Thursday, February 10, 2011

Uncommon commons: Porter's day went from triumph to tragedy

In 2006 I purchased a complete set of The Sporting News and The Sporting Life newspaper microfilms from 1886 through the early 1970s. I figured they would be a great source of entertainment when I eventually retired.

Over the years I had used the films to research feature articles and columns that appeared in SCD and Baseball Cards magazine. In that process I discovered that each issue of those venerable sports weeklies had many tidbits that as a collector of baseball and football cards I found interesting because they helped bring to life the faces on the cards I collected. I figured that if I found those items of interest, so would other vintage card collectors, so from time to time I compiled my notes into columns that I called "Uncommon Commons."

I've decided to continue that tradition in this forum because a blog is tailor-made to host these short pieces and because it is easy to share images of some great old cards that may not be worth a lot of money, but that have an appeal to veteran collectors.

In less than 24 hours, St. Louis Browns rookie J.W. Porter experienced both the best and the worst day of his life.

On July 30, 1952, at Sportsman's Park, the 19-year-old made his major league debut, having been called up from Colorado Springs where he had been batting .340.

Porter struck out in a pinch-hit at-bat in the bottom of the ninth inning of a 6-2 loss to the Senators. That was an inauspicious beginning to what would be a six-year role as a big-league bench-player, but that strikeout was not even close to the worst that would befall Porter in the next 24 hours.

Around noon on July 31, Porter's 18-year-old wife Patricia Ann was killed, along with her father, when the car they were driving from Colorado Springs to California was involved in a head-on collision near Gunninson, Colo. Two persons in the other vehicle were also killed. The Porters had been married just seven months earlier.

Mrs. Porter's father had come from California to Colorado Springs to keep Patricia company while Jay was on long Western League road swings. After he had been called up by the Browns, Patricia decided to return to California until Porter's status was more settled.

Porter left the team to return to California to make funeral arrangements, then resumed his career. He was traded to the Tigers after the 1952 season, remaining with Detroit through 1957. In the 1958 pre-season he was dealt to the Indians. He split the 1959 season with the  Senators and Cardinals. During his big-league career, Porter played at first and third bases, in the outfield and at catcher, batting .228 lifetime. After leaving the majors, Porter played in the high minors through the 1966 season.

J.W. Porter appeared on Topps cards in 1953, 1955 (both regular and Doubleheader) and 1958, all as a Tiger, and 1959 as a Senator. Porter's card in the 1958 Topps set is one of those First Series cards that can be found with the player name either in yellow (scarce) or white (common).

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments, criticism, additional information, questions, etc., are welcome . . . as long as they are germane to the original topic. All comments are moderated before they are allowed to appear and spam comments are deleted before they ever appear. No "Anonymous User" comments are allowed.