On Sunday, Jan. 13, John (Johnny) Joseph Podres died at the age of 75. Baseball buffs will know him to be one of the most beloved starting pitchers whose accomplishment earned him the first ever Sport Magazine bestowed title of baseball MVP for the 1955 World Series. Also in 1955, he received the Babe Ruth Award which was given by the NY members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. In the year 1957, Mr. Podres was honored with the National League Earned Run Average (ERA) Championship.
Johnny Podres was a lefty who threw and batted with his left hand. He was introduced to major league fans on April 17th, 1953 when he ran onto the field with the other players of the Brooklyn Dodgers. He had been an amateur free agent with the team since 1951 – just after graduating from high school – and his feats were noticeable yet at the same time not outstanding.
Just two short years later, the 1955 World Series saw the team pitched against the New York Yankees and from the beginning the fans knew that there was something different about these Dodgers when compared to the team that faced off against the Yankees in 1947, 1949, 1952, and even 1953.
At the tender age of 22, Johnny Podres is credited with contributing to the wins of games 3 and 7 to such an extent that pretty soon the lore took off and he was considered to be the player who single-handedly changed the luck of the Dodgers. This earned him the nickname of Yankee Killer which stuck. It is hard to believe that – according to the Baseball Page – the Brooklyn Dodgers were able to sign this player for little more than $6,000 and a new baseball glove! Obviously, this was one of the best investments the team ever made. Interestingly, the Philadelphia Phillies took a pass on him because he only measured in at 5’11”.
He has been mentioned frequently in the same breath as Don Larsen, who also started in 1953 but for the St. Louis Browns, and who pitched a perfect game 5 in the 1956 World Series as a New York Yankee against the Brooklyn Dodgers. Granted, the Dodgers lost that year, but their skills were notable. Yet it is the name of infielder Don Zimmer that is closely tied with Johnny Podres, as the former was a friend and teammate when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954. A contemporary pitcher of the aforementioned is Sandy Koufax who also had his major league debut in 1955 with the Brooklyn Dodgers. He was a MLB strikeout champion in 1961, ’63, ’65, and ’66.
Like his contemporaries, Johnny Podres did not rely on performance enhancing drugs and his titles and honors were won fair and square. With his death another Baseball great is lost in a sport that is more and more becoming mired in scandal, lack of integrity, and quick fixes. Would that up and coming players look to the likes of Johnny Podres and once again resolve to earn their way to the top, bypassing the promise of the quick fix via the needle.