studies.
MLB.com: What are you going to do with it?
Lidge: I definitely plan on doing excavations. Religious archeology is kind of where that's headed. It's kind of exciting for me to think about. It's something I've always wanted to do. I love world history. Hopefully, [I'll] find something significant or be a part of something that is significant. It's just always appealed to me. I want to do something that is going to make this transition easier. We're retired Major League players a lot longer than we are Major League players, so I knew I needed to do something with my life besides just hanging out.
MLB.com: Would you ever want to get into coaching or scouting or anything like that as a way to remain in the game?
Lidge: Possibly. I definitely wouldn't say that I wouldn't do those things. I was thinking about doing an audition for MLB Network. But I'll definitely be coaching my kids. Honestly, I'm just going to be a dad for a while. You miss your kids so much. My wife made a lot of sacrifices for this, so she's going to do her thing for a while. So I'll watch my kids grow up. That's the most important thing right now.
MLB.com: Do people ask you a lot about Game 5? Does it get old?
Lidge: I still love talking about it. Out in Colorado [where I live], the baseball culture isn't as strong as it is in Philadelphia. But that being said, I'll run into people on occasion that want to hear about it and just want to know what it was like. And obviously, when I go back to Philadelphia, which we'll always make a point of doing at least a couple times every year. ... We have a lot of really good friends in Philly and just a lot of good memories of living there, besides the baseball. So we're always going to come back.
But it is still fun for me to talk about. I don't think that'll ever go away. If you're lucky enough to win a World Series, you're always going to be happy to talk about it. It's the crowning moment of my career. It's always good. And it's always good to get back to Philly, where the fans are so passionate and you feel like you're back in the mix when you step off the plane.
MLB.com: When you see that famous photo of [Carlos Ruiz] running at you after the final out in Game 5, do you have flashbacks? Or is it almost like looking at a different person at this point?
Lidge: It's both. Sometimes I'm looking at that picture thinking, "I remember that," but obviously, I'm looking at a picture instead of being there. I can definitely put myself back mentally to facing [Tampa Bay's Eric] Hinske. Each pitch, really. What I was thinking about and what I wanted to do. Especially that last pitch. I make a point to think about that every once in a while to make sure I never forget it. But I don't think I have to think about it. Those memories are burned into my head, and I'll always remember what that feeling was like before that last pitch and what I felt like after.
MLB.com: Is it cool to know that photo is part of Philadelphia history? It's going to be hanging up in people's homes for a long time. People will be looking at that 100 years from now.
Lidge: I'm thrilled to death. When I think about that, you just have to be really blessed or lucky to be on the right team at the right time to have that opportunity. So yeah, I'm so proud of that moment. That feels like the crowning jewel after every minute I put into the game. To have it happen in a city like Philadelphia just makes it even better. It was kind of Harry Kalas' swan song, too. So I'm super proud of that moment, and it's cool it's an important moment for Philadelphia. I'm so honored to be a part of it.
MLB.com: Was there a moment from that postseason that sticks in your mind? Something maybe unusual or something maybe somebody said that you remember?
Lidge: There was such high intensity for that last game. I remember it would be very quiet, followed by big bursts of cheers from us, realizing how close we were. Whether [Geoff] Jenkins hit a double or [Pat] Burrell hit a double, there would be, like, a big burst of cheers followed by, "We're about to do this. We can really win this thing in Philadelphia." And then I wouldn't allow myself to think any further. I would just sit down and think about who I'm going to face, really try and zone it in.
But I do remember the first half of Game 5, it was pouring rain. Pouring rain. I remember I got up and was playing catch in the bullpen just to see what kind of grip I had. I didn't have any kind of feel for the slider that night. The ball was slipping out of my hands. I was like, "You know what? I'm still going to be throwing it." But I didn't mind when that game got called.
MLB.com: Do you ever watch the 2008 World Series video?
Lidge: I'll see highlights. Sometimes MLB Network will kind of just replay the last pitch or whatever. I'll watch that. In terms of watching the game, I haven't watched the game for at least a couple years. And then the other night MLB Network was doing Baseball's Seasons 2008. I was watching that. Sure enough, I was watching the World Series, just sitting on the couch. It was amazing. I had to have a beer just to calm down. I had so much adrenaline just watching it. It was outrageous. I felt like I was right back in the moment. Even though I know it was a good ending it was still really intense.
MLB.com: I think a lot of fans do the exact same thing.
Lidge: Honestly, I felt like I was right back in that moment. I was sitting on the couch, I had the adrenaline going, I was pitting out. I had to have a beer just to calm down to watch it.
MLB.com: Other than that last pitch and that last out, what stood out to you the most about that postseason?
Lidge: I think for me it was Game 4 (the Phillies beat Tampa Bay, 10-2), where we really put it on them. When I look back I was like, 'Man, we were a dominant team at that time.' No one could hit the Rays pitching, but after that game there was no doubt: We were the best team in baseball. Like Charlie (Manuel) said after that, I feel like we could play for another month and just get better and better. We were just so hot right then. It didn't matter who was pitching against us or who was hitting against us, we were going to win. I remember feeling at that point probably as confident as I've ever felt in my life, probably by 100-fold, about our team's abilities.
MLB.com: Do you remember what the holidays were like for you four years ago after winning the World Series?
Lidge: It was an interesting offseason for us. The adrenaline from the postseason and season itself just never really went away. My wife gave birth to our son in December. A lot of the companies agreed to fly their balls and bats to Denver, and I did signings around here. [There was] a ton of dinners and banquets and speeches -- dressing up a lot and talking a lot to people about the season.
MLB.com: What was the best gift you got for Christmas as a kid?
Lidge: I think probably when I was 8 or 9 maybe, I got the Star Wars' Millennium Falcon. Dude, I'm telling you, I did not put that thing down. I slept with that thing for like two months. It was unbelievable. I would carry it around. I had it at the dinner table. It was a big ship. My parents were like, "You've got to put that thing way." I couldn't. That was it.
MLB.com: What is your best Christmas memory?
Lidge: I don't have one specific memory. I definitely remember trying to wake up my sister [Catherine]. I don't know how old I was. She was rolling over in bed, like, "Go away." I just couldn't believe that people weren't as excited as I was about Christmas. She was four years older, so I think the thrill was kind of waning a little bit with her. But I was right in my prime, and I was like, "You have got to be kidding me! How are you not going downstairs right now?"
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com.