I grew up in the Milwaukee area and have been going to Milwaukee Brewers games since I was 6 years old. I still have a Robin Yount Sports Illustrated poster that was a giveaway back when normal people could afford season tickets on the 3rd baseline. Between 6 and high school, there are certain players that I will always remember seeing. And I am not talking about the obvious ones, the last few years, the 2011 season or even the 2008 season. I am talking the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s. The players I remember the most are Richie Sexson, John Jaha and Matt Stairs.
Matt Stairs was a Milwaukee Brewer for only one season. I honestly didn’t know that. I was convinced it was at least two. He played for the team in 2002 and had 16 home runs and a batting average of .244. Not fantastic. Also, before he was a Brewer, he played for the Cubs in 2001 and then the Pirates in 2003. What a jerk. In 2003, he hit almost .300 for the Pirates. Double jerk.
To say Matt Stairs was a journeyman in Major League Baseball is understated. He played for, in order, the Montreal Expos, Boston Red Sox, Oakland Athletics, Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers. Pittsburgh Pirates, Kansas City Royals, Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers, Toronto Blue Jays, Philadelphia Phillies, San Diego Padres and the Washington Nationals. So technically, the Expos twice. A perfect person if he hadn’t played for the Cubs.
In 2002, I was in high school. The Brewers weren’t very good. Did I say weren’t very good? They went 56 and 106 in 2002. That’s terrible. But, that made going to Miller Park easy, cheap and always a good time. Going to Brewers games was a huge part of my high school life, and helped bond my close group of friends. We were a silly bunch, and most games didn’t end without a silly bit or memory from the game. I remember putting suntan lotion on my friend Tim’s neck while he was driving, and he crossed 2 lanes of busy traffic on I-94 so he could park on the side of the road and hit me about 25 times and yell. I remember almost getting into a fight with Boston Red Sox fans because they were giving John Vander Wal a hard time in the outfield. I remember not being a huge fan of Wes Helms at the time, and during a game when a ball bounced foul and Helms didn’t catch it, I remember standing up and screaming “Helms!” way too loud. I thought he just wasn’t trying and didn’t catch it. My friends all quietly said at the same time; “John, it was foul and bounced already…” and laughing at me while I slowly sat down embarrassed. When we get together or talk, someone is still putting “HELMS!” in all caps and I immediately curl into a ball and cry due to embarrassment. And if you noticed, I said “at the time”. In 2008, Wes Helms was a member of the Florida Marlins and hit a home run against the Mets to help the Milwaukee Brewers get their Wild Card. I now adore him and have his jersey. I don’t have his jersey.
But the one bit that has stayed around the longest has been Matt Stairs. There we were, the first week of home games in 2002, and out comes Matt Stairs. It looked like someone’s Dad was playing out there, and just made us laugh. It made us think, “Is this team just signing anyone to play for them?” That might have been partially the case. Remember, 56-106.
Our favorite thing to do at games was to make up nicknames for players or try to start trends. We all remember everyone yelling “OOOOOOOOO” and putting their arms in an “O” for Lyle Overbay, right? Well before that, my friends and I kept slapping our arms together like a Crocodile. Get it? Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile? No? Sadly that one did not catch on.
So when it came to Matt Stairs, it wasn’t hard. His last name is Stairs, the bites write themselves. When taking the escalators up, we would keep yelling “These should be banned for Matt!”. When we left down the stairs at the end of games, we would say over and over “These belong to Matt!” We were quite obnoxious. I don’t know who said it first. Sometimes I think it was me, but also might have been by buddy Matt. Let’s just say me. When Mr. Stairs came up to the plate, we stood up, got our arms ready and screamed “CLIMBIN’ THE STAIRS” while making our hands stairs and going up. And I am deadly serious about this next part. The stairs we made were flawless. Not some half-assed stairs going up or only going up one step. Our hands and arms were perfect stairs with straight angles. We would usually go about 4-5 stairs while saying it, staying with syllables because we aren’t slackers., we are dedicated Brewers fans. Try it at home. Send me a video of your version. It would make my day.
So every single time he batted that season or did something on the field, we would all do it. Did it catch on? No. Did we keep doing it? Of course. Do my friends and I still do it to this day? You’re god damn right. Nobody was happier at Miller Park than us when Matt Stairs did something great for the Milwaukee Brewers.
And don’t you dare think this is an attack on Matt Stairs or that we were mocking him. I will never forget him as a Milwaukee Brewer. Players have come and gone and I couldn’t even say their names anymore. I remember Brady Clark. Do you know why? Because one time at one game, the kid who said the player’s names before they went to bat for an inning said “Bwady Cwalk”. Adorable. And I will never forget it. To me, those memories link up in my mind just like T-Plush’s hit against the Diamondbacks in game 5. This article is to honor him. Read the next paragraph if you still have doubts.
Fun Facts about Matt: He is basically Canadian royalty due to his MLB success, and was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015. He even played for the Blue Jays AND Expos, and one of the only Canadian players to do so. He was a hitting coach for the Philadelphia Phillies and San Diego Padres after playing as well. Did you know that Matt Stairs has a World Series ring? Yup! In 2008, he was on the Philadelphia Phillies and even hit a game-winning home run in the playoffs.
The Phillies fans even clearly copied my group of friends and learned/stole from it. They made shirts for him that said “In Case of Emergency, Use Stairs” due to his clutch-hitting that year, especially in pinch-hit situations. Those bastards. We never even thought about making t-shirts.
So learn about the players on your favorite sports team. Have some fun with it if it’s with good intentions. You never know who will stick with you 18 years later when you have less hair and one of your wrists just hurts now randomly because you’re older.
Also, shout out to Paul, Matt, Tim, Andy, Jason and Tristan. The group that helped create Matt “Climbin’ The” Stairs. Did I call our group of friends Da Lost Boyz and make them all a burned mix CD before we all went off to college? Yes. Are we all still friends and have a very active group chat on WhatsApp? You’re god damn right. Life is short, eat some pizza.