OTTAWA – It may be tough to predict the winner of the 2009 World Series between the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies, but Canadians can be assured that one of their native sons will be sporting a ring when it is all over.
Phillies' pinch-hitter extraordinaire Matt Stairs (Fredericton, NB) will be trying to knock in key late-inning runs with his bat, while third base coach Rob Thomson (Sarnia, ON) will be trying to wave home Yankee after Yankee in attempting to lead New York to its first title since 2000.
Stairs may see more action in games 1, 2, 6, and 7, since those games are played in Yankee Stadium, where the designated hitter will be used in the batting order since it is an American League ballpark. Pitchers must hit for themselves in National League cities. The Phillies will host games 3, 4, and 5.
The 41-year-old became the 15th Canadian to play in a World Series last year, has had four pinch-hit at bats so far in the 2009 playoffs, resulting in a pair of walks.
Stairs, who along with Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, BC) are the only Canadians to hit more than 250 career homeruns, becomes the lone survivor of the five Canadian players who made it to the post-season, outlasting Russell Martin (Los Angeles Dodgers), Jason Bay (Boston Red Sox), Jesse Crain (Minnesota Twins) and Blake Hawksworth (St. Louis Cardinals). Justin Morneau (Twins) and Jeff Francis (Colorado Rockies) were with their clubs entering the playoffs but unable to play due to injuries.
Thomson, 46, is in his 20th year with the Yankee organization. He joined the Yankees in 1990 as a third base coach for their Class-A affiliate in Fort Lauderdale, and remained a coach and manager in their minor league system until moving to the front office in 1998 as a field coordinator. He was promoted to director of player development in 2000, and named vice president of minor league development in 2003. Thomson became a member of the Yankees' Major League coaching staff in November of that same year.
Other Canadians who have played in the World Series include: Eric Gagné and Francis (2007), Walker (2004), Rob Butler (1993), Reggie Cleveland (1975), Ron Taylor (1964 and 1969), John Hiller (1968), Johnny Rutherford (1952), George "Twinkletoes" Selkirk (1936-39 and 1941-42), Jack Graney (1920), Larry McLean (1913), George "Moonie" Gibson (1909), Jimmy Archer (1907 and 1910) and Bill O'Neill (1906).
The list of World Series champion Canucks shrinks even more, as only O'Neill, Gibson, Graney, Selkirk (five times), Hiller, Taylor (twice), Butler, Gagné, and Stairs have won a ring.
Stairs could also become only the third Canadian to hit a home run in a World Series game. If he were to accomplish the feat, he would join Walker who hit a pair of homers in the 2004 Series, and Selkirk who hit two home runs in the 1936 Series.