Ex-Tiger J.W. Porter’s Writing Helps Preserve ‘When Baseball Was Fun’

Porter’s continued signing by mail makes me smile.
He values legibility, too!

Bobby Hoeft could have managed in the majors.

I’ve written about this Detroit Tigers super-fan before. His newsletter, When Baseball Was Fun, is a quarterly delight.

Part of the joy in each issue is that he coaxes classic insights out of names that autograph collectors adore:

Virgil Trucks
J.W. Porter

Both men are autographing dynamos. Each TTM reply seems more like a lottery jackpot than a mere signature. They go above and beyond in pleasing collectors. For Bobby, they write columns!

In the latest issue, Porter writes about memories of his 1955 rookie season with Detroit, contrasted by today’s minimum salary for major leaguers being increased to $475,000. He concludes:

“For $475,0000 a year, I would warm up pitchers until my hands beld and sign autographs until the cows came home.

I would even learn to write my name so it could be read clearly.”

Just a joke, folks. Try Porter by mail. His pristine penmanship would make him a role model for any current player.

Try the WBWF newsletter. Bobby makes baseball, and reading, fun!

Coming Wednesday: Want to know the “Thrill” in Will Clark? Ask Roger “Super RC” Chen!

‘When Baseball Was Fun’ Newsletter: Subscribing Shows Your True Detroit Tiger Stripes!

Bobby’s newsletter
book are worthwhile!

I just got the spring issue of the newsletter When Baseball Was Fun in the U.S. Mail today.

First-person stories by J.W. Porter and Virgil Trucks, regular contributors, highlight this fun issue. Trucks tells of being interviewed by two FBI agents. You won’t find these gems anywhere else.

I wrote about newsletter founder/editor/publisher Bobby Hoeft last fall.

If you didn’t believe me then, get Bobby’s latest issue as proof. I’ve yet to meet somebody who loves the Tigers more.

In fact, you’d faint to get the published list of former Tigers who are lifetime subscribers. I think all ex-Tigers know of this publication! Bobby’s offering the same deal to us mortal fans. A LIFETIME subscription (4 issues yearly) for $20.

This subscription is a badge of honor. When you’d write to someone like Porter and Trucks, telling them you subscribe, they’d know you speak their language. You speak Tiger.

To subscribe or get more information, write Bobby at wbwf@sbcglobal.net.

Coming Wednesday: The shady alternative to collecting…kids, don’t try this at home!

Another vote for hand-written letters?

In the heat of presidential primary season, a vote may have been cast for tradition.

I’ve enjoyed the epic story of Tigers minor leaguer Bobby Hoeft. His book and his Detroit Tigers quarterly newsletter would delight any fan.

One off-hand comment of his caught my eye. Bobby keeps creating “hard” copies of his newsletter, not just posting news online. I realize that he has dozens of former Tigers as subscribers. He mentioned that most aren’t computer users.

“Oh yes — regarding seniors with no computers…I speak for myself when I say it took me up to 2007 before I took them on…To some extent, just give a retired baseball star another pain in the ass…I admit it was only because of my intense typing etc that I was talked into it…but guys like Virgil Trucks, J.W. Porter, Frank Tanana and on and on view it with, “At my age why take on this new technology…I’m happy with my life just the way it is.”

Bobby’s comment sent me thinking. Kohei Nirengi mentioned about Japanese tradition favoring hand-written letters. I maintain that forcing any age person to study my handwriting is cruel and unusual punishment.

Nonetheless, are some elderly ex-players frowning at our computer printout letters, skeptical at how little personal effort went into the correspondence? Do these cyber-shy folk think our magic boxes have cranked out well-disguised, robotic form letters?

When possible, I add a hand-written P.S. That way, the potential signer knows I’ve tried…and that I’ve spared him the pain of a whole page of my scribbles!

Coming Thursday: Tom’s “10 Most Wanted List” — a Hot Stove League edition!

How Long Can We Keep Classic Ballparks Alive?

Fading from view, all too fast!

“The Stadium was cool. But my memories of the players that I had read about are/were more clear.”

— Senators pitcher Carl Bouldin

In the first-year replies I’ve shared in “Baseball By The Letters,” I’ve loved player memories about the ballparks I never visited.

However, I’m beginning to understand the many half-answers I receive.

J.W. Porter remembered how close the fans in Tiger Stadium were. Pitcher Al Grunwald (who passed away in January) said he felt like he could reach out and touch the Green Monster from the pitcher’s mound.

Those are exceptions. So often, most players are like Bouldin. They’re so happy to be a major leaguer that the “where” of their career is almost a riddle. Stat-oriented players sometimes stop at quoting outfield dimensions to me. Of course, if you’re a pitcher afraid of gopher balls or a pinch-hitter hoping to tie a game, you may be fixated on how far that right field wall is (or isn’t).

I won’t give up yet. The list of people still here to tell you about playing in Ebbets Field, the Polo Grounds or Crosley Field dwindles yearly. I realize that each question is like swinging for the fences in the bottom of the ninth. We’re supposed to take time to smell the roses along the way, says the song. I think too many players were so busy trying to keep their jobs. They never realized that their place of employment would become a baseball shrine that future generations could only dream about.

J.W. Porter Remembers Tiger Stadium

J.W. Porter appreciated every game. Active from 1952-59, he converted to catching to prolong his career. In the 1950s, he played six different positions while collecting some keen baseball insights.

He wrote…

“Tiger Stadium was the perfect stadium. Fair to both pitcher and hitter. What made it perfect, however, was that it was perfect for the fan. Not a bad seat in the place and you felt you could reach out and touch the players.”

In 1958, one of Porter’s Cleveland teammates was a young Roger Maris.

“Roger was a great teammate on and off the field. He had a fine rookie year and should never have been traded. It was surprising to everyone what he did in 1961. I guess it was a case of a player finding the perfect park for his particular swing.

“He would probably hit 90 homers in new Yankee Stadium.”

Although Porter uncorked just eight homers in his major league career, two blasts seemed sweetest.

“One of my homers was an extra-inning pinch-hit off Billy O’Dell. That was my only walk-off homer. The one I’ll remember the most, however, was against Don Larsen, the first game he pitched the next year following his perfect game.”

Porter is one of the dwindling group of St. Louis Browns survivors. Most of all, he seems one of baseball’s most grateful alums.

“Thanks for asking,” he signed.

My pleasure, J.W.

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