Griggy Porter and his former teammates gathered in February at Pfeiffer University's Misenheimer campus to celebrate the 92nd birthday of their friend and mentor, former baseball coach Joseph Ferebee.
Porter, 63, played second base, third base and shortstop in the Chicago Cubs minor league system from 1969-74. He played AAA ball for the Cubs in 1972-74.
As a student at South Mecklenburg High School, Porter also played American Legion ball during his teenage years. He said he always wanted to be a professional and looked up to his dad, who played on a county league during the 1950s.
Porter graduated from South Meck in 1965 and planned to attend UNC Charlotte, but later that summer, when a teammate mentioned that he was going to attend Pfeiffer University, Porter decided to check into the school.
After meeting with Ferebee and learning Pfeiffer had academic strength and a winning baseball team, Porter decided to enroll. He also was impressed that, during Ferebee's tenure, the team had won the regular-season championship or the league playoff title every year since 1960.
In 1968, Porter and his college team ended the year ranked No. 2 in the nation in National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics - a position that attracted major league scouts to Pfeiffer and the Chicago Cubs to Porter.
Porter traveled the country playing professional ball until spring 1973, when a shoulder injury would change the course of his career.
It was the day before spring training, and Porter was doing some conditioning work, looking forward to the next day. He was working with a weighted bat, and on what was going to be his last swing for the session, he felt something burn in his right shoulder.
When he showed up for spring training the next day, he tried to throw a ball and couldn't.
"Oh, if I'd only stopped one swing earlier," said Porter.
When he told the coach what had happened, the coach suggested he rest the arm, but when a week went by without improvement, Porter was sent to see the Cubs' team doctor, who diagnosed a tear in the bicep tendon.
Porter opted not to have surgery, and after six weeks the tear responded to treatment. Porter was able to swing a bat, but he still couldn't throw. Fortunately, that was the first year baseball used the designated hitter. He began the season hitting well, and his average after the first month was .340, compared to hitting .318 the previous year in AAA.
"I probably would have been called up to the major leagues, but Chicago being a national league team didn't use the DH rule, so there was no way I could go up, as I couldn't throw a ball from third base to the pitcher's mound, much less to first base with the speed to get runners out, so I knew I was stuck in Wichita," said Porter.
Although he had a good season, his arm was getting weaker with each game, and it continued into the next season of 1974. Porter knew that unless he was traded to a new team, he couldn't pursue baseball as a career. He also knew that living in a cold climate was not something he wanted, so he returned to Charlotte and found a new career in the Charlotte Post Office.
When he looks back at his baseball years, Porter said, he has many great memories and remains close to some of his teammates. He enjoys getting together with them once a year to play tournament golf in Florida. His baseball career lasted only five years, but the principles he learned from Ferebee - integrity, respect and teamwork - have kept him focused throughout his life, he said.
Porter worked for the Charlotte Post Office for 30 years, retiring in 2007. He has lived in Matthews for 37 years and has been married to his wife, Ruth, for 39 years.