ANDERSON – When the Chicago Cubs made it to the playoffs in 2003, Anderson resident and avid Cubs fan Monty Porter did something some might call crazy.
Others might just call it dedicated.
The Cubs played the Atlanta Braves in the first round, eventually losing to the Florida Marlins in the National League Championship Series, and Porter drove to Atlanta to watch the first two games of that opening series.
By itself, that’s not too strange.
But when he drove back to Anderson after Game 2, picked up a few friends, and went straight to Chicago for Game 3, he epitomized the term “super fan.”
Since then, Porter, 65, has crossed a major item off of his bucket list. Over the last three years he traveled to every Major League Baseball park and is being recognized this weekend for his fan accomplishments.
On Saturday, the Sports Travel and Tours Baseball Stadium Hall of Fame inducted Porter and 37 other fans into its membership in Cooperstown, N.Y. during the National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Weekend.
The Sports Travel and Tours Baseball Stadium Hall of Fame, based in Hatfield. Mass., was created 12 years ago. Inductions occur every four years and with this year’s class included, there will be 88 members in the hall. Fans become eligible for the hall once they have been to every ballpark, a feat they must prove by getting a "passport" from Sports Travel and Tours stamped at each site.
“We have retired librarians, Fortune 500 executives, and people from all walks of life with his passion for baseball uniting them together,” said Teresa Weybrew, director or sales for Sports Travel and Tours.
Wrigley is favorite
Porter grew up around baseball in southern Illinois, an area primarily populated with St. Louis Cardinals fans. However, his father and grandfather were both Cubs fans. They gave him his first exposure to the game he would fall in love with for the rest of his life.
“I remember my grandfather sitting around trying to listen to Cubs games on AM radio, because that’s all there was,” Porter said. “He would sit at his kitchen table trying to hear the radio through the static.”
Porter went to his first major league game in the early 1950s at Crosley Field which served as the Reds’ home for nearly six decades.
Last September, roughly 60 years after his Crosley trip, Porter watched a Diamondbacks game at Chase Field in Phoenix, Ariz., completing his journey to every park in the majors.
Porter had been to many parks over the years, but his official journey started on June 23, 2010 in Seattle where he saw the Mariners beat his beloved Cubs, 8-1. That was the first stop on a West Coast tour offered by Sports Travel and Tours, a company that takes fans to parks and arenas in multiple sports.
“Sharing that love for baseball with people from all over the world is fun,” Porter’s daughter, Brook, said. “It gave him a chance to be around true fans.”
Prior to 2010, Porter had gone on one other organized baseball trip in 2005 which he took with his brother, but was unimpressed with the tour because it involved too much time on a bus. In 2010, Porter gave it another try, with Sports Travel and Tours. In the two years it took Porter to go to every park, he managed to see his beloved Cubs about six times.
“I didn’t try to set it up like that,” Porter said. "I enjoyed seeing the Cubs but I didn’t set it up just for that, I set it up to see all the parks.”
As a Cubs fan, Porter’s favorite park is Chicago's Wrigley Field because of its storied history, but he also appreciates Fenway Park in Boston and PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
“It is a very unique experience there (at Wrigley) that you don’t get in other ball parks. After that I would say Fenway is my second favorite for a lot of the same reasons. Now there are a lot of beautiful parks to see a ballgame in. They’re not the old cookie cutters.”
A baseball bond
A visit to every park would not be complete without sampling the local ballpark delicacies.
On the tour in 2005, Porter and his brother decided they would try hot dogs at each park. Porter continued that during his most recent travels, making him a baseball hot dog expert.
According to Porter, Fenway has the best hot dogs in the majors and the upper deck at Wrigley has better dogs than the lower deck.
Beyond the food, however, Porter relishes a family bond that baseball is giving him. He has two daughters and was blessed with a baseball fanatic of a younger daughter in Brook to balance out the lack of enthusiasm that his wife Carol and oldest daughter show for America's pastime.
“She felt sorry when she was a young girl that her dad didn’t have anyone to watch baseball with, and then she really got into it,” Carol Porter said.
For Brook, baseball provided a special way for her to bond with her dad. “It was something that was just mine. Since my dad didn’t have a son he didn’t get to do Little League. He supported us with dance and gymnastics but it just wasn’t the same. Now I’m approaching 40 and baseball is still something I enjoy.”
The two are such big fans that they call each other no matter where they are and sing “Go, Cubs, Go” after Cubs victories.
It did not take much to get Brook, who now lives in South Carolina, into baseball or the Cubs. “She can tell the lineup every day and batting averages,” Porter said. “When she was a senior she wanted to go to Chicago for a ball game. Almost every year since then we have done a trip someplace to see the Cubs play, either in Chicago, Pittsburgh, or Atlanta.”
The two have carried on that tradition for 20 years. Of Porter’s three grandchildren, it looks like there is hope in his 5-year-old grandson for the baseball tradition to continue.
Porter hopes to see more minor league parks and to continue following the Cubs. “It’s frustrating being a Cubs fan. But hope springs eternal as they say.”
He’ll also continue going to Cubs games with his daughter. And if the Cubs ever get back to the World Series, count on the two heading to Wrigley. “No matter what, we will get tickets to the World Series if they ever get that far,” Brook said.