Nine months later, it would be the site of one of the most memorable moments in Phillies history, when Roy Halladay embraced Carlos Ruiz at the conclusion of baseball’s 21st perfect game.
But on Sept. 23, 2009, the Phillies had a 6-5 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth inning at Land Shark Stadium, home of the Florida Marlins, when Brad Lidge took the mound.
Ross Gload, who would join the Phils a few months later, ripped Lidge’s second pitch for a double. Chris Coghlan ripped a line drive out to right.
After recording the inning’s second out with a strikeout, Lidge walked the next batter and allowed hits to the next two.
Game over. Marlins win.
It was blown save No. 11 for Lidge in the worst, most unexpected season of his career.
But I’ll remember the scene in the quiet clubhouse afterward. For the umpteenth time that summer – most of them, oddly, coming on the road – a physically and mentally-beaten up Lidge turned around from his locker stall and faced the media.
Like the seemingly never-ending, stomach-turning outings, the questions never got any easier to answer. There were no right answers, really, for a pitcher who went from team MVP one year (converting 48-of-48 saves en route to a World Series title) to an unreliable, lost reliever the next.
But Lidge never hid from his duties as a professional. He never whined or complained or orchestrated wild excuses. He owned up to each game, each pitch.
A red-eyed, exasperated Lidge spoke that day just as he did in Pittsburgh a month earlier and in Atlanta two weeks before that an in Philadelphia when his run of 47 consecutive saves (then the third longest streak in baseball history) ended in April.
Receiving the hugs and handshakes, the awards and accolades in 2008 was easy. Striking out Eric Hinske for the final out of the World Series will live on as one of the most memorable moments in Phillies history.
But just as every Astros fan remembers one of the more forgettable Lidge moments (Albert Pujols’ majestic home run in the 2005 NLCS), I’ll never forget how Lidge handled himself in the most trying season of his career.
According to an ESPN.com report, Lidge informed his agents that he plans to retire this winter. So we take a break from the rumorfest that is the Winter Meetings to send well wishes to one of the truest professionals the game has ever known.