Matt Stairs(notes), baseball's all-time leader in pinch-hit home runs, has been around the big league block a few times. The San Diego Padres are his 12th major league team since he broke in with the Montreal Expos in 1992.
Now 42 years old and slim as ever thanks to a diet inspired by the manager of the Phillies, the Canadian-born Stairs is eager to reach the playoffs again and win another World Series before he hangs up the cleats. Before a recent game at PETCO Park, Stairs sat comfortably by his locker for an Answer Man session that covered several of the quirky moments that have dotted his career.
David Brown: What do a good baseball bat and a good hockey stick have in common?
Matt Stairs: Probably that the best wood's made in Canada. The best hockey sticks are made of Canadian wood. All of my bats are.
DB: Molson or Labatts? Or are you gonna say Le Fin du Monde?
MS: Molson, but I prefer Schooner. It's a Maritime Beer.
DB: Which beer will get you drunkest the quickest?
MS: Black Horse. It's 13 percent [alcohol by volume] from Newfoundland.
DB: The great Stubby Clapp: Which one of those is his nickname?
MS: His first name.
DB: And what's his [first name] ...?
MS: No idea. He might just be "El Presidente." That guy's played in about 24 international tournaments. I call him Mister Stubby Clapp.
DB: Can you name all of the major league teams you played with in order? And quickly?
MS: Montreal, Boston, Oakland, Chicago [Cubs] ... [two-second hesitation] ... Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Texas ... Detroit, Toronto, Philadelphia and St. Louis, err, I mean, San Diego [laughs].
DB: You've lost a lot weight, but in your heavier days, did you have a favorite food in each town?
MS: Pizza in every town. I don't care which kind — thin crust, pan.
DB: You're living the dream ... but what was the toughest thing you had to deal with at all of these stops?
MS: The 17-game losing streak in Kansas City.
DB: When was that?
MS: I don't know, I've put it behind me. I'm not here to talk about the past [laughs uproariously].
DB: Are you at your early '90s middle infielder weight right now?
MS: I'm lighter. I was 207 pounds back then; I'm 200 now.
DB: Is this because of the Nutrisystem cult? Is the major league lifestyle — the travel, the limited food choices late at night — conducive to eating healthy?
MS: I have to take [the Nutrisystem food] with me.
DB: Is Charlie Manuel your sponsor?
MS: He got me on it, yeah [laughs]. I wouldn't say he's my sponsor. *They're* my sponsor [pulls open drawer filled with Nutrisystem food].
DB: What's the yummiest stuff?
MS: The chicken and penne pasta.
DB: What about Dodger Dogs? Are they on the preferred food list?
DB: Do you have any literature? I might know a guy who needs to lose a few pounds. A friend.
MS: Internet? You know what, I have got people on it before. Actually, one guy I'll be texting tonight to find out how he's doing. I think he's lost 40-something pounds so far. You've got to want to do it first. Commit yourself. The portions are the biggest thing. You can eat whatever you want. But have a lot of grains and a lot of water.
DB: What do you miss that you don't eat anymore?
MS: Buffalo wings. I still eat pizza. Still a big pizza fan. That's what I cheat with.
MS: [Laughs]. He's a Lefty, capital "L" so I think that explains it.
DB: Did the guys on the Padres believe you when you told them you weren't the oldest guy on your previous team?
MS: Once I reminded them that Moyer was in Philadelphia, they settled down.
DB: Was San Diego also appealing to you because it's so close to an international checkpoint?
MS: [Laughs]. I have lots of experience crossing borders — and I played in Mexico for seven years.
MS: [Laughs]. Yeah, and he's only like 20 years old so he's got about a quarter of the knowledge that I do.
DB: Will you consider loaning him one of your "T's" if you guys make the playoffs?
MS: He can have both of them.
DB: "Ma Stairs"?
MS: Ma! But we go by "Staves" here.
MS: My last name, we go by "Staves."
MS: Because of the forward for Chicago.
DB: Staves. Toews? Jonathan Toews of the Blackhawks?
DB: I'm impressed that Adrian paid attention to Stanley Cup playoff action.
MS: He had to because I had it on TV every day in here.
MS: When we do, yes. First ballot.
DB: Is Matt Stairs Way a speed trap for the cops?
MS: Matt Stairs Way! I forgot about that. It's up in Canada, you know? No, you know why? It's a dirt road.
DB: It's a dirt road?
MS: No, it's actually not.
DB: You could probably get out of a speeding ticket on Matt Stairs Way.
MS: I have before. Not on Matt Stairs Way — there's no way you can speed on that street because it's through a little community, just right outside the ballpark, so...
DB: In case of emergency, what shouldn't you do?
MS: Take an elevator.
DB: Do you have any "In Case of Emergency, Use Stairs" T-shirts left over? There was a big shipment made, I understand.
MS: Yes, I have tons. A lot.
DB: You pass 'em out here?
MS: Never. That's not really me. They're in my box and it was a Philly thing. It's come and gone.
DB: They need to do something for you here.
MS: I haven't done nothin' yet.
DB: No comment.
DB: OK, this is a long story. A long time ago, at the dawn of the Internet, I played fantasy baseball online using this service called Prodigy. It was like AOL, but different. Anyway, we had a good time on the message boards talking baseball and prospects and stuff, and when you were coming up, many of us were excited about you because you had great minor league stats. Plus, the Expos were good at developing talent and you had an unusual last name.
But the folks on the message board were all in different leagues and considered you were a great sleeper pick for the taxi squad or someone to buy for the minimum $1, so we developed this code for you so *we* would know it was Matt Stairs, but maybe a casual observer wouldn't.
So we called you "Step Incline." Get it? What would make a better code word for Matt Stairs?
MS: You gotta call me "Stoews."
DB: That's great. One more thing about your name. So when you didn't make it at first, got sent back to the minors, the nickname became "Step Decline." We all meant well, but how awful is it to have strangers just casually make references to your career when you're trying to do the best you can?
MS: Step Decline [laughs]? I didn't think I was gonna make it, either. Not a bit. I really didn't think I was going to make the big leagues. When I signed a professional contract, when they heard, they thought I signed for hockey. A few teams were looking at me until I hurt my knee. I played forward -- all over the ice, really. I still do play. I'm still in "Too Bigs."
MS: The Old Man League.
DB: Thanks, Stoewsie!
MS: 'Preciate it.
Follow Dave on Twitter — @AnswerDave.
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Previous Answer Men (and Woman):
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2009 • Shane Victorino • Carlos Pena • Jay Bruce • Joe Nathan • Joe Maddon • Joakim Soria • Joey Votto • Tom Glavine • Adrian and Edgar Gonzalez • Chris Volstad • Paul Konerko • Edwin Jackson • Mark DeRosa • Tim Lincecum • Dave Righetti • Pedro Martinez • Denard Span • Cal Ripken
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2008 • Hunter Pence • Justin Morneau • David Wright • Erin Andrews • Andy Van Slyke • Derek Jeter • Bob Uecker • Bert Blyleven • Torii Hunter • Joba Chamberlain • Larry Bowa • Zack Greinke • Kerry Wood • Huston Street • Josh Hamilton • Milton Bradley • CC Sabathia • Mike Mussina • Jason Bay • Cole Hamels • Ron Santo • Francisco Rodriguez • Ryan Dempster