brewers baseball and things

another round of Porters please

16 Comments

Some loved their mother surrogate too much. Others were afraid to be alone. Either way, Mrs Z’s influence had to end. We sort of knew someone would replace her. Sort of because the feeling was vague like living in a fog but sure enough;  into that unknown world swirled Darrel Porter and his highly respectable .371 OB% in 1975. 

We first learned about Porter from our strat-o-matic baseball guru. We all had older brothers, but only he had a brother who ordered Bill James Baseball Abstract from the back of Baseball Digest in the late 1970’s. There was no Cain and Abel in their family. The brothers were too different, but they both shared a love for baseball.

One took a path of booze and music and the other computer programming, but they both celebrated on base percentage and our guru was generous with his wisdom. The booze warmed his heart I suppose and after Porter’s 1979 season with the Royals, a poster went up on guru’s bedroom wall and word got out real fast. It was no longer a secret. OB% was the key.

Our annual winter drafts were never the same. All the sentimental and emotional value was sucked out; replaced by stock market perusal of the previous year’s final stat page. No more Freddie Patek because he was small and Jose Cruz because you could say Cruuuuuuuuuuuuuuz every time he came to bat.

What mattered was walks and ob% and defensive range and throwing arms and the points on a pitchers card; a secret system invented by our guru that he shared with us too. Parity arrived to our league and Darrel Porter was our first cause and that carried extra weight in Milwaukee because Porter was the first player ever chosen by the Milwaukee Brewers.

muDThj5K4oO-gGIe1V0XQ9QIn June of 1970, the Brewers selected him as the 4th overall pick and as it turned out, Porter enjoyed the most productive career of any player selected in that first round.

Porter had a drinking and drug habit and went to treatment in 1979. He also became a born again Christian. I don’t know which came first, but either way, his best years were behind him; both in terms of partying and production. Maybe he was just tired as he neared 30.

I was  never sure if guru loved him for the booze or the exaggerated crouch of a stance; part Brett; part Cooper with knees bent even further or maybe he crouched more later in his career. Shocking either way and almost a miracle in that Porter was drafted as a catcher and remained a catcher. It’s tough enough to squat all day on defense and do it again at the plate! Maybe his body became a mold.

I70baseball.com

I70baseball.com

Porter attended Southwest high school in Oklahoma; same high school as Bobby Murcer and Mickey Tettleton; three future big leaguers from the same school; kind of unique but not out of this world. Porter and Tettleton were both catchers however and both rank in the top 30 all time; OB% for catchers. 

Tettleton finished with a .3688 OB; good for 13th all time and Porter at .3539; 24th place. Porter was traded to Kansas City; not a very good trade for the Brewers; bringing in Bob McLure, Jim Wohlford and Jamie Quirk.

Then again McLure pitched 9 years as a Brewer; starter and reliever and won game 5 of the 1982 ALCS, but then lost two games in the World Series including the decisive game 7.

Porter only played four years with KC; signed with St. Louis and faced the Brewers in the 1982 series and won the MVP. Five years as a Cardinal and two more in Texas before retiring. He passed away in 2002 at 50 years young.

Our strat-o-matic guru loved Porter; that swing and crouch; the ob% and booze; him being a catcher and working so hard; a shot and a cold one at the rail of another long day. We named a cocktail after him; nothing fancy; just a glass of whiskey. We called it a Porter; to remove the baggage from our lives; for a few hours anyway.

 

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Author: Steve Myers

I grew up in Milwaukee and have been a Milwaukee Brewers baseball fan for as long as I can remember.

16 thoughts on “another round of Porters please

  1. You are on target when you say that that stance (as pictured in your blog post) is part Brett and I guess part Cooper, too. I wonder if Porter had that stance when he was in Milwaukee, because Brett learned to keep the weight on the back foot from the late Royals’ batting guru Charlie Lau. I read Charlie Lau’s book in 1982, and my hitting (at the Five Towns Batting Range on Rockaway Turnpike, just south of the Green Acres Shopping Center in Valley Stream, New York ) got SO much better. I learned a lot from what Lau said in the text of the book and the progressive stills of George Brett going through the motions. I was able to go into the batting cage and hit with confidence, hitting hard line drives right back to the “originator”; in this case, not the pitcher, but the pitching machine, as the music on the PA played Kenny Rogers singing a crossover hit of the time, “Love Will Turn You Around” and the Diana Ross singing an oldie “You Just Keep Me Hanging on”. I guess those two songs were my good luck charm when it came to hitting at batting cages. Especially the part when Diana Ross says, in her usual bitchy way, “and there ain’t nothin’ I can do about it!” Cracked me up, but I still kept on hitting in the batting cage. Can’t believe it’s been 30 years.

    Here’s a picture of Brett (unfortunately, not one of him in his stance) in the book I’m talking about that helped me so much. “The Art of Hitting .300” by Charlie Lau.

    Glen

  2. Speaking of Bob Reynolds being on that “Brewers ‘Rookie Stars’ ” card from 1972 that has Jerry Bell, Bob Reynolds, and Darrell Porter on it, I always thought that this card was strange when I took it out of the pack when I was 10 years old- “1971 Rookie Stars- Pitchers.” What do these pitchers all have in common? I thought it was one of the strangest things I ever saw at the time. Notice what all these guys have in common? Could it be that Topps had a weird, kind of a “National Lampoon”, sense of humor after all???? Who’d of thunk it from a “square” company like Topps?

    By the way, of the three “Reynolds”, I seem to remember Ken Reynolds pitching, but not the others. I don’t remember what team Ken Reynolds was on when he “made it”, but the name “Ken Reynolds” definitely rings a bell (not a JERRY Bell, either).

    Glen

    Glen

  3. Let’s try that again! That didn’t work out that well.

    Glen

  4. I want to know why Jerry Bell is wearing a batting helmet on that card; I know he had lousy stuff, but was he giving up that many line drives back through the box?

    • An excellent question wk!! and as always you set the wheels spinning. Off to b-ref I go and Jerry Bell had a plate appearance in 1971. It was against KC on Sept 8 and he struck out. The following year he had 14 at bats and managed to even get a hit. Kind of rare in the AL so maybe he insisted to the Topps camera guy, “No picture unless you let me wear a helmet.”

  5. I think that pitchers (and I mean this seriously and I’ve said this for a long time) should wear some sort of protection (besides an athletic cup) while on the mound, W.K. I mean on their HEAD. No, I don’t mean they should wear an athletic cup on their head! But it wouldn’t be a bad idea to design a helmet of some sort that would be designed to be both comfortable and not to fall off of the head. If I were a pitcher, I’d be scared to death out there. Because you DO realize that (and i could be a little bit wrong on this; I never took physics in high school or anywhere else) that if a pitcher throws 100 miles per hour to a batter, then a line drive back through the box will come back at a speed of 200 miles per hour???? Is that correct?????

    The very least a pitcher should wear is one of those things that Tony Taylor and a few other batters used to wear underneath their batting helmets. (He was allowed to wear it because he was playing before helmets were mandatory, so there was a grandfather clause.)

    Hey, look what I just found! Apparently, some relief pitcher for the San Diego Padres named Alex Torres started wearing one this past season!

    http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/big-league-stew/padres-reliever-alex-torres-first-pitcher-to-wear-protective-cap-in-mlb-game-071834986.html

    Glen

    • Actually, you have raised an interesting question regarding speed, and I hope Steve will answer it. The only analogy I can offer is cricket, where the hitting of a ball has differences, both subtle and obvious, from baseball. I guess the question hinges on whether a baseball batter hits with consistent force (ignore the bunt for now), and whether that force alone dictates the speed at which the ball leaves the bat. In cricket, typically, the faster a ball travels towards the batsman, the less force he NEEDS to put into a stroke in order to make the ball travel away from him. Is there a correlation in baseball, where the main object seems to be to launch the ball into the crowd? (Most scoring strokes in cricket, apart from those designed to produce a ‘6’, are along the ground anyway.)

      • I would think the harder the ball coming in; the harder it is going out.

      • Yes, that’s what intuition tells me too, but I still wonder about the science. Let me put that to a friend of mine who is both a science graduate and a cricket fan, and I’ll get back to you.

      • I now have the answer from my scientist pal:

        “Certainly not a doubling, we did some calculations a few years ago based on how far an enormous six (or even a home run ) can go. From memory this gave a maximum speed off the bat of around 140 mph. However working the other way around, and considering the coefficient of restitution (how bouncy it is) of a ball on a bat and the maximum bat speed you get a speed of between 90 and 110 mph, around 30% of which comes from the bowling speed.
        So no definitely not doubled, and the speed the ball reaches the bat is WAY down on the speed it was bowled in both sports, slower with cricket because the bounce steals energy, max 75 to 80mph from a 100 mph ball.”

      • My friend also came up with this link http://www.physics.usyd.edu.au/~cross/cricket.html

        It’s relevant to cricket, but some of the comments regarding impact of bat and ball are analogous to baseball.

        Maybe baseball-specific info is available here: http://baseball.physics.illinois.edu/

    • If I was pitching in The Show, I’d be wearing a helmet and shin guards (I was always a little shaky on grounders.)

  6. “…No, I don’t mean they should wear an athletic cup on their head!…”

    I would pay to see it, though. Baseball lacks just such a touch of surrealism.

    • Speaking of people with the last name “Bell” and athletic cups-

      “Gary Bell is nicknamed Ding Dong. Of course. What’s interesting about it is that “Ding Dong” is what the guys holler when somebody gets hit in the cup. The cups are metal inserts that fit inside the jock strap, and when a baseball hits one it’s called ringing the bell, which rhymes with hell, which is what it hurts like. It’s funny, even if you’re in the outfield, or in the dugout, no matter how far away, when a guy gets it in the cup you can hear it. Ding Dong.”

      ― Jim Bouton, Ball Four

      • I remember a game ( I can’t remember exactly what year or against who) where John Stearns was catching for the Mets, and he took a foul ball (batter had just grazed it enough to change directions without slowing the pitch down) right in the cup. He never even got out of his crouch–he just tottered straight back like a cartoon character, and I remember the trainer came out (probably to see if Stearns was alive, or wnated to be) and the announcers– I think it was Kiner and Zabriskie– were trying not to laugh their asses off (“Gee, Ralph, I think that one caught Stearsn about mid-thigh…”)

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