Retro Mack – 1-17-08 – Johnny Podres

One of my heroes died on Sunday.

Johnny Podres, who was the first Brooklyn Dodger pitcher in the history of their franchise to win the final game in a World Championship, was confirmed dead at the age of 75. A spokesman for his local hospital in Glens Falls, New York said they had no details on his death, which is the way I wish they’d report everyone’s death after the age of 70.

I grew up in the 1950’s on the Queens-Brooklyn border town of Ozone Park, which, back in those days, was solid Dodger territory. My father was such a Bums fan, that he wouldn’t let my brother bring one of his close friends home because he rooted for the Giants. Of course, my father wouldn’t let us bring home anyone that was Catholic, black, or even acknowledged that there was 2 more baseball teams in “da city”, one which you had to take the ‘A’ train to the 151 Street stations, while the other went on a stop (and under the river) to the 171st Street Station (the Yankees).

Podres and Gil Hodges were my two favorite players back then and ‘us’ 8 year olds, when it came to Dodges baseball, were quite up on the what was going on in 1955. We all had numerous baseball cards of Junior Gilliam, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, Don Zimmer, Hodges, the Duke, Carl Furillo, Sandy Amaros (I can still see that catch!), and a myriad amount of great pitchers like Don Newcombe, Carl Erskine, Billy Loes, a speed-baller named Karl Spooner, Clem Labine, a 19 year old kid named Sandy Koufax, and some 27 year old with a 15+ ERA named Tommy LaSorda.

I can’t exactly remember how I got to those games on the weekend. Friends (like Billy Fitzmaurice, ‘Mucho’, Joe Chibaro, Paul Altruda among others) and I would hop the bus on Atlantic Avenue and take it pretty much to the last stop into Brooklyn. I think we walked to the stadium from there, but I’m not quite sure.

I especially tried to go to every game Podres pitches for ‘Da Bums’, until they moved out to Los Angeles after the 1957 season. He didn’t put up the big numbers until he hit the West Coast, but he was always my favorite, and there was no one on ‘Jerome Avenue’ (the Queens version) that day more happy when Johnny shut down the Yanks in the 7th game that year. Podres shut their ass out on only eight hits, using basically 2 pitches, his fastball and his wicked change-up.

Yes, everybody in Queens and Brooklyn became a Johnny Podres fan that day, but I was way ahead of them on that one.

The papers reported the next day that Johnny, right before the team took the field, told his teammates to “give me just one run”. Well, they gave him 2 and that was the final score on the greatest day in Brooklyn baseball history!

Podres would wind up pitching 15 years in the majors, 13 of which were for the Dodgers. He was traded mid-season in 1966 to the Detroit Tigers for “future considerations”. How in the hell do you trade the guy who pitched your first World Series Championship game for “future considerations”? But of course, this was the same team that traded Jackie Robinson!

Detroit released him in 1967 and he did sign with the San Diego Padres in 1969, where he went a respectful 5-6, 4.31 at the age of 36, but us real Bums fans always considered Johnny a Dodger to the end.

His lifetime record was 148-116, but his 2-0 shutout that day against Tommy Byrne remains deep within the hearts of all old Brooklyn Dodger fans.

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One Response to Retro Mack – 1-17-08 – Johnny Podres

  1. CCY says:

    Ah, 1955. Had an Aunt & Uncle who in the early-mid ’50’s would take me to the salt water pool in the St. George Hotel. It must have been ’55 when, after a swim, we were sitting at the counter of the St. George Luncheonette and the soda jerk pointed out to me that there were three Dodgers eating in a booth behind me.

    I immediately recognized Don Zimmer, but not the other two, grabbed a napkin and went over for their autographs. Back at the counter, I discovered I had acquired a Zimmer, Frank Kellert, and Tommy LSorda signature. Still have it.

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