Card of the Moment #65
March 22nd, 2011 by slangon

Todays Card of the Moment is brought to you by circles. And the color red. And the letters J and W.

1959 Topps #246 J.W. Porter

J.W. (or Jay) Porter spent parts of 6 seasons in the Majors, playing for the St. Louis Browns, the Detroit Tigers, the Cleveland Indians, the Washington Senators and the St. Louis Cardinals. He played catcher, outfield and first base, hitting .228 over the course of his career. He hit 8 home runs and drove in 62. Amazingly, in 1959, the year this card came out, he was 4th in the American League in passed balls with 7, despite only playing 34 games at that position with the Senators. Even more amazingly, after he was claimed off of waivers by the Cardinals in late July, he managed another 5 passed balls which was good for 3rd most in the National League. He managed to do that in only 19 games behind the plate for St. Louis. I’d love to see what kind of numbers he could put up in that department if he were allowed to play a full season back there.

Despite his rather dismal numbers and the fact that he was not a starter during his 3 seasons in Detroit, Porter was named one of the “10 Greatest Characters in Detroit Tigers History” in the October 2006 issue of Sports Illustrated. He was #10 on the list behind other notable Tigers such as Mark Fidrych, Norm Cash, Boots Poffenberger, Ty Cobb and Germany Schafer. J.W.’s entry reads:

The freckle-faced catcher enjoyed food, drink and female companionship, which might be one reason that the former bonus baby only hit .228 in six big-league seasons. His favorite dinner order was a light repast of “two dozen over light,” and he’d eat all 24 eggs at once. One year he was given a subpoena to appear in court on a paternity charge. Not only was Porter unembarrassed, but he captured the moment through one of his other pastimes — writing poetry. Who could pass up this gem: While the other players are down in the lobby/ Porter is in his room, practicing his hobby. Whether the hobby in question was poetry or romance has been lost to the mists of time.

Just before Spring Training started in 1958, the Tigers traded Porter to the Indians. Porter was driving from his home in Oregon heading for the Tigers training facility in Lakeland, Florida. On the way down, he happened to to stop in Tucson to visit some friends at the Indians spring training facility. When he was an hour outside Lakeland, Porter heard on the car radio that he had been traded to the Indians, made a U-turn and headed back to Arizona. By the way, that drive is just over 2,000 miles. One way.

According to the back of his card, J.W. was given a $65,000 signing bonus in 1951. In hindsight, I’m sure the Browns would like to get their money back. Interestingly, J.W. was scouted and signed by Bobby Mattick. The same day that he was scouting Porter, he noticed another prospect, and ended up signing both players, “with Porter signing for a much higher bonus.” That other prospect was a feller named Frank Robinson. Before you go thinking that Mattick was a poor judge of talent, he was also responsible for signing Vada Pinson, Curt Flood, Rusty Staub, Don Baylor and Gary Carter. Those guys kind of take the sting out of a player like Porter.

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