Matt Stairs Makes the Hall of Fame
By Matt Veasey
Most fans of the Philadelphia Phillies know Matt Stairs for two things: as a TV color commentator beginning with the 2014 season, and for the homerun. You remember the one: Game 4, 2008 National League Championship Series? We’ll come back to that.
In a significant honor for the 2008-09 Phillies slugging pinch-hitter, Stairs has been selected for the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. He will be inducted this coming summer along with former MLB player/manager Felipe Alou and former player Carlos Delgado.
Stairs tweeted his thanks following the announcement.
Stairs was born in Saint John, the 2nd largest city in what are known as Canada’s maritime provinces, located in the province of New Brunswick. The city is on the north shore of the Bay of Fundy, at the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River, about 100 miles north of the U.S.-Canada border at the state of Maine.
His connection to Canada is even stronger than simply being a native son. Stairs broke in to the majors with a pair of cup-of-coffee seasons for the old Montreal Expos in 1992 and 1993. Later in his career, Stairs spent the entirety of the 2007 season and then began 2008 with the Toronto Blue Jays.
On August 30th of 2008, just in time to make him eligible for the postseason, the Phillies obtained Stairs in trade from the Jays for a player to be named later, which turned out to be pitcher Fabio Castro.
After arriving in Philly, Stairs went 0-2 in his first appearance on September 1st in Washington. It was the only time he would get more than a lone pinch-hit at-bat with the team. Overall he went 5-17 for a .294 average, with 2 homers and 5 rbi with the Phillies.
Then in that magical run to the World Series championship in October, Stairs went 1-4. He was 0-2 in the NLDS vs Milwaukee, and 0-1 in the World Series vs Tampa. But it is for that one hit, which came in that pivotal Game 4 of the NLCS at Los Angeles, that Stairs will be forever remembered here in Philly.
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The Phillies led the Dodgers by 2 games to 1. But in Game 4, LA carried a 5-3 lead into the top of the 8th inning looking to even up the series. Shane Victorino dramatically tied it up at 5-5 with a 2-run homer. Then, following a 2-out single by Carlos Ruiz, Stairs was sent up by manager Charlie Manuel to pinch-hit for reliever Ryan Madson.
The Dodgers had big, right-handed, powerful fastballer Jonathan Broxton on the mound. Manuel chose to counter with the left-handed bat of Stairs, who could drive a fastball as well as any hitter in the game. The veteran worked the count to 3-1, got the fastball he had been waiting for, and as national TV announcer Joe Buck called it, ripped one “deep into the night” to put the Phils on top, 7-5.
The Phillies would hold on to that margin of victory, putting them up 3-1 in the NLCS, and would close out the Dodgers two days later, advancing to the World Series.
The following season, he again made his mark on Phillies history. On April 12th, 2009, a blast by Stairs in Colorado would prove to be the final homerun call in the career and life of legendary Phils broadcaster Harry Kalas, who would die the very next day.
Stairs would retire following the 2011 season, his 19th in the major leagues. In that career, he wore 13 different uniforms. He had his most success over 5 seasons from 1996-2000 with the Oakland A’s, for whom he clubbed 122 of his career total 265 homeruns. In 1998, Stairs hit .294 with 26 homers and 106 rbi, and followed that up in 1999 with a 38-homer, 102-rbi campaign.
After retirement, Stairs was hired by the Phillies to take on the color commentary role in the broadcast booth beginning last season. He worked with Tom McCarthy and Jamie Moyer, and then on Sunday home games with legendary Phillie Mike Schmidt. Stairs will return to the booth this coming season.
The staff at TBOH and Phillies fans everywhere will never forget Stairs, and recall him fondly, for that single 2008 NLCS homer. We congratulate him on a well-deserved career honor, enshrinement in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.