Pitcher Podres powered Brooklyn Dodgers to only World Series title
PORT HENRY, N.Y. -- Johnny Podres, who pitched the Brooklyn Dodgers to their only World Series championship in 1955, was remembered Thursday as a consummately confident player, supportive coach and a man with a limitless love for baseball.
Podres died Sunday at age 75 after years of heart and kidney problems. He was eulogized in a little church of the chilly shores of Lake Champlain, near where he grew up as the son of an iron miner and where he later retired.
"John no longer is going to suffer," Hall of Famer Tom Lasorda, Podres' former Dodgers roommate, told a packed church audience that included Red Sox star Curt Schilling and Don Zimmer. "He's up there right now with Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges, Jackie Robinson, Carl Furillo, (Don) Drysdale. He's up there right now wanting to know when he's going to pitch."
Lasorda said eulogizing his old friend was tough. But he got the crowd of more than 100 laughing when he told them how he went to Coney Island one opening day with Podres and Zimmer and won a car full of stuffed animals at a pitching game. They sold the animals.
Podres was a lefty on a Brooklyn Dodgers team loaded with big stars such as Robinson, Reese and Hodges. His moment came days after his 23rd birthday, during Game 7 of the 1955 World Series against the Yankees.
Teammates recall Podres telling them to "just give me one run" before taking the mound in a 2-0 win in the series-clinching game.
The win ended the Dodgers' run as a team of also-rans reduced to saying "wait till next year" every fall. The picture of an exuberant Podres lifted off the grass by catcher Roy Campanella became an iconic image of the '50s squad, later glorified by author Roger Kahn in "The Boys of Summer."
Podres remained with the Dodgers when they moved to Los Angeles after the 1957 season and later pitched for the Detroit Tigers and San Diego Padres. He retired in 1969 at 36 with a lifetime record of 148-116, an ERA of 3.68, and a 3-1 mark with a 2.11 ERA in six World Series starts.
Podres also worked as a pitching coach in Minnesota and Philadelphia, where he helped develop Schilling.
Philadelphia Phillies co-owner Bill Giles said Podres' strength was pumping up pitchers, even when they were getting hit hard. He said Podres once walked to the mound when the Phillies were losing 8-0 to tell Mark Davis: "Mark, Mark, I cannot believe this. You have great stuff! Now hang in there, baby!"
Outside the church after the service, Schilling said he met Podres not long after he lost his father and said he "helped me grow up."
"He taught me a whole lot more than baseball," Schilling said.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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