Somewhere Tug was watching Lidge's heroics

It was a different bump made of different dirt in a different ballpark, and a different celebration.

The result was the same.

20081030_dn_g1lidg30p
Brad Lidge celebrates with champagne after saving the series-clincher.

Tug McGraw struck out Willie Wilson and leaped high off the Veterans Stadium mound.

Brad Lidge struck out Eric Hinske and fell to his knees on the mound at Citizens Bank Park.

A little bit of the Tugger was there with him.

See, Tim McGraw spread some of Tug McGraw's ashes on the mound at the Bank before Game 3 of the World Series. Maybe it would mean something, this sacred relic of the man who sealed the only World Series in Phillies history . . .

Until last night, of course. Lidge closed out Game 5 and gave the Phillies their second title, the first since Schmidt hugged Tug at the mound in 1980 and prompted "We Win" on a back page.

"To be mentioned in the same sentence as him is pretty special," Lidge said. Yes, he knew he knelt where Tug's essence lay: "It's an amazing thing."

McGraw not only helped the Phillies surge to that 1980 Series win, he remained a part of Phillies legend and lore; eloquent, affable, clever unto his death, in 2004, of brain cancer. He helped close the Vet, but he never saw the Bank.

Surely, last night, Tug was somewhere, watching, his eyes twinkling, a glib comment poised.

"I imagine he's saying, 'I jumped a lot higher,' " said David Montgomery, now the Phillies' president, then the team's sales director, and ever the pragmatist:

"Tug had a great year in '80. But he didn't have Brad Lidge's year."

No one has, really.

Lidge saved his 48th game in 48 chances last night. Closers have been perfect before, but never perfect through a championship year.

Remember, Lidge was a reclamation project, a huge gamble for the franchise and Pat Gillick, its exiting general manager, who traded three prospects to Houston for Lidge and Eric Bruntlett.

Lidge was, in effect, the starter the Phillies wouldn't, or couldn't, add: Brett Myers would have been the closer but moved back to the rotation. Flash Gordon was considered worn enough to manage only a supporting role in the bullpen.

"Brett deserves a lot of credit for this," Montgomery said.

Not as much as Lidge, or Gillick – who allowed that he couldn't foresee such a thing as perfection.

"I didn't think anyone would be that good," Gillick said.

Lidge had never regained the form that he appeared to lose after Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols' game-winning homer off him in Game 5 of the 2005 NLCS. Add to that the offseason knee surgery, which retarded Lidge's spring training a bit – well, you get the idea: Lidge was anything but a sure bet.

He was the National League Comeback Player of the Year, but he wasn't exactly continuously dominant. He didn't blow a save, but he made his supporters plenty nervous plenty times, including manager Charlie Manuel.

"I'm starting the ninth here, and I've got Mr. Perfect on the mound," Manuel said. "I thought, 'I hope the law of averages don't catch up with me.' "

They almost did.

Dioner Navarro lined a one-out single to rightfield, was pinch-run for by Fernando Perez, who stole second three pitches later.

Ben Zobrist lined the next pitch to right, but it stayed aloft just enough for Jayson Werth to run in and snag it. That was a high slider.

"I said to myself, 'Can't leave another one there,' " Lidge said.

He didn't, to Hinske: Slider, foul; slider, checked swing ruled a strike; slider, miss.

Perfection achieved.

"It was indescribable," Lidge said. "I just knelt down to my knees. Thanked God. Thanked the fans."

And, maybe, thanked the Tugger, just a little bit. *