Summary

Birth:
Witherbee, New York 1
Death:
Glens Falls, New York 1
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Personal Details

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Full Name:
John Joseph Podres 1
Also known as:
Johnny Podres 1
Full Name:
John J Podres 2
Birth:
Witherbee, New York 1
Male 1
Birth:
30 Sep 1932 2
Death:
Glens Falls, New York 1
Cause: Heart, Kidney ailments/ Infection 1
Death:
13 Jan 2008 2
Residence:
Last Residence: Queensbury, NY 2
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Social Security:
Card Issued: Unknown Code (PE) 2

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Stories

Johnny Podres

It was the day before game 1 of the 1993 World Series, the first Fall Classic for Johnny Podres in 28 years. He shuffled past dozens of reporters, asked a clubhouse kid, "How do I get to the field from here?" and then seemed to disappear into the artificial turf of Toronto's Sky Dome while the Philadelphia Phillies worked out. Later, when he was asked where he had been all day, Podres laughed and said, "On the field, picking up balls. That's all I'm good for."

That's typical of the 61-year-old Podres, the unpretentious, self-deprecating, droopy-faced son of an Adirondack Mountain coal miner. It has been 38 years since he shut out the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the World Series, giving the Brooklyn Dodgers their first and only world championship. Since then he has overcome alcoholism, a heart attack and, as the Phillies' pitching coach the last three seasons, an endless line of injured or dreadful pitchers.

"He's MVP of this staff, no doubt," says Philadelphia starting pitcher Curt Schilling, the MVP of the National League Championship Series. "He deserves all the credit and wants none. Have you ever seen a pitching coach do what Pods has done?"

As the pitching coach with the Boston Red Sox in 980 Podres nurtured young pitchers John Tudor and Bruce Hurst. During his coaching stint with the Minnesota Twins, from 1981 to '85, he taught rank Viola and Mark Portugal how to throw a changeup and made a 15-game winner out of Ken Schrom. But his biggest challenge—and greatest coaching accomplishment—came when he was named the Phillies' pitching coach following the 1990 season. After five years as a minor league instructor with the Los Angeles DodgersPodres inherited a Philadelphia staff so wretched that he collapsed into his chair one day during spring training, stared into his locker and muttered to himself, "I had it made. I was making $50,000 a year with the Dodgers. Worked 10 days. Took the next seven off. I gave that up. What did I do?"

What has he done?

He has taught Terry Mulholland how to throw a sinker, or "dry spitter," making him one of the league's best lefthanders, with 41 victories over the past three seasons. He has convinced righthander Benn Rivera to throw over the top rather than sidearm, turning him from a project into a 13-game winner this year. He has tutoredDanny Jackson on the changeup that helped the lefthander have his best season (12-11, 3.77 ERA) since 1988. He has shown Tommy Greene how to throw a four-seam fastball, and Greene has gone from a throw-in in the 1990Dale Murphy trade to a dominant righthander with a combined record of 32-14 over the past three years.

Then there's the 26-year-old Schilling, who, when he was traded by Houston to Philadelphia in 1992, was joining his fourth organization in seven years. He arrived in Philly with a reputation as a goofball who didn't take the game seriously. He has since become Podres' prize pupil. The righthander was 14-11 last year and 16-7 this season. "I've stated what kind of impact my father [who died in 1988] had on my life, but Johnny Podres runs a close second," says Schilling, who owns an autographed Dodger jersey that Podres wore in his playing days. "He taught me how to pitch, how to act—he taught me about life. Without him it would have taken me four to five years to get to this point. He never lets you believe that the game is better than you."

Whenever Podres visits the mound he tells his pitchers the same thing: You've got really great stuff. "I'll walk the bases loaded, and he'll say that," says reliever Mitch Williams, who is aptly known as Wild Thing. "I'll ask him, 'Are you watching the same game I am?' "

Reliever Larry Andersen refers to Podres as the mother hen and says, "We're his chicks. I've never seen anyone so protective of his pitchers. Say one bad thing about any of us, and he'll be barking up your butt. That sign BEWARE OF DOG should read BEWARE OF POD if you say anything bad about us. He's A-1 positive."

Schilling concludes, "He makes you believe things that just aren't there."

Believe this: After finishing last in the league in ERA in '92, the Phillies finished sixth this year while also leading the league in complete games. Podres speaks highly of his staff—"My pitchers can do no wrong," he says—but he deflects questions about himself and his career, which included 148 wins in 15 years, four shutout innings in two All-Star Game appearances and a 4-1 record in six World Series starts. He's even hesitant to talk about his two complete-game victories in the '55 Series, including the 2-0 Game 7 shutout that helped earn him, among other things, SI's Sportsman of the Year award.

"I think about that game a lot," Podres says. "I can still see [leftfielder Sandy] Amoros making that catch [of Yogi Berra's drive with the two tying runs on base in the sixth inning]. It's unbelievable for me to be back in the World Series after all this time. I had hoped that somewhere along the way, I would help these guys get here."

And that he did.

Obit

Johnny Podres, the cool and clutch lefty who pitched the Dodgers to their one and only world championship in Brooklyn by shutting out the Yankees, 2-0, in the seventh game of the 1955 World Series, died Sunday night in a hospital in Glens Falls, N.Y. He was 75.

Podres, who forever earned his niche as the toast of Brooklyn with two wins over the Yankees in that '55 Series, had been suffering from a multitude of illnesses, the result of being a lifelong chain smoker, and had just undergone a leg amputation in doctors' efforts to remedy an infection.

"He really struggled these past few weeks," Don Zimmer, Podres' former Dodger teammate and best friend in baseball, said by phone from St. Petersburg, Fla. "I talked to him just three days ago and he said to me: 'Popeye, it's really tough when you can't even take a shower.'"

The son of an iron miner from Witherbee in the Adirondacks, Podres needed only two seasons of minor league apprenticeship before breaking into the majors with the Dodgers as a 21-year-old in 1953. The previous year, Dodgers GM Buzzie Bavasi turned down an offer of $250,000 from the Cleveland Indians for him after Podres had fashioned a stunning 21-3 record and 1.67 ERA in Class D ball. Podres went on to pitch 15 years in the majors, remaining with the Dodgers through 1965, and compiled a 148-116 record with a career 3.68 ERA. In 1957, he led the National League with a 2.66 ERA and six shutouts, and his best season was 1961 when he was 18-5. In four World Series with the Dodgers, Podres was 4-1 with a 2.11 ERA.

But it was the 1955 World Series for which Podres always will be remembered, especially Game 7, when he shut the Yankees down on eight hits. The Yankees' lone threat off him in the game was thwarted by reserve left fielder Sandy Amoros - who, just after being inserted into the game for defensive purposes for Junior Gilliam by Dodger manager Walt Alston, snared Yogi Berra's slicing fly ball in the left-field corner of Yankee Stadium with two on and nobody out in the sixth inning to start a double play.

"When Yogi hit that ball, I thought it was out," Podres said years later in an interview with Baseball Digest. "But then it started to slice a lot. I don't know if Junior would have caught it, being that he was a righthanded thrower. Being lefthanded, Sandy was able to reach out at the last second and catch it.

"All I know is, we won the game, but the feeling ... I don't know. I can't remember the feeling I had. There was too much hysteria going on."

 

"I can remember," said Zimmer. "We were all going crazy. I'll never forget all those happy fans lining the streets of Brooklyn when we bused back there for the victory celebration at the Bossert Hotel. We partied all night and Johnny was right in the middle of it."

Podres was essentially a three-pitch pitcher - fastball, curveball and changeup - all of which, Zimmer said, were exceptional. He is credited with being one of the greatest masters of the changeup, having taught it to dozens of pitchers, including Curt Schilling and Frank Viola, in later years as a pitching coach with the Red Sox, Twins and Phillies. As a pitching coach, Podres was strictly old school, scoffing at pitch counts, and that was probably the result of having hurled 77 complete games himself. In 1993, he took a Phillies staff that had ranked last in the National League in ERA the previous year to the World Series.

"That's one thing I really feel good about," he said in a May 2004 interview.

As a pitcher, Podres seemingly was oblivious to pressure and, as a result, gave his teammates a feeling of confidence whenever he was on the mound, especially in big games.

"I know I didn't feel any pressure in Game 7 of '55," he said. "Because I wasn't supposed to win it anyway. I just thought if I could throw strikes and they made the plays behind me, we'd be fine."

In 1955, Podres had been a back-of-the-rotation starter for the Dodgers, taking a 9-10 record into the World Series. But as Zimmer noted: "He had always pitched well against the Yankees and Pee Wee (Reese) always said that if anyone goes down on the staff, 'Pods' will always pick us up."



 

 

DAILY NEWS Johnny Podres gets hug from Roy Campanella after beating Yankees in Game 7 of 1955 World Series to give Brooklyn its only championship






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