The top of the ninth took exactly 9 minutes and 59 seconds. It only seemed like 25 years.

From the moment Brad Lidge let the first pitch of the final inning go until the final slider dropped into the dirt, it took that 1 second shy of 10 minutes for all that history to be left behind. What was no longer mattered much. Winning the last game has a way of changing everything.

Phillies players, coaches, management and families gathered on the field as the trophies were handed out. Every few steps, there was another small gathering - Jamie Moyer talking, then posing with his family and then sprinting to the clubhouse to soak up a lifetime in baseball with the celebration even the sedate Moyer must have imagined somewhere along the way.

Before dashing off, Moyer was asked about the 2-day delay and said, "it happened and we dealt with it. I am just happy I could be part of the team."

That could be a motto for this Phils team. They dealt with it. And they overcame it.

Phillies president Dave Montgomery was talking about how his role had changed in 1997, how the Phillies really started to emphasize player development and scouting, how Ed Wade had been such a big part of acquiring most of the big names and how Pat Gillick had gotten the smaller names that became "big statements."

Players like Geoff Jenkins who started it all last night and Pedro Feliz who ended it with the World Series-winning single in the seventh.

Montgomery was thinking back to 1950 when his parents bought the family's first television to watch the Phils play the Yankees in the World Series. Those Phillies did not win a game. These Phillies won four games in this World Series against Tampa Bay, the last one before a shrieking crowd at Citizens Bank Park, a culmination of the decade that Montgomery had been in charge and the Phillies began to change the way they did business.

"We were playing for tonight," Montgomery said. "Yesterday was a miserable day. We waited this long. What was another 48 hours?"

Every kid that plays baseball thinks of a night like last night. Still, "it just seems so far away," Ryan Madson said.

This time, it was there for all of them to touch. There is nothing quite like forever.

"A year ago, we were excited to be in the playoffs," Montgomery said. "This year, we were anxious to see what we could do. We never lost at home in the playoffs."

Actually, they hardly lost anywhere down the stretch. When Montgomery said he wasn't sure what the Phils' record was over the last 30 games, he was told "24-6."

That would be 13-3 to finish the regular season and 11-3 in the playoffs. That would be what championship teams do.

It is moments like these why people like Mike Arbuckle have devoted their lives to the game. The lifers are in it for the little things that, in an idle moment, they have to hope might lead one day to that one big thing.

"It's a hard road," Arbuckle said over the din on the field, as "We are the Champions" blared over the loudspeakers.

Before Jenkins slammed that double to lead off the game, or the second version of the same game, Greg Dobbs said of his pinch-hitting teammate: "I had a feeling that it was just meant to be."

On this night, this September and this October, it was. It finally was.

Nearly 90 minutes after that last out, the players were back on the field, with Dan Baker calling out their names, one by one. The celebration had moved from the field to the clubhouse and back to the field. It was not going to end soon, if ever. *