(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
The 2008 Postseason was filled with dozens of memorable moments, beginning with Cole Hamels' brilliance in Game One of the Division Series against the Brewers, and culminating with that 0-2 slider from Brad Lidge to Eric Hinske, topping of the franchise's second world championship.
No moment in that brilliant run tops Matt Stairs' home run in Game Four of the National League Championship Series.
Drafted by the Montreal Expos in 1989, Stairs -- a native of St. John, New Brunswick, Canada -- would play for a total of 12 Major League franchises in his career (with stints with both the Montreal Expos and Washington Nationals), toiling mostly in obscurity despite solid offensive output. Luminaries like Bill James and Joe Posnanski have speculated that, in an alternate universe, where his strengths were recognized and not dismissed at the expense of his weaknesses, Stairs could have been a Hall of Famer. Five feet, nine inches tall, with a substantial gut and an all-or-nothing batting style, Stairs was never a matinee idol type. But damn, could he hit the ball, posting a career line of .262/.356/.477, good for an OPS+ of 117.
Acquired by Hall of Fame General Manager Pat Gillick from the Blue Jays in an August 30, 2008 waiver deadline deal for a player to be named later (ultimately Model Dictator Fabio Castro), Stairs only got 17 plate appearances during the 2008 regular season, but managed two home runs in that time. But his finest hour, and the moment that made him a folk hero, came on that 3-1 middle-in fastball from Jonathan Broxton.
If not for Stairs, Shane Victorino's home run earlier in the 8th inning would probably be the focus of most of the love and yarn-spinning about that legendary team. But Victorino had already been red hot in that postseason, culminating famously in Game Three's brushback incident with Hiroki Kuroda.
But the Stairs home run combined all of the elements of baseball folklore: The sheer improbability of this lumberjack of a man breaking the unbeatable Broxton, the importance of the moment, and last but not least, the awesomeness of the blast. A truly mammoth shot, 429 feet into the right field bleachers.
One of my favorite aspects of the 2008 playoff run was its egalitarian nature -- every single person on the roster contributed something substantial and memorable to the team's success in the postseason. Hell, Eric Bruntlett scored two World Series runs. But for me, the Stairs home run was the moment where I finally knew, after all those years of mediocrity and resignation, that this was a championship caliber club, and that they were bound for greatness.