Philadelphia — Patrons at an Eagles game infamously pelted Santa Claus with snowballs, but Philly fans weren’t booing Matt Diaz. On the contrary, the Braves’ outfielder became a local hero for his sidling takedown of an individual who has come already to be known as Red Man. (Not to be confused with Mark Redman, former lousy Braves’ pitcher.)
Seventh inning, Monday night, Jayson Werth batting: Red Man, clad in red spandex head-to-toe, capers from the left-field stands and heads across the outfield. Watching from the press box, you could see that Diaz, stationed in left, thought about impeding Red Man’s progress but decided against it.
Then, when security forces arrived and forced Red Man back left but started slipping in their pursuit, Diaz took matters unto his own hip.
He blindsided Red Man. Stuck out his right leg and Red Man went flying. “He got right up, but then the security guy crushed him,” Diaz said afterward.
Diaz was the postgame focal point in the Braves’ clubhouse because an intruding fan here had been tasered by a security man earlier this season. “I saw the cop coming with the Taser,” Diaz said. “I figured the guy would rather have me trip him than get tased.”
Wait a second, a Philly writer asked: Did he really see someone with a Taser? (I told you: They take this seriously up here.) “No,” Diaz said. “I was kidding.”
Diaz’s stated motivation: He remembered a Braves’ security guard getting hurt in a similar chase a while back. “I wanted to spear [Red Man] so bad, but I didn’t want to get hurt and I didn’t want to hurt him. I just stuck out my foot and he hit it.”
I asked if Red Man had, in their moment of close proximity, revealed his secret identity. “No,” Diaz said. “I’m sure the judge will find it.”
Red Man’s reaction to being tripped? He was shocked, Diaz said, adding that he could see the mystery man’s wide eyes through the costume.
And the Philly fans? They cheered Diaz, who tipped his cap. And who told reporters afterward: “They were very complimentary. I heard everything from, ‘I just put you on YouTube‘ to a girl with an ‘Utley marry me’ sign say, ‘I’ll marry you, too.’ ”
Speaking of YouTube … here you go.