Phillies' 2008 forever a golden season
Shrewd front office maneuvers led to year of vast success
If you Google the phrase "I don't believe what I just saw," you will find the name of Jack Buck and his description of Kirk Gibson's game-winning home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.
In a day or so, or maybe even at this moment, try "The Phillies are World Champions," and you likely will see the name of Joe Buck and his description of Philadelphia winning the 2008 World Series.
These are moments etched in baseball history, and now described by a talented father and son team while at the microphone for national telecasts.
You never know where the road will lead after that snapshot of a team winning a World Series.
In some ways, it doesn't really matter because it is the moment of triumph that will stay with the participants forever and also rest in the hearts, minds and memories of the fans who cheer their team.
The ending of this year's World Series was a classic scene, as Brad Lidge recorded a strikeout for the final Tampa Bay out and then dropped to his knees. His catcher, Carlos Ruiz, rushed to the mound to embrace Lidge, and then they were bowled over by the onrushing Ryan Howard as he came to the mound from first base like a Philadelphia Eagles linebacker.
The scene needed no verbal description from Buck. It was there for the television audience to see and the flag-waving Phillies fans to cheer.
"This is our time," said Lidge in a postgame interview. He couldn't have said it better.
This was the time when everything came together for the Phillies. It was a team of key homegrown talent that was produced under the watch of general manager Ed Wade and his scouting staff and then enhanced by the shrewd moves of veteran GM Pat Gillick, who replaced Wade in November 2005.
Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon was gracious in defeat after the game as he spoke about the progress his team had made during the course of the season.
Maddon and the Rays have every reason to be proud of their progress, but this isn't a year that will be stamped with a Tampa Bay mark.
When it comes to the World Series, it isn't progress that counts. It is about the team that carries away the World Series trophy. It is something that can never be taken away.
For those of us who have spent considerable time in professional baseball, it was a popular victory.
The Phillies' Bill Giles and Dave Montgomery are respected executives, and it was team president Montgomery who had the good judgment to bring in Gillick as the general manager three years ago.
Gillick never takes over a team with a three-year plan or a five-year plan. He takes over a team with a plan to win. And from his first move to his last, he looked for, and found, players who could be a part of a championship team.
Gillick didn't try to put a personal stamp on the Phillies by making a number of changes in the scouting and player development departments. He looked to the baseball people in place to help find the answers as to what the Phillies needed to succeed.
One of Gillick's best moves was to recognize the skill of manager Charlie Manuel. Manuel isn't a fast-talker; he is quite the opposite. He is, however, a true baseball man who knows every phase of the game.
Many of the player moves that Gillick made came from waiver claims and what seemed to be small and insignificant trades. Two of the Phillies' outfielders -- Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth -- had been turned loose by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The most important move for Gillick and the Phillies was to obtain Lidge, the closer, and this came about in a trade with Wade and the Houston Astros.
The young Tampa Bay team has every reason to be proud of its accomplishments and to talk of the future.
The veteran group of Phillies -- people like Montgomery and Gillick and Manuel -- have been around long enough to know these moments don't come around very often.
You have to grab that brass ring when you can, hold onto it, cherish it and polish it to help you remember the golden moments.
For the Philadelphia Phillies and their fans, 2008 is a golden moment.
Fred Claire was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1969-98, serving the team as executive vice-president and general manager. Fred's book (Fred Claire: My 30 Years in Dodger Blue) was published by Sports Publishing LLC. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.