Earlier today, my co-hosts and I had the honor of talking with new Phillies color commentator Matt Stairs on our radio show. The former Phillie, legendary for his home run off Jonathan Broxton in the 2008 NLCS, opened up about his new broadcasting position, his opinions of the 2014 team and his classic homer, throwing in some other odds and ends along the way.
Excerpts from the interview can be read below, with the questions to him in bold and his answers in quotes. (By the way, there is no question he is going to be the humor-man in the booth)
Before we get into things, the Canada-U.S.A. game just ended and I know you are a big hockey fan. Did you catch the game at all?
“You know what actually I missed the [women’s] game yesterday for the gold, and I missed it again today because I’m on my way down to Clearwater for baseball spring training and I decided to drive down. I’ll park somewhere on Sunday to watch the finals.”
Do you like Canada against Sweden? Sweden has been pretty good so far.
“So has U.S.A. U.S.A. was an awful tough team and I followed on Twitter as much as I could. It should be a good battle. It definitely was a big win for Canada, it gave us some confidence going against the powerhouse United States team.”
You mentioned you are on the way to Clearwater, where you and Jamie Moyer will start as two new broadcasters this year. Are you excited to finally get things going?
“I’m very excited. It should be a blast. It’s going to be different at first for both Jamie and I because we have never really done this before. It’s probably going to take a couple of innings to get used to it but we are both guys that have been around the game for a long time and know the game well. Jamie is more of a straight level guy that is straight to the point, I’m the type of guy that is going to be the comic relief in the booth and have fun with it, and be straight as well. I’m going to tell the people what is going on and that’s what it should be. That’s what the listeners deserve to hear.”
Jamie is a guy that is known for his wisdom and people saw a coach or commentator written on him a long time ago. What is it going to mean to be next to him?
“It’s going to be nice. Jamie and I played against each other back in the mid 90s when he was with Seattle and I was with Oakland, and we have been friends for many years. I think with his wisdom of pitching and my wisdom of hitting—and some people may not believe but I also know about defense as well—it’s a good group and I think it’s going to be a good chemistry with Tom and we are going to have fun with it. All three of us are the same type of guy, straightforward, no BS, what you see is what you’re going to hear. Jamie will definitely be able to go into more depth with the pitching and I can go into more depth with the hitting and the defensive game.”
What was the appeal of broadcasting to you, you only retired a few years ago what made you want to come right to the booth?
“I think when I first retired I wanted to go right into coaching and then I kind of enjoyed going back to Canada and relaxing and not worrying about what I was going to do tomorrow travel-wise. I had a chance to go home and sit and think about it, and when I did the NESN job a few years ago with the Red Sox I enjoyed it. Doing a TV game or broadcasting on the radio or whatever you are going to do, it’s just like a bunch of people sitting around the house watching the game and talking during the game. I enjoy watching baseball and I enjoy talking about baseball, so to me it’s not really a job if I’m spending a couple of hours with the buddies watching the game and talking about what is going on. I’m looking forward to it and it should be fun.”
The two of you join the booth as part of the 2008 World Series team, which is feeling more and more distant for fans. Do you think having the two of you back together in the booth will resonate with them and create some excitement?
“Well, I guess it really depends on how well Jamie and I do and it depends on how good the team does. I think when we both did our interviews it was hard to make a decision and they thought ‘You know what, let’s just make this kind of around the 2008 World Series team’. It was only five years ago, but I think it is something that brings the hype and a positive atmosphere in the booth and [we will talk] about what we went through and the stories about what we did. I think the ’08 guys with Jamie and myself brings that ‘Hey, we got a couple of guys that won the World Series, we know what it took to get there’ and hopefully we can carry that over with the broadcast.”
There are still several guys, core guys, that were on that team who have kind of been written off, whether it be for age or injuries. What do you have to say about that? What do you think they have left?
“Well I think the biggest thing is their health. They have to stay healthy enough to compete. With age it gets a lot tougher and you kind of slow down a little bit but these guys are what, still in their low 30s, mid 30s? I mean they are still young and I wish I had that spunk when I was that age. They are fine. The dog days, with the night games then day games might be a good time to give some guys a day off because it’s probably going to come down to the final [month] when you have to play 25 games straight. I have seen these guys and as long as they are healthy they can go out there and produce and create some offense and play solid defense.”
Your classic home run, that was your first post season home run, what was it like in such a big moment coming through like that off the bench?
“Well I was winging the bat pretty well in the remainder of the season in September, and I didn’t get an opportunity a whole lot in the playoffs because of the fact we had a powerhouse team then and I didn’t need to play. But in that situation, with Victorino getting the big two-run home run and Chooch with the big base hit to left field and they bring in Broxton, I think the stage was set for them and you just have to have [perfect timing. He missed with the 3-1 spot. He actually hit my happy spot down and in and everyone knows what else happened there. It was a boom shot to right field that everyone talks about. It was something that was very special. It woke me up, woke the team up and pissed off the people in L.A. so I was pleased."
After you hit the homer, when did you realize the type of legend that you would become?
"I think it was really after we got to the World Series and won the World Series. I think if I was an everyday player and I hit the home run it might have been a little bit different. But being a pinch-hitter coming off the bench and hitting such an important home run for a team I think made it much more special. The phone blew up, the texts blew up after the game and everyone was reaching out to you. The emails are coming into the organization to pass along congratulations so I knew it was a big home run when I first hit it, but we were that type of team that didn’t show a lot of emotion. We had one goal set, and that was to win a World Series, and then we can sit back and think about the key home runs—Victorino’s grand slam against C.C. Sabathia, Blanton’s big home run. We were on a mission. We knew what we had to do and that is what I hope will happen with the team this year, the 2014 Phillies. Hey, you know what, we might not be picked by a lot of people to win but I’ll tell you what, you can go out there and surprise a lot of teams. I played for San Diego and we were picked 28th out of 30 teams, and we lost [in] the last game of the year to the World Series champion Giants, so if you believe in yourselves and play the game right there a lot of things that can happen in baseball. It’s a long season.”
Aside from the home run and the World Series, what other fond memories did you have of Philadelphia?
“I think anytime you walk into that stadium. Even as a visiting player, everyone is like ‘You are going to Philly, they are going to rag you so hard.’ [But] from day one when I was in there I actually had a very good series and I just remember the atmosphere of the fans, just the atmosphere of Philly when baseball is going on, how much love the city has for sports. Of course, the World Series [was a great memory], just imagine three million people at a party celebrating. It was a very special moment. And the Wing Bowl, I had a blast there. I had a chance to do my Stone Cold Steve Austin crushing the beers in front of 21,000 people. When you think of Philly there are a lot of positive things and great memories, but just when you walk in that ballpark and they expect you to win it’s a great feeling.”
You have played in a lot of cities, what did you think about the Philly fans compared to others?
“I think in Philly they expect you go out there and play the game right, and play it hard. If you come up short, yeah you get the odd person booing you, but I think honestly if you go out and play the game right and respect the game, don’t dog ground balls and play the game hard until the last out, they are not going to give you a hard time. I think Philly was probably the best with the fan base.”