Darrell Porter was my idol for a few years when I was a kid because he and I both wore glasses and played catcher. I tried to play with the same intensity and hang tough during plays at the plate. I’ll never forget the time our flight landed at Lambert International Airport in St Louis at the same time as the Cardinals’ flight, and we saw so many Cardinals players waiting around in the baggage claim area (“Stars! They’re just like us!”). While my dad got our bags, I stared at Darrell who was just sitting there waiting. He looked kinda nerdy and just like a regular human. I was 10 years old and too shy to approach him. But seeing him from a perspective that wasn’t from the upper deck of Busch Stadium or through the television blew my mind.
Darrell was a big hero for the 1982 World Series Champion Cardinals, earning the MVP awards for both the National League Championship Series and the World Series. He had a sixteen-year career in the major leagues. Here’s a highlight from the 1982 World Series.
Yes, The 80s were good times for Darrell and his family. How better to “celebrate good times” (like the Cardinals’ “Celebration” theme song suggested) than with fruit salad with extra sugar? Darrell’s wife Deanne contributed five recipes to Cooking with the Cardinals including this one for Twenty-Four Hour Fruit Salad.
1 lb red grapes, seeded
1 can (20 oz) pineapple chunks or tidbits
1 small package miniature marshmallows
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped
Mix all together and add the dressing.
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup milk
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1 cup whipping cream
Mix egg yolks, milk, and dry mustard together in saucepan; cook over very low heat until of a thin custard consistency. Whip cream while custard cools. Combine custard and whipped cream. Add to fruit, and mix. Refrigerate overnight.
I substituted Cool Whip for real whipping cream, since I already had to use Cool Whip for Jack Clark’s Cake, and I made both recipes the same day. This fruit salad was simple to make with the custard being the only tricky part. I don’t feel my custard got very thick – maybe because I used low-fat milk.
I mixed this all together in a large bowl and refrigerated it overnight as directed. It tasted okay, and it probably should be named “Twenty-Four Hour Ambrosia.” Honestly, I think grapes and pineapple are sweet enough that one doesn’t need to add marshmallows and custard to them. It sucks the healthiness out of eating fruit. But I’m sure this fruit salad wasn’t on Darrell’s training table – more likely, it was a dish to be enjoyed in the off-season. And it’s a dish that gets picky kids to eat their fruit.
Before joining the Cardinals, Darrell admitted his substance abuse problems and went to rehab in 1980. He became a born-again Christian and met Deanne soon afterward. Deanne was a legal secretary and didn’t know Darrell was a baseball player when they met. They continued to reside in Kansas City even when he was playing for the Cardinals. Deanne and Darrell had three kids (but only two kids when the photo for this book was taken). His sons Ryan and Jeff both played baseball in college, although they say their dad never pressured them. Deanne and Darrell were together until his death. He chronicled his career and substance issues in an autobiography called Snap Me Perfect! and often did public speaking engagements to encourage sobriety.
Darrel’s old demons contributed to his premature death in 2002. He was just 50 years old. He had cocaine in his system but died from “excited delirium” – that stopped his heart. It’s believed he may have overheated and that he may have had an enlarged heart due to his drug use. His family said he had been clean for 22 years before relapsing.
In an MLB News story, the Porter family looked back on Darrell’s life and remembered the good times. “He was a great father and he was a good person, and we do remember that,” Deanne said. “We’re sad that he’s gone, sad with the circumstances, particularly, in which he lost his life. But we remember the good things and the fun things.” Twenty-Four Hour Fruit Salad is one of the fun things.