Friday, August 31, 2018

A teammate recalls how Frank Robinson's star growing up in Oakland was overshadowed by a big time bonus prospect

Oakland Tech's J.W. Porter was the Bay Area's most heavily recruited high school baseball player since Joe DiMaggio. Earning California State Player of the Year honors in 1950 after batting .558 as a senior while leading Oakland's Bill Erwin Post 337 to consecutive national American Legion championships, his performance sent all of the 16 major league teams into a bidding frenzy for his services.

When the dust finally settled, the phenom catching prospect scored a $70,000 bonus from the Chicago White Sox. Helping Porter's American Legion team to victory was a remarkable freshman from neighboring McClymonds High School, Frank Robinson.

J.W. Porter Photo / Author's Collection

Sharing written correspondence with Porter on Robinson's 83rd birthday, the six-year major league veteran was proud to recall his time playing with the Hall of Famer during their youth.

"It brought back some fond memories," Porter wrote in a recent letter to the author. "Frank Robinson played on our American Legion team as we won back to back world championships when he was only in the 9th grade."

Bobby Mattick, a former major leaguer turned scout, was responsible for signing not only Porter to the White Sox, but later Robinson to the Cincinnati Reds. While Robinson record-setting Hall of Fame career was well documented, it was Porter, the big-league journeyman, who was the center of attention on a team where Robinson was in his own words, "just another player."


August 2018 Letter from J.W. Porter to the Author / Author's Collection

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