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.
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.
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.