Because Of Darrell Porter

One cold night, after dinner, I took down all my comic books from my shelves in my bedroom — all my Teen Titans, my X-Men, my Spider-Man, my Superman comics, all of those I’d spent my allowance on, all the classics I’d picked up browsing comics stores for hours every weekend.

Bagged ’em all up. All at once.

And it’s because of Darrell Porter.

You don’t understand. I wasn’t a comic book collector. I was absolutely obsessed with comic books. What’s beyond obsessed? I was that.

Let me explain: I used to compose my own superhero adventures and staple them together. In my freshman high school yearbook, there’s a brief story and a black and white picture of me drawing a picture for one of my homemade comics, bright action scenes of figures with rippling muscles filled in with Crayola markers.

I’d save my allowance for the Saturday when my grandmother would take my brothers and me to the long-defunct Readmore Book World location in Rock Island so I could snag the newest comics right off that revolving circular wire display. I got smart — I determined which comics came out which week so I could be there right away when they unpacked the boxes at Greenpark Pharmacy in Colona. I got even smarter — I subscribed to as many comic books as I could afford, even begging my parents and grandma to get me a subscription for my birthday instead of money or toys. I’d see the brown wrappers in the mailbox and it would be like Christmas all over again.

Then Darrell Porter.

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So What Are We Going To Do Now?

A generation of Cardinals fans doesn’t know what to do with itself.

Think about it: if you’re a fan of the Favored Nine and about the age of 25, your conscious memory of being a Cardinals fan meant having Tony La Russa as manager and Dave Duncan as pitching coach.

You literally have grown up with the stability in the dugout that completely is foreign to fans of other teams, where changing managers is a routine matter (the Cubs, for example, that rock of stability in the NL Central, have enjoyed the services of five different managers and a bunch of pitching coaches — as in, I couldn’t find how many in a quick Google search, so I gave up).

(Did you know Phil Regan was the Cubs pitching coach in 1997? I did not. And I know a lot about baseball. I’m certain there are many Cubs fans who would not know that, either. Anyway, let’s move on.)

A generation of Cardinals fans has been weaned on the way La Russa manages a team, the pixie dust and “tipping pitches” magic of Dave Duncan. Since becoming manager of the White Sox in 1983 and comcomitantly the pitching coach, La Russa and Duncan established a firm reputation of answering with a Proven Veteran off the scrap heap to solve each and every problem with the roster.

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Learn From History? Maybe We’re Determined To Repeat It

The problem is that when we are blessed with plenty, we don’t appreciate it. But when we’re down to our last dollar, we hang on to it with everything we have.

Right now, we fans of the Cardinals are blessed with plenty in the outfield. We currently enjoy the unlikely season of Lance Berkman, the even more unlikely season from Jon Jay, and the good fortune to have Matt Holliday in the lineup. And as a result, these fans who consider themselves blessed are contemplating throwing away part of that plenty in Colby Rasmus. Have to admit I see their point. In the past couple of months, we’ve been frustrated watching him swing helplessly at breaking pitches in the dirt and playing the outfield as if he’d rather be somewhere else. Considering his severe drop in production, and concomitant outrage by St. Louis fans against his continued presence in the lineup, maybe he would rather be somewhere else.

But before we urge a deal Ramsus in haste, getting something in return approaching the talent level of a Luis Perdomo, can we take a moment for a history lesson?

Once upon a time, the Cardinals enjoyed the service of another promising center fielder. Kid by the name of Bobby Tolan. You could say he was the Rasmus of his time; a highly-touted prospect the organization looked to patrol the outfield for years to come — he could hit for average and power, and seemingly had the defensive potential of the veteran outfielder he’d might be replacing someday, Curt Flood. Even better, Tolan wasn’t challenging the reserve clause the way Flood was, and had the fans on his side. At least, at first. But like Rasmus, Tolan spent two years going hot and cold, hitting .253 in 1967 and .230 in 1968. Feeling he wouldn’t ever reach his potential, Tolan was shipped off to Cincinnati in exchange for Proven Veteran(TM) Vada Pinson. What’s worse is that the Cardinals threw in Wayne Granger — think Eduardo Sanchez or Fernando Salas. He was the Cardinals top bullpen pitching prospect at the time and would go on to great things with the Reds, until he hurt his arm. And Tolan? He only helped the Reds to the World Series in 1970 and 1972. The Cardinals wouldn’t see the Series again for almost a generation; Pinson? Well, that Proven Veteran(TM) the Cardinals needed so badly to keep their run of postseason appearances hit a career low in average in his first year in St. Louis and was shipped off to Cleveland.

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