MULKEYTOWN, Ill. (BP)–It was game two of the 1982 World Series, and it is my most vivid memory of Darrell Porter.
The Milwaukee Brewers had soundly trounced the Cardinals 10-0 in the first game and were on their way to winning the second, with a 4-2 lead in the sixth inning. But Milwaukee pitcher Don Sutton had loaded the bases, and with two outs Porter was at the plate.
Now, there’s one thing you need to know about the left-handed-hitting Porter. He was a dead pull hitter; every time he came to bat, the defense shifted radically to the right. Porter never hit the ball to left field.
At least, not until this night. With a 1-2 count, Porter hit a looping fly ball down the left field line. It would have been a routine out for most batters, but because of Milwaukee’s shift, there wasn’t anybody remotely near the ball. It dropped in for a double, two runs scored to tie the game and the Cardinals proceeded to win 5-4 and to take the whole series in seven games. Porter was named World Series MVP.
I was saddened to hear Tuesday morning that Porter had died the day before at age 50. He was one of my favorite players as a kid, thanks largely to his heroics during the 1982 World Series.
I was fortunate enough to meet Porter in 1996 during my senior year of college. I was working as a part-time sportswriter, and Porter was making an appearance at another local Christian college as part of a fundraising event. The newspaper sent me to interview him, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled. Here I was sitting across the table from one of my childhood heroes — the MVP of the only World Series the Cardinals have won in my lifetime. What fun.
“I really try to make these kids see that they’re making decisions in their life, even right now at a very early age, that are going to have a big impact on them for the rest of their lives,” Porter told me. “If they make the bad choices right now, those choices are going to be problems for these kids forever.”
Porter knew what he was talking about. Addiction to alcohol and drugs almost cost Porter his career and his life. But Porter, who became a Christian as a boy, eventually turned back to the Lord after straying for so long.
“The saving love of Christ was a fact,” Porter wrote in his autobiography, “Snap Me Perfect,” which chronicles his struggles with substance abuse. “And it occurred to me that it didn’t really matter if I couldn’t feel inspired when I read the Bible. It didn’t really matter that I couldn’t feel God’s presence when I prayed. It was not a question of feelings at all. My feelings had betrayed me, and drugs had deadened them. But I knew, I believed, that God was there, and the only way I would ever reach Him would be to continue to press forward through the desert of my dried-up feelings.”
Porter, who was an active member of Blue Springs (Mo.) First Baptist Church, was truly a testament to God’s redeeming grace. His story is inspirational. And although it’s a shame that Porter’s life ended so soon, and it’s tragic that his family has lost a godly husband and father, it’s comforting to know that when Porter died, he was, as his autobiography says, snapped perfect in an instant.
Tim Ellsworth writes this column from his home in Mulkeytown, Ill. Write to him at [email protected].