Phillies

Phillies

On October 13, 2008, Matt Stairs had one of those nights that you sit on the front porch and tell the grandkids about someday.

Surely, you remember it. And if want to relive it and feel the euphoria and adrenaline again, tune in to NBC Sports Philadelphia on Thursday night when Game 4 of the 2008 National League Championship Series will be replayed in its entirety at 7 p.m.

Watch again as the Phillies go from two runs down in the top of the eighth inning to two runs up, on the strength of a pair of unforgettable two-run home runs. Watch again as the Phillies win that game, 7-5, over the Los Angeles Dodgers to pull within one win of the NL pennant.

Shane Victorino tied the game with a two-run homer against rookie Dodgers reliever Cory Wade with one out. Carlos Ruiz kept the inning alive with a two-out single against Wade.

The scene was set.

In from the bullpen trotted hard-throwing Dodgers bullpen ace Jonathan Broxton. He had pitched 69 innings that season and allowed just two home runs, none since May 31.

Off the Phillies' bench came Stairs, looking to do one thing — crush the ball over the wall.

He worked the count to 3-1 then hit one of the biggest home runs in Phillies history, a two-run, pinch-hit blast to give the Phillies the lead.

These eyes will never forget the sight of the ball rocketing off of Stairs' bat and soaring over the right-field wall.

These ears will never forget the sound of raucous Dodger Stadium, with 56,800 in the seats, becoming so quiet you could hear the eruption of joy in the Phillies' dugout all the way to Pasadena.

 

Stairs had barely reached home plate when these fingers typed these words:

Philadelphia, meet your new favorite player.

Stairs had arrived in an August 30 trade from Toronto, just beating the deadline for postseason eligibility. He was 40 years old and had been with the club for less than six weeks when he went from veteran, stretch-drive bat off the bench to beloved hero who'd never pay for a beer again in Philadelphia.

Six weeks ago, Stairs became a grandfather when little Miss Harper Monroe Holland arrived all happy, healthy and beautiful.

What a story she's going to hear on the front porch someday.

From his home in New Brunswick, Canada, Stairs took us inside his dramatic showdown with Broxton earlier this week on our Phillies Talk podcast. Give it a listen here. You won't be disappointed.

"I knew Broxton liked his fastball," Stairs said. "His secondary pitch was this little slider. 

"I think the pitch that set up the whole at-bat was after he threw the first pitch for a strike low and away, he tried to throw a back-foot slider, which is a sucker pitch for left-handed hitters because you swing at it almost all the time. I took it nicely. It was a quiet take, meaning I didn't move a whole lot, and after that everything just kind of slowed down for me. 

"It's amazing when a hitter gets in that zone. I hadn't had an at-bat in like eight days, but when you get in a zone, you see the ball well and everything is quiet. Your head is quiet, your body is quiet, your hands are alive.

"He made a mistake. He wanted a 3-1 fastball away. He pulled it a little bit and the rest is history."

Victorino's home run earlier in the inning was huge, as well.

What a postseason the Flyin' Hawaiian had.

"I remember being surprised they left that rookie pitcher (Wade) in to face Victorino," Stairs said. "Victorino was a very good breaking ball hitter and a low-ball hitter and he threw a curveball right in that little happy area down in the zone. When Shane hit that home run, all of a sudden that bench turned around with momentum and Chooch got that big hit with two outs then Broxton comes in with 56,000 people cheering."

Stairs said he was so locked in that he did not hear the crowd.

"You know you're in a good spot when you don't hear anyone cheering. You don't hear booing, you don't hear music," Stairs said. "I was on deck and I didn't even stand up. I stayed on one knee and watched him warm up. 

 

"I didn't think I was going to hit a home run, but I knew something good was going to happen."

And something good did happen.

Pat Burrell witnessed Stairs' home run from the top step of the dugout. The day after, he told us, "I'm thinking, 'Gosh, what if he hits a home run here?' In the back of my mind, I'm thinking he might hit one."

It was just the type of contribution Phillies officials were looking for when they acquired Stairs from Toronto for young pitcher Fabio Castro six weeks earlier.

"We had talked about him for a couple of years," assistant general manager Mike Arbuckle said the day after Stairs' big home run. "But they always wanted a little more than we wanted to give up.

"We've always liked his bat. His approach and his swing are ideal for late in the game. He's compact to the ball. He doesn't have to play a lot and he can still be sharp off the bench."

See it all again Thursday night.

The swing that launched Matt Stairs into the pantheon of Philadelphia sports heroes.

The swing that he'll tell his new granddaughter about someday.

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