With a Phillies alumni logo stitched onto the right sleeve of his pinstriped jersey, Brad Lidge signed a one-day contract Thursday afternoon to retire with the team.
He spent just four of his 11 major-league seasons with the Phillies, but said he knew he would retire with the club after it won the 2008 World Series. Thursday marked the official end for the closer who dropped to his knees on that cold October night, ending a city's title drought and forever endearing him to a fan base.
"I can still put myself right in that spot and remember gripping that pitch before I threw it," said Lidge, 36. "It will always be something permanently on my mind."
Lidge returned to Citizens Bank Park to lead off alumni weekend, which will feature Curt Schilling's induction onto the Phillies Wall of Fame on Friday.
The strikeout of Tampa Bay's Eric Hinske in Game 5 of the World Series capped Lidge's perfect season as he converted all 48 of his save opportunities. He earned his second trip to the All-Star Game that year and was named comeback player of the year.
No matter what situation he found himself in that season, Lidge said he knew it would work out. There was Shane Victorino's amazing throw home to preserve a June win in Atlanta and Jimmy Rollins' diving stab and flip to Chase Utley for a double play to clinch the division in September.
"It continued to go right every time," Lidge said. "So I . . . believed that every single time, something was going to happen to make it go right."
Earlier this week, Lidge had a chance to talk to catcher Carlos Ruiz about that cold October night. They recalled the "large human beings" jumping on top of the pair as they embraced near the pitcher's mound. Neither he nor Ruiz could really breathe, Lidge said, as their faces pushed against each other under the pile of teammates.
"But we were still screaming," Lidge said. "It was just that feeling. It didn't matter if the weight of the world was on you or whatever. It felt like no weight was on you at that point. It was an incredible feeling."
Away from the game for more than a year, Lidge said he had to find something more than a hobby. After he was released by the Washington Nationals last June, he went back to Notre Dame and completed his bachelor's degree in religious studies.
Now Lidge is working toward a master's degree in archaeology. He recently spent a month in Italy with his family on the excavation site of Carsulae, an ancient city. Archaeology has always been his passion, Lidge said, and baseball provided the resources to pursue it.
"My wife said I'm never going to grow up," Lidge said. "I got to play baseball, and now I'm digging in dirt."