Since the beginning of baseball, the game has served as a metaphor for everything under the sun including competitiveness and tests of character.
What happens in a game can illustrate pettiness or mediocrity or at the hit of a bat, awesomeness and generosity. A case in point is what happened at this Wednesday’s Phillies game says WHYY’s Chris Satullo in his weekly audio column Center Square.
Listen: [audio: satullo20091004.mp3]
Just call me Mr. Clinch.
Wednesday, the Phillies won a third straight National League East crown. And I was there, in section 325. As I was for the game back in 2007 when the Phils clinched their firs division title in 14 years, setting off champagne-soaked delirium.
AND in 2008, when the breathless ninth inning of the clinching game ended in a volcanic release of white-towel waving.
Having seen all three, I must admit Wednesday’s clincher had less drama. The moment came across as satisfying but expected, not an ecstasy-inducing gift from the gods.
The game still ended on an unforgettable note. It wasn’t about hits or runs, but about two men, and two things you don’t see that much in pro sports: character and loyalty.
The last pitch was thrown by Brad Lidge, the pitcher whose on-his-knees exultation at the end of last year’s World Series is a freeze-frame forever etched into this city’s memory.
Lidge is the Phillies’ closer, the specialist assigned to protect precious leads at game’s end. Last year, Lidge was simply perfect. This year, he’s been… lousy.
But as a human being, Lidge has been world class.
In a world where pampered athletes seek to cover their failures by cursing out referees, throwing teammates under the bus, or sullenly ducking the media, Brad Lidge stands out as an island of class and accountability.
After every game he lost this year – and Lord there’ve been a few – Lidge stood in front of his locker, took responsibility, answered every question, and clung to his mantra, “Next time, I’ll do better.”
If you don’t want a guy like that to succeed, you have no soul. Even Philadelphia’s notoriously brutal fans have, mostly, stuck with Lidge. The cheers he got Wednesday were spine-tingling.
And why was he out there on the mound, called upon to record the historic out? That speaks to the loyalty of another man, Charlie Manuel, the Phils’ manager.
Closers who don’t close give managers ulcers, and eventually get them fired. But when it comes to loyalty, Manuel makes your golden retriever look like Benedict Arnold.
He made sure Lidge got that ovation, to show his guy that – despite all his troubles – the manager had his back.
It was a beautiful thing to behold.
And it leads to this prediction: This fall, Brad Lidge gets the last out of the World Series. Again.