In 18 seasons spent in the major leagues, perhaps Matt Stairs’ most well-known moment came in a Philadelphia Phillies uniform.

Stairs, the former Phillie and current San Diego Padre, is back in Philadelphia this weekend for the first time since leaving the Phillies this off-season.  

Before Friday night’s game the Phillies held a brief ceremony in Stairs’ honor so that he could officially receive his 2009 National League Champion ring and receive an ovation from an adoring Phillies’ crowd.

While Friday night was about honoring Stairs’ role in the Phillies’ 2009 NL Championship, it was Stairs’ performance in the 2008 playoffs for which Phillies fans will remember him forever.

In Game Four of the 2008 NLCS, Stairs came to the plate as a pinch hitter in the top of the eighth inning with the Phillies and Dodgers tied 5-5.  The Dodgers brought in superstud closer Jonathan Broxton to face Stairs, and Stairs took him deep for a two-run homerun which ultimately won Game Four and gave the Phillies a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.

Stairs remembers the moment fondly.  He suspects that Broxton remembers that moment as well.

“We faced him a couple of weeks ago, and he blew me away.  He’d been throwing 91, 92 to the guys before me, then suddenly he’s hitting 95 against me.”

And so it goes for the most well-traveled hitter in major league history.  There is always someone, somewhere, who remembers something you did to them.

When Stairs came to Philadelphia before the 2008 season, the Phillies were his 11th team, which tied a major league record held by turn-of-the-century catcher Deacon McGuire. When Stairs joined the Padres this season, he took over sole possession of first place.

Ironically Stairs, who spent his entire career being known as rather a heavyset, perhaps even slovenly player, is now in the best shape of his life, having lost over 30 pounds to get his weight down from about 230 (which is his “yeah right” weight) to about 195.

To look at him in a Padres uniform, you might think you’re talking to Brian Giles.

Asked about his weight, Stairs was candid.

“I’m in better shape now than I’ve ever been.  Now, sometimes I’ll just go shag flies in the outfield during batting practice.  I’m seeing things—like my feet—that I’ve never seen before.”

Stairs is also candid about why it was that he joined San Diego this off-season.  The beautiful weather?  The young, talented club?  A chance to play regularly?

“They were the only team that wanted me,” he says with a smile.

Of course, the move has been a good one for Stairs thus far in 2010.  

Though Stairs hasn’t put up the prettiest numbers, the Padres are leading the NL West and currently have the best record in the National League.

Not bad for a team most people didn’t expect to make it out of the NL West cellar.

So why are the San Diego Padres the surprise team in baseball in 2010?  Stairs is quick with his answer.

“Because we don’t have any superstars.”

Stairs points out that the Padres have an incredibly talented pitching staff made up of unassuming guys who are in the early stages of their careers and only just now making names for themselves.  They work hard, eager to prove they belong, and don’t get caught up in some of the things that can bog down teams with more experienced—and better paid —players.

That, and it really helps that the Padres have an absolutely dominant bullpen.  

“We’re playing six inning games out there, because our relievers are dominant during the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings.”

As for plans for life after baseball, Stairs eagerly awaits the opportunity to become a hitting coach and, perhaps some day, a major league manager.  

In fact, Stairs said that before he decided to return to the majors this off-season, the Phillies offered him two different minor league manager positions in the organization.  

But he wasn’t quite ready to retire.

And now?

“Well, who knows?” he said. “If I hit .390 for the rest of the season, I’ll probably want to come back.  If not, I’ll be ready to start down the coaching track.”

Whether he retires after the 2010 season and becomes a minor league manager, or decides to extend his record to 13 teams in 2011, Matt Stairs will always have a special place in the hearts of Phillies fans, and will always be welcome in Philadelphia.

Just make sure Jonathan Broxton isn’t in town.



Asher B. Chancey lives in Philadelphia and is a co-founder of


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